Fabrics of Africa: Exploring Batik
Batik (pronounced ba-teek) is an ancient handmade fabric art. During the batik process, hot batik wax is painted or stamped onto fabric, which is then dyed. After one or more dyeings, the batik wax is removed, revealing differently colored patterns and designs. Cracks in the batik wax give patterns the “crackled” look so unique to batik.
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History of Batik
African Batik Print Samples
Batik comes from a Malaysian word meaning points, dots and by drawings. This method applies during the process of decorating a fabric, paper, leather goods. This method of decorating is native of the Eastern countries such as China, India and the Malay Archipelago. It was introduced in Europe in the seventeenth century by the Dutch. During it earliest development in Oriental countries (Ceylon, Java), the artist would coat wax all over the entire surface of a fabric, on which he would then trace his drawing, then lastly, the coat of wax would be scrapped to leave space for the area that will be dyed. After the first dyeing and drying process, another coat of wax would be applied in order to draw another design on the fabric. The process would contnue several times until all the drawing have been accomplished.
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Method used in Africa to create a Batik Print Fabric
From a piece of white cotton, the artisan draws directly on the fabric that will soon be turned into batik design. The final result is a succession of different soaking in dye baths. The unique technique in Africa is that the area that should not have a color is protected with a coar wax making the fabric waterproof.. After being immersed in a dye bath, the fabric is then boiled to melt the wax that has helped to keep the original color at that location (In this case, the fabric was a white). Therefore, a white background or the original designated fabric color will become the base tone of the fabric.
Artisans Treating Batik fabrics
Monochrome or gradation patterns can also be created but inquires an extensive amount of process to create an formidable end result. Therefore,each color requires soaking, rinsing and drying. So for instance, a 5-color batik would the process to take place 5 times starting with the lighest or base color. The artisan can also process by knotting. The artisan makes tight knots with thread on cotton piece preventing dye to penetrate to the heart of the nodes. These knots, once taken out would unveil cicular patterns as well as graduating color tones where the central part or main pattern would show the original fabric color. Lastly, the pigment would be treated in order for the colors not be bleed.
Another Batik aesthetic effect, Cracks
Crumpling the fabric coated with wax before soaking it into the bath color, will create irregular patterns in which the areas where the wax isn’t present will reflect the dye color in which it was soaked.