The technique of processing batik Indonesia uses makes a most beautiful fabric. The designs are quite intricate and colorful. A special wax process makes the colors remain true, and lead to the exquisite designs that are common with this fabric. The designs of birds, flowers, plants, butterflies, geometric and other design patterns are symbolic, and lead to a huge variety of patterns. It has been estimated that there are more than 3000 differing patterns.
These textiles, produced in a number of countries, but primarily in Indonesia, are used worldwide in designing and manufacturing garments, furniture coverings, tablecloths and bedspreads, as well as custom designing fashions. The colors are nearly as plentiful as the patterns. The colors can be blended to make any number of color variations, as well as left in a pure state.
The concept of resist dying has been around for more than 1000 years, but the technique has been perfected by Indonesian men and women, who make the fabrics and use special dying and painting methods to produce the excellent style that epitomizes batik designs. The process is quite involved, requiring several steps to complete the design. The designs are hand drawn as well, meaning a certain degree of artistry and creativity is necessary from the men and women who produce these designs.
The technique used to make these textiles is called wax-resist dying. The design is first drawn freehand on the fabric with pencil. Then, a special implement, called a canting is used to fill in parts of the design that will not be dyed with the color being used. The canting is a copper tube with a long spout attached. The hot wax is poured into the copper tube and applied with the long spout. The was keeps the color from being absorbed by the fabric in the areas where it is applied.
Once the textile is dyed, the wax is removed with a combination of hot water and scraping by hand. After this layer of wax is removed, other areas are covered with the wax and dyed with another color. The fine lines and dots that are part of all the designs will be traced with a very fine spout to keep the fine detail. This process can be repeated four or more times, depending on the number of colors involved. The whole process is quite time consuming.
Part of the art involved is in the mixture of waxes used. Traditionally, the wax was a combination of beeswax and paraffin. Beeswax is softer and totally blocks any dye. Paraffin is not so pliable, and often forms cracks that lets some dye penetrate. This causes a crackle effect, a characteristic of batik. More recently, however, a synthetic wax is used. This wax can be reused, saving some expense. They have properties of both traditional waxes. They can also be mixed with other waxes to get even more unique traits.
Indonesia was the center of trade both North/South and East/West. This led to their borrowing designs from other countries with whom they traded, resulting in richer designs and colors. This merging of art and cultures resulted in more beautiful designs that are still seen currently.
Batik Indonesia is unsurpassed in beauty, design, and utility. The textiles used in these designs are widely utilized both for home decor and clothing. They are also used to establish cultural individuality, as each area that produces them has its unique design.