About Batik

Batik in Java


Canting
The art of batik has been developed to the highest standards on the island of Java in Indonesia.Prolific raw materials for the process are readily available – cotton, beeswax, and many plants from which the dyes are made.Production to individual order of naturally dyed silk batik is a specialty of Batikbox. In addition, we supply one-off art batik pieces, usually signed by the artist.

The traditional skills were particularly well developed over hundreds of years in Central Java around Yogyakarta and Surakarta (Solo) under the patronage of the respective Sultans and their courts. In some cases specific designs could only be used by certain people depending on status or on certain occasions. The royal families had their own prescribed designs. On the coast designs were developed differently, influenced by settlers from China, the Dutch colonists and traders from India and Arabia.

Production


Applying wax with a canting. Artists' workshop in Yogyakarta
Batik in Javanese means ‘to dot’. Basically there are two kinds of batik-batik tulis (hand drawn) and batik cap (stamped).  The organic batik supplied by Batikbox is batik tulis.

Batik tulis 

The cloth is hung over a frame. The wax used in the process can be a combined product of paraffin, bees-wax, and plant resins called gondorukem and mata kucing. The design is drawn on with a canting, a small copper cupped spout which is attached to a bamboo or wooden handle. The canting is dipped into a pot of hot wax and the wax then flows through the spout on to the fabric. At the final stage of the process, all the wax is scraped off and the cloth boiled to remove all traces.


Making batik cap, workshop in Lawayan, Solo
Batik cap

Usually men do the more demanding stamping of batik cap using carved wooden or copper blocks.  The cloth is stretched on to long tables and a cap or copper stamping tool is used. This is dipped into a pan of hot wax and pressed on to the fabric. This enables the design to be repeated many times and is usually done on both sides of the fabric by men.

Dyes

The traditional dyes used are deep indigo blues and soga browns and these are still the characteristic colours for work in central Java. Towards the end of the 19th century chemical dyes were introduced in the coastal regions and as a result of this the colours are usually brilliant and more varied.

There is a range of natural organic dyes used for specific colours you can order from Batikbox.
The final hand made lengths of cloth, known as tulis, may take from one week to a month or more to produce, and are consequently expensive - but it must be remembered that this is detailed and individually hand-crafted workmanship which has its own intrinsic value and beauty.

Batik styles

Batik Kraton

Batik Kraton is regarded as the basic batik of Java. The kraton is the complex of buildings housing the sultan’s court.  This style contains many Hindu- motifs that have influenced the royal courts of Java since the 5th century, and subsequent Islamic influences. From Hinduism comes the sacred bird  Garuda, the lotus flower, the dragon Naga, and the tree of life – all still very popular designs. Islam, which forbids the depiction of humans or animals, brought stylised and modified ornaments as symbols, such as flowers and geometric designs.

Batik Kraton as a specific part of the dress code of the courts of Java can be subdivided into Batik Kasunanan Surakarta (the modern city of Solo), Batik Kasultanan Yogyakarta, Batik Pura Mangkunegaran and Batik Pura Pakualaman. Over time, changes and modifications distinguished Batik Mangkunegaran from Batik Kasunanan, even though both originated from the same source. Batik Pakualaman, from the city of Yogyakarta, originated from both Kasunan and Kasultanan design but the process was completed in Surakarta.

Batik Belanda

Although Chinese traders arrived earlier in Java than Europeans, their influence on batik did not substantially materialise until later. Batik Belanda ( Dutch Batik) appeared around 1840, decades before the appearance of Batik Cina (Chinese Batik). European settlers on the northern coast of Java began producing batik in the mid-19th century, and reached a peak of creativity in 1890-1910. 

Batik Cina

Batik Cina is influenced by Chinese culture, easily recognisable from the wide range of uniquely Chinese motifs including dragons, phoenix, snakes, lions, and traditional Chinese flowers and designs taken from chinaware. It is also distinguished by its bright and pastel colors. Batik Cina appeared in two derivatives, Batik Dua Negri and Batik Tiga Negri, processed in the north coastal Pesisiran, Surakarta and Yogyakarta in central Java. Batik Cina is still in production in the coastal cities of Pekalongan, Cirebon, Kudus and Demak.

Batik Hokokai  

Designed specifically for the Japanese during the wartime occupation (1942-1945), the designs of Batik Hokokai attracted Chinese consumers in Java and Malaya as well. Highly influenced by Japanese design in motifs and coloring, fine intricate backgrounds enhanced the appearance of intricately designed flowers. This style was mostly styled as Kain Pagi Sore batik with the colors and patterns different on each half of the fabric length. Favorite motifs included the parang and lereng.

Batik Indonesia

Independence from Dutch colonial rule saw the emergence of new designs. In the early 1950s, President Soekarno encouraged the creation of a new style popularly called Batik Indonesia. A symbiosis between various styles, especially of the principalities of Yogyakarta and Surakarta and the north coast of Java, which still utilized soga brown as the basic color, Batik Indonesia was developed utilizing bright colors. Some appeared in a totally new design, i.e., Cendrawasih, Sruni, Sandang Pangan, Udang, while still using the traditional processing system. Batik Indonesia is also called Batik Modern.

Batik Sudagaran

An important genre in the development of batik, Batik Sudagaran emerged at the end of the 19th century in the sultanates of Surakarta and Yogyakarta. Produced by sudagar or batik merchants, it is easily recognized through the modified classic ornaments styled to the taste of the merchants. Some of the popular creations are the patchwork style tambal, parang with the insertion of snail-like motifs, and lereng filled with extra fine spirals called ukel.

Batik Pesisir

The distinctive designs of batik pesisir are those from the northern coastal cities of Java, including Pekalongan and Cirebon. The designs show Chinese influence through their use of brighter colors, flowers and cloud motifs.

 

Cleaning and Care of Your Batik 

As organic dyed batik cloth uses decoctions from various plant matter, especially from the cortex, the root and leaf, the finished product requires special handling.

  • Clean batik cloth by hand by using hair shampoo or pure soap flakes dissolved in water.
  • Under no circumstances machine wash!
  • Do not dry in direct sunlight.
  • Do not iron directly. To remove creases, place clean white cloth or a sheet of paper over the batik to insulate from direct contact with the hot clothes iron.
  • If you wish to scent the cloth, do not spray perfume or similar agents directly onto the cloth. Impregnate tissue paper or thin paper with the scent and lay/store the batik between these sheets of paper.