My art project: Balinese batik
Posted on February 20, 2014
I chose to focus my art project on batik because I’ve always been interested in fabric making and textiles. Before leaving the States, my only textile-related activity was knitting. One of the things I love about knitting is picking out beautifully colored silk, wool or cotton yarns and seeing them come together in an eclectic pattern and fabric. So, it wasn’t a big leap to want to experiment further with color, fabrics and making new patterns with Balinese batik.
The ancient art of batik is a wax resist dyeing technique on fabric. It’s existed across Indonesia, Egypt, China, India, Japan, Nigeria and Senegal for thousands of years. Traditional batik fabrics are highly ornate, highly symbolic and oftentimes made for religious ceremonies.
The process of making batik fabric is complex and quite time consuming. As a new student to this technique, I figured there would be a lot to learn before I actually started making fabrics. That wasn’t the case with my teachers; with a bit of a language barrier, they preferred to show instead of tell. They were anxious for me to jump in, start sketching, stamping, dyeing and making a few pieces. The first 5-hour workshop, I created a fuschia piece which was inspired by the tile in our bathroom. It is highly ornate, colorful and 90% done by hand (as opposed to with stamps). The colors were a complete surprise to me. When I pulled the final dip out, fixed and rinsed it, I was shocked it was not the deep red I was hoping it would be. An unexpected but beautiful happy accident.
In subsequent classes, I am experimenting with double- and triple-processing of dyes, tie-dyeing, color mixing and multiple layering of wax application. It’s humbling to be a part of the creative process, especially when I try to plan out what I’m going to make before each workshop (insert laughter). For all the reading I do between classes, color wheel mixing diagrams I study or thoughtfully planned out pieces I attempt to make (oops, that scarf just became a napkin!!), it’s actually quite fun to be surprised by this imperfect art form. As my instructor Komang says, “There are no mistakes in batik.”