Batik probably originated in the East, and traditional methods of batiking, some- times using natural dyes, are still practiced there in some places. The following sections present two age-old methods of resist printing: the Javanese wax resist and the paste resist techniques. Both methods are laborious and slow, and do not lend themselves to the more spontaneous creative needs of the modern artist and craftsman. However, the methods are of great interest, and by following the photographic sequences in this chapter, the student, adult beginner, or professional will develop an awareness of how a beautiful art technique has been gracefully maintained through traditional practice. It is not suggested that the general reader undertake the tedious recapitulation of either of these methods. Only the researcher, museum curator, or art historian might need to recreate the highly technical sequences.
JAVANESE WAX RESIST
Although the wax resist method of dyeing fabrics has been practiced in India, China, and throughout the Far East, the Javanese batik is of the greatest interest, primarily because of the elegance of design and the still current importance of its production in the life and economy of the country. Batiks have been made continuously in Java since the technique was introduced from either Persia or India, probably in the 12th century. Java is also the one place where the technique is still widely practiced, in some areas much as it was hundreds of years ago.
batik : the tulis, or hand drawn, and the tjap printed. The tulis batiks are the finest examples of batik work. Their designs are entirely drawn or painted in wax by hand with a tool known as the tjanting. A two-yard-long tulis may take from 30 to 50 days to produce, with about 15 days being devoted to waxing in the
Tulis batiks, because of the time spent producing them and the intricacy of design permitted by hand waxing, have always been expensive. They were formerly worn only by the nobility and very wealthy Javanese. Today they are worn not only as dress but are popular with Westerners as decoration.
Tjap, or stamp waxed, batiks are handsome, but the quality of their designs is limited by the mechanical aspect of their production. Tjap patterns are exactly repeated geometric forms or stylized natural shapes. The tjap batik may be produced far more rapidly than the tulis, and therefore costs much less. Most of the 40,000,000 yards of fabric batiked each year are done with the tjap technique.
Paste resist is probably the oldest form of batik. It was widely practiced throughout the Middle and Far East and is still done in Japan, Indonesia, India, Africa, and Okinawa . There are various Kinds of paste resists, but combinations of rice and other flours are most common. The rice and bran flour mixture widely used in Japan is combined with small amounts of powdered zinc sulphate and salt and cooked to make a transparent cream, which is stirred until cool. Paste may be applied in numerous ways, including brushing freehand or with stencils, dabbing with the fingers, and squeezing it through a stiff paper tube. The tube, which resembles a pastry tube both in appearance and use, is filled and rolled from the top to force the paste through the small open end.
The dye in paste resist batiks is usually applied to only one surface. It is prepared by mixing powdered dye with a gum solution, which gives it a stiff consistency and prevents the spreading inevitable with more watery substances. The dye solution is used cold. Because the fabric is not immersed, various colors may be applied in different areas— as long as the areas are separated by paste or distance. The final dye step usually consists of brushing a dark dye over the whole piece of cloth.
A steam bath is used to set the dye. Several lengths of fabric are steamed together. Each length is separated by many sheets of newspaper and then all are rolled together. This roll is then rolled in more sheets of paper and the ends folded and tied. The batch is covered with a heavy cloth and hung in a steam closet. The fabric is steamed thoroughly for at least an hour; heavy fabrics require more time. After the fabric is removed from the steam bath, it is washed in clear, cold water and rinsed several times until the paste is completely removed. After it is dry, the fabric is ironed and the process