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Traditional Ways of Producing Batik Indonesia

The other important basic ingredient to produce Batik is the coloring or dye for textiles. There are two types of dye, natural and synthetic. The natural dye was formerly used up to 18th century before the synthetic dye was produced by the Western countries and imported to Indonesia.

The natural dyes are derived from plants and animals, like the roots of a tree, branches (wood), wood skin, leaves and flowers. To strengthened and give desired effect to the color some fruits and other materials were also used like citrus, palm sugar, guava and many others. The chemical or synthetic dye stuffs include soga ergan, soga kopel, indigoida, indigosol and many others. The Center for Handicrafts and Batik in Yogyakarta is promoting and encouraging batik producers to go back to nature by using the natural dyes for human health safety as well as to save the environment.

Natural Coloring

When producing Batik, coloring is the most important components. Traditionally, the colors used to dye the Javanese Batik consisted primarily of beige, blue, brown and black which are made from indigenous plants. Blue, which is the oldest color used to make traditional Batik, is made from the leaves of the Indigo plant. The leaves are mixed with molasses, sugar and lime and left to ferment overnight. Sometimes sap from the Tinggi tree is added to act as a fixing agent. To get a lighter shade of blue the cloth is left submerged in the indigo dye for shorter periods of time. To obtain darker shades of blue, the cloth is kept in the dye bath for several days. The second color that is applied when making traditional Batik is soga, a brown color which can range from shades of light yellow to a dark shade of brown. The dye is called soga as it comes from the bark of the Soga tree. Mengkuda, another color used in traditional Batik, is a dark red color. This dye is created from the leaves of the Morinda Citrifolia. In addition to the three basic colors, there is green, which is obtained by mixing blue with yellow, and purple which is obtained by mixing blue and red. When the soga brown color is mixed with indigo, it will produce a dark blue-black color.

Unique Batik Techniques

There are three main batik techniques:

Hand-waxed (hand-drawn)

Hand-stamped, Combination of the two.

The hand-waxed batik or hand drawn Batik (Batik Tulis) is produced by painting the wax on the cloth using a traditional tool called the canting. The hand-stamped Batik is produced by stamping the wax on the cloth using a copper stamp to make the Batik design. The other technique combines both the canting and the stamp in order to produce more creative designs.

Hand-drawn Batik

There are several stages in the process the hand-drawn Batik including several sub-processes of waxing dyeing and dewaxing (removing the wax) and preparing the cloth, tracing the designs, stretching the cloth on a frame, waxing the area of the cloth that does not need dyeing, preparing the dye, dipping the cloth in dye, boiling the cloth to remove the wax and washing the cloth. The characteristic effects of the Batik are the fine cracks that appear in the wax which allow very small amounts of the dye to seep in. It is a feature not possible in any other form of printing. It is very important to achieve the right type of cracks or hairline detail.

The tool that is used to produce the intricate Batik designs is called the Canting [cha:nting], and it was originally invented by the Javanese. It is a small copper container with a thin spout connected to a short bamboo handle. The copper container is filled with melted wax and the artisan then uses the canting to draw the design on the cloth. The Canting has different sizes of spouts, which are numbered to correspond to the size, to achieve varied design effects. Dots and parallel lines may be drawn with a canting. In order to be able to bear the heat and wax, the cloth used to make batik is usually strong material such as cambric, poplin, voiles and pure silk. The artists usually avoid using synthetic fabrics. High fashion designs drawn on silk are very popular nowadays and these exceptionally high-quality pieces can take months to create and as a result are quite costly.

Stamped Batik (Batik Cap)

It takes months event a year to produce one piece of fine quality hand-drawn batik and no one denies that creating batik is very time consuming and an expensive craft. In order to meet the growing demands, and to make the fabric more affordable to the lower income people, in the middle of the 19th century the ‘Cap’ (copper stamp) was developed by the Javanese, revolutionizing the batik production. This method of using a copper block to apply a melted wax pattern is called Batik Cap. The ‘Cap’ is a metal stamp, usually constructed of strips of sheet copper, used in the Batik process to apply molten wax to the cloth surface. Smaller pieces of wire are used for the dots. When complete, the pattern of copper strips is attached to a handle. The cap is made precisely as it is to be stamped on both sides of the fabric; as a result both sides of the fabric are printed with identical and consistent patterns.

Stamped Batik allows Batik artists to produce high quality designs and intricate patterns much faster than one could possibly do by hand-painting. This invention enabled a much higher volume of Batik to be produced compared to the traditional method which entailed the tedious application of wax by hand using a canting. It takes less than 2 or 3 days to produce one piece of stamped Batik or ‘Batik Cap’ in comparison to weeks or even months needed to produce one piece of hand-drawn Batik. Combination of Hand drawn and Stamped Batik (Kombinasi) This is the combination of the first two techniques by using both ‘canting’ and the copper block. The process allows the artist to produce more creative designs in a faster mode.

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