Ubud, Bali, Indonesia:  I fell in love with the art of batik. There are infinite ways of approaching the creation of these beautiful fabrics, and over our 2 months in Ubud, I experimented across a broad spectrum of techniques. A few weeks in to our stay, I decided to take my initial ‘playing around’ studies a little deeper. I contracted with Widya, the man who runs the studio where I’d been learning batik, to come back and work 10-15 more times for the whole time we’d be in Ubud. My main areas of focus would be color, fibers and hand stamping.
IMG_5437 IMG_5531Color is a tricky one for me, as I didn’t go to art school and remember very little about color theory from my high school art days. Enter Thomas, artist in residency. Together we brainstormed mixes, complementary color combinations, and read about home dyeing, additive & subtractive colors and the color wheel. I needed to do some experimentation of my own, however, so we found an art supply store and I started mixing my own watercolors. After some playing around, I was able to gain a better understanding of how to create the really bold or really subtle colors I wanted to reproduce on fabric.
IMG_5557And then there are fibers. The fibers I choose have an effect on color as well. A hand woven cotton or a fine grade machine-spun thin cotton, for example, will turn out differently if dipped in the same color because of the variation across weaves, grades and weights. Over these past 2 months, I did tons of testing to understand how all of this intersects with wax to create a finished fabric.
IMG_5751 IMG_5767IMG_5786IMG_5705Hand stamping is my favorite part of batik creation. Copper tjaps (stamps) are dipped into hot wax and then pressed onto cloth. Widya has about 15 copper stamps that he designs and has made in Java. They are beautiful and range from traditional to contemporary. A traditional batik artist will very carefully align stamps to create a clean or organized pattern across his piece. I, however, approach it differently. I work with tjaps that haven’t been sufficiently dipped in wax to create a splotchy and modeled effect. I like layering different tjaps on top of each other to make a cloudy and inconsistent effect. After the first few weeks of working with Widya’s copper tjaps, I started wondering if I could create a different effect with wood carved stamps, so I set out in search of someone who could make a few of these for me.
IMG_5789And then some fortuitous timing…

We discovered Pak Tjok’s treasure trove of wood stamps (jump to post). I went to work there a handful of times and loved trying out dozens of these wooden stamps.  Unlike copper tjaps that produce very precise lines, the wax applied by wooden stamp ‘soils’ or leaks onto the fabric’s base color in an imperfect way to give it depth and a vague tri-dimensional effect. This suited me well, as over time I’d evolved from making perfectly symmetrical stamped patterns to creating cloudy and amorphous ones.
IMG_5761My 2-month batik immersion has been a transformative experience, and I hope I’m able to continue learning, experimenting and creating once we get to Berlin. What started out as play turned into an internship, and is now shaping up to feel like graduate studies.