The process involved in making batik has similarities to an old Chinese method of dressmaking that requires the use of a special wax.
You may not know it but those light and elaborately designed clothes worn by many women in Southeast Asia are part of a tradition started centuries ago. They come in different colors and can be worn on any occasion. They are made of excellent fabrics that require patience, skill and several days of labor just to produce a few yards of superior quality. Several generations later, the practice of making batik has continued.
Although it is generally accepted that the best batik can be found in Java, Indonesia, its exact origin is still being debated. However, the process involved in making batik has similarities to an old Chinese method of dressmaking that requires the use of a special wax.
Batik is a Javanese word that means "to dot". Thus, the dotted colors. But in ancient China, the same colorful cloth was called "lajie", which also referred to a special wax. History records that tributes to the royal court during the Tang Dynasty from minorities in Gui Zhou province were usually lajie or batik articles. The fabric then became popular in most of China. From June to October, Miao Zu women are often busy making batik clothes and accessories.
Batik making also spread to Thailand and thanks to the Chinese who migrated and brought the skill with them and later on, enhanced with the fused influence of the Indonesian batik. Today, the country produces a limited but excellent quality of batik that is definitely worth buying.
The whole process starts with a piece of white cotton cloth or silk measuring at least 110 cm wide and 240 cm long. It is first washed, starched, then dried and takes beating, which may take several days.
Once the material is ready, a design is patterned. Free hand drawing tools are used, and it is here where precision is required. Once the design has been drawn and clearly outlined on the cloth, canting takes place. Canting involves treating some parts of the design with wax on both sides of the fabric. The portion that will remain white is covered in wax.
Then it is submerged in dye. This process is often repeated until the desired results are achieved. The secret is to ensure that the dye reaches all areas except those that are covered with wax. Then for those small figures, the artist, utilizing his expertise, uses his special brush to print details like the bird, flowers or miniature objects on the cloth. Finally, the wax is removed when the fabric is washed in boiling water.
Batik garments include women's traditional dresses, shirts, uniforms, sarongs, bags, tablecloth and serviettes. It is also framed and used as a decorative item in Thailand. It is a lasting souvenir to remind one of his/her visit to the country.