Batik has been produced in Java for hundreds of years, and is hugely popular in Bali. It’s so well-loved, in fact, that it’s come to symbolise Indonesian spiritualities and culture.
A decorative textile technique involving wax and dyes to create intricate patterns, batik is used nowadays not only for clothing but also for giftware, wall hangings, furnishing fabrics and household accessories. Some local designers in Ubud, like Arthur Karvan at Divya boutique, use traditional methods with contemporary designs to give batik a whole new look – not to be missed!
There are about 3000 Indonesian batik patterns on record, featuring stylised flowers and leaves, birds, butterflies, fish, insects, and geometric shapes. They vary from area to area, the most intricate coming from Central Java where the designs are so complex they can take up to a year to complete. Balinese batik, a newish phenomenon, is heavily influenced by the Javanese, and is typically brightly coloured and patterned.
How Batik is Made
Patterns are drawn with melted wax onto cotton or silk, which is then dipped into dye. Any parts of the fabric covered by the wax do not absorb the dye, and are left in the original colour when the wax is removed. This process can be repeated several times with new areas being waxed over, and new colours being introduced.
Modern batik still uses traditional motifs, but production methods are evolving because chemical dyes in bright colours have become available, new wax recipes, stencils and tools are now used, and the base materials have extended beyond silk and cotton to also include paper, ceramics, leather and wood.
Learning Batik Techniques
You can experience this highly developed art form for yourself in Ubud – batik courses are on offer here, led by skilled local practitioners. This is a great way to try your hand at an ancient artisanal tradition.