Evidence of early examples of batik has been found in the Far East, Middle East, Central Asia and India from over 2000 years ago. It is conceivable that these areas developed independently, without the influence from trade or cultural exchanges. However, it is more likely that the craft spread from Asia to the islands of the Malay Archipelago and west to the Middle East through the caravan route.
Batik was practiced in China as early as the Sui Dynasty (AD 581-618). These were silk batiks and these have also been discovered in Nara, Japan in the form of screens and ascribed to the Nara period (AD 710- 794). It is probable that these were made by Chinese artists. They are decorated with trees, animals, flute players, hunting scenes and stylized mountains. No evidence of very old cotton batiks have been found in India but frescoes in the Ajunta caves depict head wraps and garments which could well have been batiks.
In Java and Bali temple ruins contain figures whose garments are patterned in a manner suggestive of batik. By 1677 there is evidence of a considerable export trade, mostly on silk from China to Java, Sumatra, Persia and Hindustan. In Egypt linen and occasionally woolen fabrics have been excavated bearing white patterns on a blue ground and are the oldest known and date from the 5th century A.D. They were made in Egypt, possibly Syria. In central Africa resist dyeing using cassava and rice paste has existed for centuries in the Yoruba tribe of Southern Nigeria and Senegal.
Indonesia, most particularly the island of Java & Bali, are the areas where batik has reached the greatest peak of accomplishment. The Dutch brought Indonesian craftsmen to teach the craft to Dutch warders in several factories in Holland from 1835. The Swiss produced imitation batik in the early 1940s. A wax block form of printing was developed in Java using a cap. By the early 1900s the Germans had developed mass production of batiks. There are many examples of this form of batik as well as hand-produced work in many parts of the world today. Computerization of batik techniques is a very recent development.
There is nowhere in the world where the art of batik has been developed to the highest standards as in the island of Java & Bali in Indonesia. All the raw materials for the process are readily available – cotton and beeswax and many plants from which the dyes are made.
It is not known when the batik was first made but the traditional skills were particularly well developed over hundreds of years in Central Java around Yogyakarta and Solo under the patronage of the Sultan and his court. Designs were copies and in some cases the cloths could only be used by certain people or on certain occasions. The royal families had their own proscribed designs. On the coast designs were developed differently, influenced by settlers from China, the Dutch colonists and traders from India and Arabia.
Two methods of applying wax are used.
• The cloth is hung over the frame and the design is drawn on with a canting, a small copper cupped spout which is attached toa bamboo or wooden handle. The canting is dipped into a pot of hot wax and then allowed to flow through the spout on to the fabric. On thicker fabrics the waxing is carried out on both sides. This process is carried out by the women
• The cloth is stretched on to long tables and a cap or copper stamping tool is used. This is dipped into a pan of hot wax and pressed on to the fabric. This enables the design to be repeated many times and is usually done on both sides of the fabric by men. This is a much faster method of wax application.
The traditional dyes used are deep indigo blues and soga browns and these are still the characteristic colors for work in central Java. Towards the end of the 19th century chemical dyes were introduced in the coastal regions and as a result of this the colors are usually brilliant and more varied. The final hand made lengths of cloth, known as Tulis, may take several months to produce and are consequently very expensive. Everywhere in Indonesia people still wear clothing made from batik cloth and the tourist industry has opened up a new market for cheap batik clothing and pictures.
Handmade Bali batik art is a labor-intensive artistic process, not a machine made, exact science. The fabric must first be prepared with a background color, then the design is drawn onto the fabric, first with pencil, then with melted wax. The wax, when cold, allows the painters to apply color where they want it, without the colors running onto each other. In other words, it keeps it contained. In a complex batik design, this process can go on several times until the whole pattern is completed. When the whole design is painted and finished, the fabric must be boiled to remove the wax, and it also must be dried in the sun to set the colors. Because there will still be some wax residue in handmade batik fabrics, you may find it just a little stiff until it is washed again; you may also find small patches of wax still on the fabric; this is perfectly normal and will come off in washing and ironing
We use mostly rayon fabric because of it silky, cool and refreshing feeling on the body, and the fact that it drapes well and is flattering on everybody. It is also quite easy to care for and holds its shape well, so it should give you years of enjoyment with proper care. Rayon is made from cotton and/or tree pulps and was originally developed to imitate silk.
Because the batik fabrics for our colorful and creative clothing are hand painted, or hand stamped, and not mass produced commercially, you can expect variations in design and color. This is normal in handmade batiks. After the fabric has been saturated with dye, it will be dried in the sun to set the colors. And because the fabric has been heavily saturated with the dye some color will come out in the washing, but will not affect the color of the clothing. Color and texture variations are natural characteristics of the fabric and dying process, and in no way are considered a flaw!