Art comes in various forms; be it paintings, sketches, or even prints. And it doesn’t confine itself to being something that needs to be framed and hung up. Batik is an art form that has existed in pre-colonial times in all of Southeast Asia.
It takes hours upon hours of skill to create a beautiful textile that is part of a community like batik. And we’re here to help you learn more about the art form that is Malaysian batik.
What does batik mean
The word “batik” itself translates to a technique of hand dying fabrics with dye repellant wax to create unique designs on fabrics. Originated in the Javanese culture, a spouted tool called “canting” is used to make dots or lines with the dye resistant wax.
The wax is also applied to block printing stamps called “cap” when the artist would like to create repetitive designs.
When was batik first created?
There has been evidence of early examples of batik that have been found in the Far East, Middle East, Central Asia, and India from over 2,000 years ago. It is thought entirely possible that these areas developed independently. All without the influence of trade or even cultural exchanges.
The exact origin of Indonesian batik is not known but it is very common on the island of Java. It is believed that these garments exclusively belonged to the royal families and the wealthy when it was first made.
The oldest batik textile which dates back to the 5th century in the Indonesian archipelago was found in Toraja Regency on Sulawesi Island. However, how this wax dyeing method spread out of Indonesia still remains in question.
What country is batik from?
The ancient tradition of wax dyeing which is known as batik is from Java, Indonesia. This art form is highly developed and some of the best quality batiks in the world are still made there.
In Java, all the materials that are needed for the process are readily available; from the fabric selected, beeswax, and dyes.
Who wore batik for the first time?
It is believed that the first batik apparel were made for the royal families and those who were wealthy in the Java Islands in Indonesia.
The increasing popularity of batik
With its intricate design and uniqueness, batik makes the wearer stand out in a crowd with its eye-catching prints and colors. Budding designers have also adapted the traditional batik designs to fit modern-day aesthetics to cater to a wider audience.
Of course, it helps immensely that the fabrics chosen for batik printing are usually silks and lightweight cottons which wear really well in hot climates such as Southeast Asia or tropical climates.
Why do people love batik?
Often found on lightweight and cooling fabric, batik was once thought of as formal wear or old fashioned, and has steadily gained back its popularity among all ages
It is a versatile clothing article which does well in both formal and informal settings. There never really seems to be a wrong time to wear batik; be it at home, for causal meet ups with friends, or even to a formal dinner party or wedding.
What are the different types of batik?
There are four types of batik; batik blok, batik lukis, batik skrin, batik tie dye.
1. Batik Blok
Batik blok is a stamping process which the tool is made out of zinc or copper where the pattern is on one side of the tool. The patterned side is then dipped into the melted wax and stamped onto the cloth in a repetitive pattern.
2. Batik Lukis
Batik lukis is hand-drawn with a tool called canting. The canting is a little copper or brass pot with a long handle. It has a little spout from where the melted wax lets out and drops onto the cloth for a more detailed batik drawing often done freehand.
3. Batik Skrin
Batik skrin is screen printed batik with the use of stencils. These stencils were introduced in 1939 in Kelantan by Mohammad Yusof Bin Hj. Che’ Su and Mohammad Daud Bin Hj. Che’ Su. This type of batik is faster and easier to produce and an upcoming batik trend in Malaysia. However, to do so, one must have a keen eye for details to make sure that the patterns align.
4. Batik Tye Dye
Batik tie dye if often confused with regular tie dye. Where in regular tie dye, the cloth is rolled and tied up with rubber bands, batik tie dye is done with wax. Parts of the cloth with be covered with melted wax and dyed. This will be done repeated until the desired pattern is achieved.
What is batik fabric made of?
Batik requires a certain type of material that has a tighter loom. This helps in the dyeing process of the material. The most common fabrics used are 100% cotton, silk, or rayon. The cotton used for batik is not the same as traditional quilting cotton and does not drape as easily, so it is good for apparel with a structured fit, especially batik shirts.
Why is batik unique?
The beauty of a batik apparel relies heavily on its craftsmanship which makes it unique. Not only is wax used in creating its pattern, but it also undergoes the delicate and repetitive process of dyeing and boiling. Used as a color blocker, it creates outlines where the artists will then fill it up with colors.
This is seen especially in Malaysian batik, where the patterns are larger and simpler. The artists heavily rely on the brush painting method to apply colours on fabrics. This creates a more vibrant end result.
The differences between Malaysian and Indonesian Batik
1. Malaysian Batik
Malaysian batik usually focuses on floral motifs from nature surrounding the tropics or geometric patterns due to the Islamic influence in the country. Malaysian batik is also more vibrant in color with pinks, blues, and purples.
2. Indonesian Batik
Indonesian batik however, falls on the more serious side of coloring with dark browns, golds, and blacks as the primary colors. Indonesian batik also gathers its inspirations from various regions including unique animal prints.
Tie Dye Vs Batik Tie Dye: What is the difference:
Batik Tye Dye is often confused with regular tie dye. Where in regular tie dye, the cloth is rolled and tied up with rubber bands, batik tie dye is done with wax. Parts of the cloth with be covered with melted wax and dyed. This will be done repeated until the desired pattern is achieved.
Songket vs Batik: What are the differences?
Songket and batik are both traditional textile art forms from Southeast Asia. While they share some similarities, there are also some key differences between the two:
Songket is a hand-woven cloth in silk or cotton which is intricately patterned with gold or silver threads. These metallic threads are threaded between the silk or cotton weft (latitudinal) threads in the weaving process using a supplementary weft weaving technique. The metallic threads stand out against the background cloth to create a shimmering effect.
