Learning Batik

I climbed into the rickshaw and told my driver, Yuno to drop me at the xxx Batik store.

“Why’d you wanna go there to buy man? I can take you places closer to buy it.”

“I’m not buying, I’m learning to make it.”

“you an artist man?”

“I can barely hold a pencil!”

There is something wonderfully decadent about travelling by bicycle powered rickshaw. It gives you a special vantage point of you surrounding. Particularly when riding on the wrong side of the road.

But it is calm and leisurely – two things in short supply here.

The cities are bustling hives of activity. Mopeds swarm through any gap in traffic not already filled by cars, buses and lorries.

Everyone is on the move and everyone is in a rush to get there.

So when Yuno turned into a side street with no cars, no bikes just homes and small businesses, people sat outside working or creating art I could not help myself but smile.

I was greeted by xxx one of two people to be showing me the basics that day.

He took me into the gallery and immediately sat me on the floor and started pulling out samples of work and describing them.

At first I thought the had been a mix up and that he thought I was looking to buy. When I said this he laughed and told me to pick one and he would teach me to make one just like it.

All the work was great and I said that he was in for a challenge if he thought mine would be any good.

I picked a design with two geckos as I’ve fallen a little in love with the little creatures.

We first took a plain white sheet of cloth and I tried to copy the shapes of the geckos as best I could.

The geckos had a stylised design on their backs and I did mine differently to the original.

At this point I was introduced to Suzi, the owner of the studio. She is warm and welcoming and I liked her immediately.

She noticed my different design and asked why I changed it. I said that I don’t want to copy completely, that I wanted to make it unique to me.

This seemed to delight her and she then started suggesting other design features I could try.

Once the design was down we affixed the sheet taught across a wooden frame and moved into the street alongside that functions as a workshop.

Here I was shown how to draw on the cloth using molten wax. To do this you use a wooden and copper instrument that functions a little line a fountain pen.

Wax is placed into a small resivoiur and flows out of a nib when titled at the correct angle.

I practiced a little on an old cloth before turning my newfound skill to my cloth.

The hardest part was that the strokes were the inverse that you would use with a pencil. If you tried to use it the same way it would either spill or clog.

When finished I looked at the design and for the first time realised that I might just make something half decent.

The next step was colour. This was pretty simple as I was using block colours and so it was a matter of slapping on the dye.

Whilst we waited for this to dry I went into the gallery and chatted to Suzi. I pointed out a couple of pieces that I really liked and she told me to let xxx know as he was the artist.

We got chatting about our respective homes and families and Suzi asked why I was trying it. I told here about photography and said that I wanted to trying making something with my hands for a change. She asked what kind if photos I take and I showed her a few street photos on my phone.

With this she stood, demanded I grab my camera and tool me to meet all her neighbours who were either artists or craftsmen making the tools the artists use.

Suzis village is fantastic. A real oasis of calm in the madness of the city. Everyone knows each other and there is a real sense of community there.

After our walk we went back to the studio.

The next step on my creation was to repaint everything using paraffin. Anything that I didn’t cover in paraffin would be dyed black in the next step.

The next part was a three step process and the only thing I did not do completely by myself.

First we took the cloth and put it in black dye. Then it was dipped in acid (this the bit I didn’t do) and I scrunched the cloth in places to create the marbling effect in the colours.

The it was a dip in petrol to remove the wax and paraffin and finally a rinse under the tap to clean it all up.

I’m honestly delighted with the result. I can’t believe it is something that I made.

I bought a small piece of art from the studio. Something more traditional and I plan to frame both it and my own once I return home.

At the risk of sounding like gameshow contestant. I had a fantastic day. Calm relaxing and I made something cool.

If you ever get the chance pop in and see the art. If you have the time, book a course. You wont regret it. 

One thought on “Learning Batik

  1. Doh, forgot to replace the XXX’s with the correct names with my notes before uploading.

    Part of the fun of scrambling to upload whenever I can get a net connection.

    I’ll get around to editing this when I can.


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