Indonesia is well-known throughout the world for its vibrant culture, a vast array of textiles and centuries-old traditions that are still respected and reverently practised today. The tradition of making, preserving and incorporating batik into everyday life and ceremony is most well known to the island of Java, however, it has spread throughout almost all of Indonesia and beyond to the modern world. You might not have realised but you would have seen patterns that have originated from batik designs in your everyday life on textiles like clothing, homewares, linens and more.
What is Batik?
Batik is a centuries-old technique where craftsman will apply wax to cloth in lines and dots and then dye the material to create a patterned effect. This technique originated from Indonesia and has now spread throughout South-East Asia.
How is it Made?
- A piece of cloth is first washed and stretched to ensure cleanliness and quality of the fabric.
- With exceptional care – a transfer then occurs of traditional patterns using a pencil or non-permanent ink. This is done to ensure the Batik style that is true to the area of Indonesia, religious group and culture are maintained as each type of Batik can be identifiable to a particular group.
- A spouted tool called a tjanting or copper stamp called a cap is used to transfer the wax onto the material. The wax is a combination of resin wax and beeswax.
- The material is then dyed in a cold dye bath, the most frequently used colours are pink, blue, brown and yellow. After the dyeing the cloth is left in the sun – this can be repeated many times to gain the desired effect.
Stamp Vs Tjanting
Batik designs can be made in two distinct ways – via hand wax (tjanting) and stamp wax. Stamp wax is for a repetitive pattern, it means it can be completed quicker. However, the hand wax batik that is done by tjanting is considered the more traditional method, as this is completed on both sides of the cloth as well as goes through a dyeing process 3 to 4 times. This process can be excessively long and in some instances can take up to 1 year to complete.
Cultural Rules of Batik
Due to the symbolic nature of the many Indonesian batik patterns, there are cultural beliefs one must respect when wearing batik.
- Batik material is often used as a sling to carry infants – this is done with a special kind of patterned batik that is designed to bring the child good luck.
- There are certain patterns that are reserved for brides and grooms as well as their family to only be used on their wedding day.
- The pattern an Indonesian family can choose to use is influenced by their social status, i.e. if you do not belong to the royal bloodline or aren’t marrying someone that is, you are banned from wearing the designs reserved for royalties.
- It can be determined what social rank you are by the type of batik that he or she wears.
Batik garments often play an important role in ceremonies, particular for the Javanese culture. The first time a child touches the earth, they are wrapped in several layers of batik cloth for good luck.
Bartering for Your Batik
Prices can vary from location to location as well as what type of batik you are wanting to purchase. Prices start from 35,000 IDR / metre and increase in cost based on the following three determining factors:
- Quality of the material (cotton)
- The difficulty of the pattern – was it done by hand using tjanting or by a copper stamp, and by whom completed the design.
- Quality of the ink
If you are eager to explore an array of batik textiles sourced and made throughout Indonesia, we suggest Jalan Sulawesi, Denpasar. We would advise arranging a car and driver to guide you through the local stores as they can also assist with any language translation you may require. If you want to stick to the tourist areas; Double Six street in Seminyak is known for their oodles of sarong stores – some of which sell batik designs.
Located in popular food district of Seminyak on Jalan Kayu Aya, is Batik Restaurant and Bar. Created on a concept of wanting to pay homage to the rich Indonesian and South-East Asian culture. The process of creating a batik piece of cloth is one of dedication, patience and diligence to paint a design that can be appreciated as a work of art. From this inspiration, whilst dining here you will be able to indulge your sight with the visually pleasing aesthetics, materials and patterns that are true to traditional Batik with a modern edge. Our personal favourite is the copper stamps that line the wall of the bar.
The Longhouse is a flawless 6-bedroom villa that offers panoramic views of Jimbaran and out to the ocean. Designed with a rich Indonesian influence and filled with intricately detailed batik materials – each one that has been chosen with a genuine love for Bali and the Indonesian archipelago. We are in awe of the stories in which the owners have behind every textile, tapestry and artefact you see in the villa.
The rich culture of Bali is hard to ignore, and batik is no different from the centuries-old traditional patterns that have woven itself into mainstream shopping and tourism. Whether you’re shopping with the locals on Jalan Sulawesi, Denpasar or making waves in the trendy boutiques of Canggu – you will soon find that hints of batik are following you.