Batik on the other hand is a wax-resist dyeing technique applied to the whole fabric. Motifs are either hand drawn or stamped onto a cloth to create a pattern with melted wax. Once that is done, the cloth is then dyed with different colors to create the batik art.
Why is batik expensive?
There are different aspects that make a piece of batik more expensive than a regular printed textile.
The first and foremost thing to inquire about is if the particular garment has been handmade. This attributes to the pricing as the more intricate the design, the more expensive it will be. As it is with brands, the more popular the designer, the more expensive the batik garment.
Not only that, the pricing will also depend on how detailed and intricate the designs are. An alternative to hand drawn textiles would be ‘batik cap’, which is hand-printed batik. Although don’t be fooled, some cop printed batik can actually cost more than hand drawn batik.
How to wear batik?
There are many ways for both men and women to wear batik. Here are a few ideas:
1. For Men
Batik is largely considered as formal wear in Malaysia. Government employees are encouraged to wear batik every Thursday in the offices. However, with the new wave of interest in Malaysia batik, more of us are adopting it into our daily wardrobes.
For a formal event, men would wear a long sleeve batik shirt with slacks, and formal shoes. For a more casual look, men can wear a short-sleeved batik shirt with jeans or trousers. They could opt to wear it with sneakers or even sandals.
2. For Women
For women, they would wear either a full batik print baju kurung, or a kebaya with a batik sarong in traditional wearing of Malaysian batik. They would then pair it with their heels. They can wear the traditional batik sarong with an oversized top or even a crop top.
The options for women are endless as there are so many batik apparel available to them like cover ups, blouses, dresses, and scarves. A selection from which they can mix and match to suit their own unique style.
Where can I wear my batik clothes?
The answer is everywhere! Batik can be worn for formal events as well as hanging out for a cup of coffee with friends. This garment is universal in its use and can transform to suit your needs with just a little bit of styling.
How to spot a fake batik?
There are a few ways to spot a fake batik:
1. Examine the dye:
The easiest way to check if the batik is fake is to turn it inside out. If the pattern is as vibrant as the right side out, you might have in your hands an authentic piece of batik. As hot wax are used to draw and stamp on the material then hand-painted, the colours on both side should be equally as vibrant.
2. Look at the quality of the fabric:
Buyers are also encouraged to closely study the fabric, especially if they are looking to purchase the more traditional prints that are hand-painted. The batik printing will not be as perfect as one would imagine. Sometimes dots can be uneven or lines may vary in thickness and opacity.
3. Smell the garment:
Some would even suggest that the buyer smell the garment before purchasing as batik on cotton has an almost earthy scent to it after all the processing. Other than earthy, others have described the scent as sweet (if beeswax has been used) or simply like the smell of a box of crayons.
Can batik fabric be washed, and how?
Now this entirely depends on the type of material your batik is made from. If it is on 100% silk material, it is highly advised to dry clean your garment.
If your batik is made with cotton or rayon, you can sort the washing at home. If it is a ready-to-wear item, that means that the cloth has already been pre-washed. Batik on cotton material will have a little bit of shrinkage as the pores of the material will tighten up.
To wash batik on cotton, the best way to clean it is by giving it a cold hand rinse.
Using a gentle soap will help it react minimally with the dyes. Nonetheless, remember to watch for colors running. It’ll be best for you to wash your batik separately or with garments of similar color.
To dry, you can simply hang it up or lay it flat under a shady area far away from direct sunlight. Exposure to direct sunlight will also cause the colors to fade.
To remove the excess water, lightly rub the material together as wringing it might damage it.
After many washes, you might find your fabric looking slightly faded, giving it an almost vintage feel. As handmade batik colors are not color fast, this is unfortunately unavoidable but it does add to the beauty of the garment.
Can I machine wash batik?
Yes, you can definitely machine wash batik fabric. We advise for you to use a gentle cycle with cold water. You should never use any bleach or harsh detergents with your batik fabric as this will directly affect its colors.
As some handmade batik are prone to the colors running, it is best to use a color catcher in the same cycle with the batik. This is to ensure that if the colors do run, it will not damage the other items that are in the wash.
However, hand-washing will be the best method to wash your garment. It will help preserve the colour from fading quickly and keep the garment in better shape altogether.
How to learn to create batik?
Many classes now offer a course on creating your own batik in Kuala Lumpur. We at Batik Boutique also host workshops during selected times of the year where guests are welcome to try their hand at making something of their own.
This gives those who are interested a more hands-on approach to try working with the wax before making an investment in tools and fabric. Fabric that can be used to make batik is readily available, as are the wax and the canting. However, it would be best to do this first under the supervision of an expert in the field.
This way, you can learn how to safely handle the hot wax as well as the dyeing process.
When is Batik Day in Malaysia?
December 3 was declared Batik Day in Malaysia by the former Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob. This declaration was made in efforts to support the batik industry as well as encourage citizens to wear Malaysian batik.
About Batik Boutique
As the leading Malaysian batik brand, Batik Boutique stocks many contemporary batik apparel and gifts that suit all styles.
If you are looking for something casual or formal, there surely is something that will suit your style while highlighting the blend of historical geometric art with Malaysian heritage.
Be sure to check out our shipping policy as we at Batik Boutique ship not only across Malaysia but globally as well. Every purchase also benefits the artisan communities involved which then ensures that the art of batik thriving.