Information before you go
Balinese batik is relatively new compared to ones from Java, where many batik artist live and have galleries. Especially in the cultural capital of Java, Yogyakarta you can find many workshops and batik galleries.
Waxing and dying of fabric is done throughout the world, such as in India, Africa, China and Japan. It was introduced to Indonesia in the last millennium at the time of the Chinese Tang Dynasty particularly in Java it has developed into a skillful traditional art and is known for its exceptional patterns.
The Balinese sarong is usually made from batik
Cultural and religious influences can always be found back in the batik patterns of certain Indonesian islands. While Hindu-Buddism has played a huge role in the patterns created in Java, in south Sumatra Arabic Calligraphy can be found in their batik. Even during the colonial periods various European and Japans styled patterns were incorporated. Animals such as elephants, lizards, buffalo and even butterflies have however always been a favorite motive in batik.
Popular on Bali are the Hindu epics about Rama and Sita. Designs with frangipani or hibiscus flowers are favorite together with birds, fish and daily activities such as dancers, religious sermonise and mythological characters such as the Barong and winged lion. However if you look further, you can see that today designs with a modern touch are becoming increasingly popular as well.
However some things remain unchanged. Symbolic batik patterns are still only used at certain occasions such as for a newly born, weddings or can only be used by royalty only. The motive can indicated the rank or status of a certain person.
Batik can mainly be found in clothing such as sarongs and scarfs for women and shirts and sarongs for men.
Batik in abundance
So how is Batik made?
The beautiful hand-made pieces of art are made by applying patterns of different colors to cotton by dyeing in several stages and by applying wax after each stage to protect areas of unwanted color.
The wax can be applied by hand which is called tulis, meaning to write in Indonesian. This way of batik making is a fine art of drawing the pattern on a piece of cotton cloth. In many cases the pattern is lightly visible on the cloth and the batik maker just needs to follow the lines. However there are some who can draw by heart.
For the Batik tulis hot waxed is used to apply the pattern on the cloth by using a small instrument called 'canting' ,made of bamboo and copper. This instrument has one, two or even three nozzles with different dimensions to create a wax pattern and it works just like a pencil.
This technique is also where the word batik comes from. The Javanese word amba means to write while titik means dot.
As you can imagine, it is a long process to make a beautiful and large piece of batik cloth this way. Naturally it is expensive to buy this high class batik, but it is still attractive as it can show social status.
However with the competition of the global market, the batik did have to make adjustments, and thus the cap (stamp) method is often applied. A pre designed metal stamp creates waxed patterns on a piece of cloth, making the process much quicker. You can easily spot the Batik cap as the same patters are repeated on the entire piece of cloth.
There are some batik makers who use a combination of the batik tulis and the batik cap method.
With the increase of tourism, batik has become a popular souvenir
After the wax pattern is made the cloth is put into a bath of color and all those parts of the cloth which do not have wax applied to it suck up the color. Then the wax is removed from another part of the cloth and applied to the just colored parts. After this stage it's time to color the cloth with another color and another from the lightest color to black.
This process of applying, coloring and removing of wax is very intensive and is repeated until the right taints of color appear on the cloth.
When batik has been made with the batik tulis method the colors on the cloth are bright on both sides of the cloth because the wax is applied to both sides. When batik has been made with the batik cap method the colors are faint in the center because the wax here is only applied to one side.
If you're interested to learn the art of batik in a couple of days then Ubud is the ideal place to go to. Museum Puri Lukisan (+62 361-971159/975136) on Jalan Raya organizes a batik course for 1-2 days and here you familiarize yourself with the age old technique and make your own batik painting.
You can also join one of Ubud's famous artists, I Nyoman Suradnya's batik courses on Jalan Gautama 10 (+62 361-975415), which ranges from 1-5 days where he loves to teach you the art of batik from a very basic level to a more advanced level.
As mentioned earlier, if you want to learn more about batik, the technique or improve your skills there are enough workshops to choose from.Read more
Batik sarongs are sold everywhere. For better quality head to the larger shops, where export batik is sold. Or better yet, head to the batik galleries or factories.Read more
If you are not really looking for expensive batik then there is enough choice at the markets. At Ubud market you might want to take some time looking through them all.Read more
Now and then people send us inspiring emails and this generates even more enthusiasm to share all of the things we know about this lovely island in the hope that you can plan your tropical holiday properly and have as such a great time as we always have. Hope to see you there!
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