The batik Indonesia is renowned for has a beauty beyond other textiles. These designs are very detailed and highly colored. They are made by using a wax resist process that allows colors to remain brilliant. Designs that are allowed with this method are superb. Most designs are symbolic, and involve replicas of birds, flowers, and butterflies, as well as geometric designs. The number of colors and symbols used mean there is a very large number of patterns available. Some have estimated that there are over three thousand different patterns in existence.
Other countries produce some of these textiles, but Indonesia is the primary producer. These textiles are used all over the world for clothing, furniture coverings, bedspreads, and also for designing custom fashions. There is also a very large variety of colors available. Colors are often blended to get that perfect color desired to execute a particular design.
Indonesian men and women have perfected the age-old method of resist dying, which has been in existence for over a thousand years. They may the luxurious fabrics and then use a special method of dying to color the exquisite designs so typical of authentic batik. It is a very tedious process, involving many steps to produce the design desired. The hand-drawn designs showcase the degree of creativity and artistic ability of the men and women who produce them.
The process used is wax-resist dying, so called because of the use of wax to keep dye from penetrating the fabric. The design is drawn on freehand in pencil. Next, a special tool, a canting, is used to cover parts of the design so the dye will be resisted, leaving that area uncolored by the new color. A canting is a tool made of copper tubing with a long spout at the end. The hot was is put in the tubing and forced through the spout onto the fabric. This keeps color from penetrating those areas.
The wax is scrubbed of with hot water and scraped to remove every trace. Once this is done, a new layer of wax is applied to other areas of the design that will not be dyed the new color. The artist may repeat this process four times or more, depending on how many colors will be used. Fine lines are traced with a very small spout to keep the delicate look. All this take a large amount of time to complete.
The way the waxes are mixed and applied comprise part of the design element. In the past, beeswax and paraffin were used. The beeswax is soft and pliable, and allows no penetration of dye. Paraffin is firmer and tends to crack, allowing dye to penetrate, making crackles. Now, however, synthetic waxes are used. These new waxes combine traits of older ones. They are reusable, saving manufacturing costs.
In ancient times, Indonesia was a central trading port between North to South routes and also East to West ones. This gave them the opportunity to integrate other cultural elements into their designs. This adoption of other countries’ designs meant more beauty in color and design. These influences continue still and are reflected in the beauty and color of their textiles.
For beauty of design, and useful textiles, batik Indonesia cannot be surpassed. They are used for home furnishings and decoration as well as clothing designs. They also make a statement of cultural uniqueness, as different regions have their own designs.