Batik - art on wax
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Author:  Nissanka [ Sun Feb 19, 2006 1:19 am ]
Post subject:  Batik - art on wax

Batik - art on wax


Batik used to be the rage among fashion circles in Sri Lanka at one time, with clothes, bed sheets and pillowcases, and table linen among many other items being produced out of batik cloth.

Although its popularity has now waned, many people still use items made of batik cloth.

Batik, which means 'wax writing', is the art of decorating cloth with the use of molten wax.


The craft is associated with Indonesia, particularly with the Java island and is largely believed to have originated during the 12th century.

So, how is batik created? To do the design, craftspeople use a wooden stick fashioned into a pen with cotton thread wound around it. The hot wax is applied on this 'pen' and the designs are drawn on the cloth. Then, the design is separated according to the colours to be used for the dyes. Colouring usually starts with the white sections and progresses to the darker shades.

Later on, the cloth is dipped in boiling water to remove the wax. The areas covered in wax retain their original colour and the pattern is made by the plain and dyed parts. Beautiful and complicated designs can be made in this fashion. Hairline details or 'cracklings', which occur due to wax cracks letting in small quantities of dyes to seep into the cloth, add further beauty to batik designs.

Modern day craftspeople prefer to use chemical dyes which are easily available and more affordable than the vegetable dyes which were used earlier.

The batik craft gives more prominence to figures of humans and animals, than other traditional art forms where flowers, landscapes and such, take top place. Another interesting fact is that both sides of the cloth look the same. There is no right or wrong side because the hot wax seeps into the other side of the cloth as well, making both sides seem identical.

It's a complex art to learn, as colour mixing can be difficult for beginners, but good results can be achieved with practice. The art is disappearing however, as there is a reluctance among many to take up this tedious and time-consuming task.

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