75 Impressive Batik Facts About The Traditional Cloth Art

Abhijeet Modi
Oct 25, 2023 By Abhijeet Modi
Originally Published on Mar 09, 2022
A copper tool called canting is used by batik craftswomen and craftsmen to create an intricate batik motif. Read for more mesmerizing Batik facts.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.6 Min

Batik, an Indonesian traditional cloth art, is created using a technique of resist-dying.

Patterns and motifs are drawn on a piece of fabric using hot wax, and upon drying, the fabric is bathed in colored dye. Wax patterns on the fabric remain untouched by the dye while the rest of the fabric is colored, the applied wax is then washed off in hot water; this process is repeated to create intricate designs.

More than two millennia after the origin of this technique, batik cloths are still created manually by skilled craftspeople. The craft has been handed down over the generations, thus preserving the age-old tradition and cultural integrity of this cloth art.

The origin of painted batik cannot be traced to a specific place, but the prominence of Indonesian batik is significant. It is identified for its unique motifs that are made by skilled artisans.

Batik has a rich heritage. The art was developed and perfected with years of practice. It is the pride of Indonesia and also is a cultural symbol for many nations.

Attributing to its tasteful and unique designs, Indonesian batik finds a prominent place in local markets as well as world fashion. International figures and designers alike have worn and used batik patterns.

Some of the significant names who have been seen wearing batik fabric include Nelson Mandela, Kate Middleton, and Heidi Klum. Designers such as Diane Von Furstenberg, Burberry Prorsum, and Nicolle Miller have used batik patterns in some of their well-known works.

The batik technique has also birthed engaging art projects for children. A DIY batik project will only need a piece of cloth, gel glue, and acrylic colors.

You can start by creating patterns with glue on a piece of cloth. Once the glue dries, use acrylic colors to paint on the cloth. Wash off the glue when the paint is dried and experience a glimpse of the ancient batik technique.

Traditional motifs of batik often tell stories, folklore, and have a symbolic representation.

During art projects, you might have drawn with crayons on a piece of paper and then painted the rest of the paper with watercolors, hence creating a type of resist-dye painting of your own. Yet, unknown of the deep history that the effortless technique holds. Simple things can have a rich heritage waiting for us to be discovered.

What is batik print?

Keep reading to find out exactly what batik is.

The word 'batik' is derived from the Javanese (native language of Java, an Indonesian island) word called 'ambatik' where 'amba' means 'large,' and 'tik' means 'dot.'

Drawing patterns with hot wax is a salient aspect of the batik-making process.

The preparation of a batik cloth involves three primary steps; waxing, dying, and highlighting.

During the waxing process, hot wax is used to create delicate patterns on the cloth.

After the wax is dried, the cloth is dipped in a dye bath.

Wax prevents the dye from staining patterns during the dye bath while the rest of the cloth is colored.

The cloth is then dried, and all wax is washed off in hot water in a process called highlighting.

The process is repeated regularly until the desired pattern is achieved.

There are three types of batik. The differentiation is based on the technique used for creating the textile.

Batik tulis, or 'written batik,' is the original and most ancient one.

It uses a pen-like copper tool called canting for the drawing pattern on the cloth.

Expert craftswomen and craftsmen use canting filled with hot wax to create intricate patterns.

Based on the complexity of the design, a piece of fabric can take up to three months to complete.

The batik tulis technique was evolved to the batik cap technique or 'stamped batik ' to enable mass production.

The batik cap technique helped reduce the creation time to one to three days.

This concept is similar to an ink stamp. A copper stamp with geometric motifs on one end is dipped in hot wax and pressed on the fabric.

The rest of the process of dying and highlighting (removing the wax) remains the same as batik tulis.

Stamped batik fabrics are cheaper than written batik because of their repetitive and coarse patterns.

Batik paintings are a freer form of creative expression using the traditional styles of batik technique.

In Javanese culture, it is called the 'batik lukis.'

In principle, the process of creating these remains the same as other batik fabrics.

Yet, the patterns and materials used are more novel and depend on the creator's imagination and preference.

These are used as paintings or in contemporary clothing designs.

Traditional batik patterns use silk and cotton as the base fabric.

Yet, with the growing popularity, new fabrics such as chiffon, satin, velvet, cheesecloth, and georgette are being used to experiment and create pivotal styles.

The cloth is typically monochromatic in color and belongs to different pallets of white, dark brown, and indigo.

Beeswax mixed with paraffin is typically used for the resist in the resist-dying process.

Other resist-materials are also formed by mixing varying proportions of mud, hot raisin, starch, paraffin, or pastes of rice, beans, and peanuts.

The use of these components depends on local availability or the artisan's preference.

Origin Of Batik

It has been almost 2000 years since its origin; batik has seen a fair share of ups and downs.

It is hard to trace batik's true origin source.

It is believed to have originated around Sumeria and is thought to have been brought to Java by Indian traders, where it evolved towards its current stature.

As traditional styles and motifs spread over the land, the batik-making process started being practiced more.

Eventually, it started being passed down over generations.

Batik prints can also be traced 1500 years ago to ancient Egypt, China, Japan, and other cultures of Asia and Africa.

The batik industry consists of Javanese women and men who have over the years (and generations) perfected the art of making handmade batik clothes.

