Ethnic Jewels

An appreciation of ethnic jewellery and adornment

An Old Batik

This is an old sarong made from a batik textile. The batik is done on cotton and two of the edges have been stitched together so that the textile forms a sleeve. The wearer steps into the garment and folds it over to accommodate the waist size.

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Comment by Edith D on April 11, 2017 at 23:30
Thanks Thelma, it never occurred to me that it would attract bees! By the way, I have been told that this particular pattern is the result of Chinese and Japanese influence in Java. I suspect that this piece is at least 50 years old, but it is 20th century since the dyes are the brighter alkaline colors. The traditional Javanese colors are blues and browns. The blues were originally made from indigo.
Comment by Thelma on April 11, 2017 at 19:41

For Edith. A tale called the Perils of Batik or an Attack by Killer Bees.

A long time ago, in Africa, in my spare time, I used to practise batik. I remember one hot lazy afternoon when, with the window open, the beeswax melting in a pot on the stove filling the kitchen with that lovely perfumed beeswax smell, I thought I heard a sound like a chorus of thousands of bees. I looked up and it was true that there were one or two bees on the netting that covered the windows. One or two rapidly became 20 or 30 ... then hundreds...then thousands of aggressive bees were swarming down from the roof, attracted by the smell of the melting beeswax and desperately trying to reach the source.

 

Quickly, quickly I covered the pan and put it away and waited..........until the smell and the swarm had disappeared. But the swarm itself hadn’t gone far. It had migrated to a large old fig tree in the garden from where, with the help of a brave man, it was eventually knocked into an old sack and taken away. But lessons about melting beeswax had been learned and, as you can see, they haven’t been forgotten. From then on, I worked with the windows closed!

Comment by Thelma on April 11, 2017 at 19:22

Edith, this is a superb example of batik. I used to practise it myself so I appreciate the delicacy and clarity of the work. No sign of the wax cracking which would have left a kind of crazed pattern on the cloth and such fine drawing with the tjanting. You only have to look at the stripes and the fine lines used in the drawing of the flowers and the butterflies to understand that this has been done by well practised and expert hands. I will tell you a story about what happened to me when I was batiking  one afternoon many years ago.

Comment by Edith D on April 7, 2017 at 7:43

A young woman from Yogjakarta wearing a similar sarong in an early 20th Century photo.

Comment by Edith D on April 7, 2017 at 2:08

Batik fabric can also be applied using a stamp, but the best ones are made using the tool below.  The artist will first trace the pattern onto the cloth with pencil, and then go over the design with wax.   Visitors to the textile museum in Jakarta can try this in the museum's work studio, and it is not easy!

I once thought that all batik had primitive looking designs that looked hand drawn.  Actually, a good antique done totally be hand can be so precise that it looks like it was done by a machine!

The best batik are completely reversible and look the same on both sides of the fabric.  The more colors in the batik, the more times the pattern was over-dyed, and thus the longer it took to make.  Old hand done batik with 4 or more colors are highly prized, and Indonesians will pay handsomely for such a piece.  Some batik fabrics can take months or even years to complete.

Batik are usually done on fine cotton, but can also be done on silk or even synthetics!  (The modern synthetic patterns are typically done with a stamp and only one color,)

Comment by Edith D on April 7, 2017 at 1:56

Batik is the name of the process used to decorate the fabric using wax patterns that are then over-dyed.  The wax resists the dye which is later washed out of the fabric.  Here is one of the tools used to decorate the fabric.

Comment by Edith D on April 7, 2017 at 1:53

Here are some additional images of the piece.

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