Batik is an ancient art that has been practiced for 2,000 years in southeast Asia. Alternatively spelled "batek", this traditional art form exists in Indonesia, China, and even parts of Africa. This complex dyeing process creates beautiful, intricate designs that are unique to the region they come from or tell a story. The process uses dye-resistant wax to create elaborate patterns and designs, and the wax is then washed to reveal the batik pattern or the process is repeated to create multiple colors.
The first step in batik making is to stretch a piece of cotton or silk onto a frame and paint (“cat”) or stamp (“cop”) a design on the fabric using a mixture of beeswax and resin.
Each stamp is hand-made, and batik artisans create repeating patterns with a single stamp.
Painting designs are done using a canting, a pen-like instrument that draws the hot wax onto the fabric. The tip of the canting is usually made of copper in order for the wax to flow smoothly onto the cloth and be placed exactly where the artisan draws, and the holder is wood so that the heat is only conducted into the wax instead of the artisan's hand.
Next, the dye is painted onto the fabric between the intricate wax pattern. After the dye dries, these first two steps can be repeated to produce multiple layers of design and color.
The dye is set by soaking the fabric in a fixative. Finally, the fabric is boiled to remove the wax and reveal the original fabric color along with the new layers of design. You can tell a piece is truly batik when the colors and the design are on both sides of the fabric, whereas screen printing would be one-sided.
The Batik Boutique works with family businesses and batik artisans in Malaysia to supply our fabrics, and all of our batik fashion products use these hand-dyed textiles.