The craft flourished because of the inflow of high-quality cotton during the Industrial Revolution.

Women began creating and improving their batik designs on the imported high-thread-count cotton.

Around the mid-20th century, this ancient tradition faced stiff competition from westernization and foresaw an imminent downfall.

Fearing the loss of livelihood of batik craftsperson and a beautiful ancient tradition, the Indonesian government and communities rallied together to improve its prevalence in the community.

UNESCO recognized batik tulis and batik cap as 'Intangible Heritage of Humanity,' in 2009, hence providing it with an international platform.

Commemorating UNESCO's recognition, October 2 is celebrated as 'National Batik Day.'

Government and private offices in Indonesia encourage wearing batik on Fridays to honor the ancient tradition and uplift the economy of batik tradition.

Prominent Indonesian personalities had also brought light to this craft when it was dwindling.

These indigenous patterns were popularised by the governor of Jakarta, Ali Sadikin.

He proposed long-sleeve, collared, and buttoned shirts as an acceptable alternative to formal wear in an office setting.

Ivan Trita, a world-renowned designer, also promoted batik.

He included the batik motif printed on silk to create an exemplary line of designs that brought international attention to Indonesian batik.

Now batik cloth is used as upholstery, bed sheets, wallpaper, paintings which are apart from its increasing growth and demand in the clothing market.

After the introduction of the Indonesian batik by Ivan Trita, it has been welcomed by the international fashion industry, which is constantly looking for newer fabrics for its designs.

The batik technique continues to be experimented with using newer fabrics, dyes, and waxes.

In terms of cost, an intricately designed authentic batik tulis cloth can be priced between a few hundred dollars, depending upon the quality of the work.

Floral batik motifs can commonly include lotus motifs or a floral bouquet.

Characteristics Of Batik Print

The batik motif can represent a sundry of cultural, spiritual, religious, or elementary aspects of a community. Just like any other art, it also is a window into the lives and minds of artisans. Below are some interesting folklore and beliefs attached to different batik motifs.

As per the ancient culture, patterns and motifs that were worn by an individual conveyed societal class.

Some colors and patterns were even reserved for the royals.

Parang motif is a pattern with a narrow length and a sharp edge on one end.

This knife-like pattern is believed to have protective powers as many folklores suggest it protected a prince from certain danger.

Another sultan believed that the jagged rocks, similar to the pattern of the parang motif, were a natural guardian of the coastline.

Hence this motif achieved an air of security and protection; it was previously reserved for the royals.

The kawung motif is a pattern inspired by the palm tree that grows abundantly in South East Asia and is of great benefit.

It is supposed to inspire the wearer to be as contributing as the kawung leaf to the community.

The truntum motif is a celestial pattern that has incantations of the stars.

It is considered symbolic of blossoming love as the folklore attached to it talks of the restored love of a king for his queen.

The truntum motif is worn in Javanese weddings by the parents of the bride and groom.

Sekar Jagad motifs are a mix of celestial and floral patterns conveying love and happiness.

These batik prints are worn by the bride and groom at their wedding.

Tambal motif appears like a quilt with various styles of motifs painted in a patchwork.

How To Take Care Of Batik Prints

The experience of wearing batik cloth can be very comforting, but it needs some extra care when being washed and stored.

The kind of care a batik cloth deserves depends on the quality of fabric material and dye color.

You must patch test the cloth before using any chemicals on the material. The principle while using batik is to be gentle with it.

When initially washing batik clothes, the colors can be runny and so they should be washed separately or with similarly colored items.

You should use mild soaps and detergents when washing batik.

Also, if washing in a machine, please set the wash to mild so that the cloth is not excessively worn out.

Handwashing batik cloth can be a good choice since it cannot withstand much exertion.

If your batik fabric is stained, remove the stain by using mild soap on the stained spot and repeat the process until the desired result is achieved.

Try to avoid direct sunlight to the cloth as it can cause discoloration; always dry batik in the shade.

In case the cloth has to be ironed, spray water on the fabric and use the minimum heat temperature setting of the iron.

Also, put a thinner material between the batik and the iron to prevent the batik cloth from receiving direct heat.

You can also spray water and place the batik cloth underweight, such as a bundle of cloth, to smooth out the material naturally.

Don't spray deodorant directly on the fabric, place it beneath another layer of thin cloth before spraying it from the top.

Though batik fabrics are very breathy and light, washing it can take away any odor. It does not hold excessive perspiration, which prevents it from smelling bad.

Store batik in a clean and dry place, which is away from direct sunlight or excessive heat.

Use mothballs to protect it from insects, but be careful that the chemical does not directly touch the surface of the batik cloth as it may stain or discolor the area.

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Written by Abhijeet Modi

Master of Computer Science

Abhijeet Modi picture

Abhijeet ModiMaster of Computer Science

An experienced and innovative entrepreneur and creative writer, Abhijeet holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Computer Application from Birla Institute of Technology, Jaipur. He co-founded an e-commerce website while developing his skills in content writing, making him an expert in creating blog posts, website content, product descriptions, landing pages, and editing articles. Passionate about pushing his limits, Abhijeet brings both technical expertise and creative flair to his work.

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