Although the exact origins are uncertain, Batik, an Indonesian word meaning, ”wax writing”, was a highly accomplished art form in Java and Bali by the 13th century. Batik is a resist-dye process, usually done on fabric. The resist is a mixture of beeswax and paraffin. The process involves brushing the molten wax on the fabric so it covers specific portions of the design. The waxed fabric is then immersed in a dye bath. The waxed areas resist the dyes, so only the unwaxed areas take the color.
When dry, the process is repeated with each new color. The artist works from light to dark, and from primary to secondary colors, since each color will affect the next color dyed over it. The characteristic “crackle” or veining is created when the waxed fabric is crumpled, allowing the dye to penetrate the cracks. When completed, the wax is removed by ironing the fabric between sheets of newsprint, or paper towels.
In its original form, the Batik was designed and executed directly on cotton cloth, using tjanting tools and metal stamping blocks called tjaps. Today, natural hair brushes can also be used to apply the wax. The process can be used on other untreated fabrics as well. Silk, though costly, produces crisp, delicate works. Batik can also be done on paper. Mulberry bark and other rice papers are well suited for this process because they are interwoven with fibers to give strength and texture. Paper Batiks may also be carefully crackled like the fabric ones.
Elizabeth Markey Hall was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1954. Her art training began in early grade school with Saturdays spent at The Maryland Institute of Art. Private art lessons followed, and continued through high school. She participated in local art exhibits and competitions. Upon graduation in 1972, Ms. Hall traveled to Mexico to study native arts and crafts. She enrolled at The Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. After the first semester there, she received a student scholarship in ceramics, and stayed nearly four years studying all types of fine art, Mexican history, and Spanish. It was in Mexico she first learned the art of Batik from a local master.
After leaving Mexico, Ms. Hall moved to Boise, Idaho to continue her art training. She graduated with honors in 1977 from Boise State University, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in art with a metalsmith emphasis. After one year of graduate work in Boise, she returned to Maryland, where she was employed for two years at a custom frame and art supply shop. During that time, she also taught art to 7th and 8th grade students at St. William of York School in Baltimore.
In 1980, Ms. Hall moved permanently to Ocean City, Maryland, where she has her own studio and concentrates in Batik on silk. She also does watercolor house portraits by commission. In 1983, she married G. Alfred Harrison, and together they operate Harrison Apartments and Rooms in Ocean City. Ms. Harrison is a former vice-president and board member of the Ocean City Art League, and offers workshops and lessons in Batik. She is also a member of the Worcester County Arts Council. Her work may be seen in several galleries on the Eastern shore, at Playa Oeste Gallery in Rincon, Puerto Rico, at local art exhibits, or by special appointment at her studio in Berlin, Md.