One reason I chose Bali as a holiday destination was my interest in batik fabrics. I wanted to see batiks being made, have a go myself and also buy some to make into quilts, I even organised my luggage allowance so I would have plenty of spare capacity!
A few weeks before our holiday I booked a workshop with Widya’s Batiks, he’s based in Ubud where we were staying. He has a facebook page and courses can be booked easily through that.
I had a great day at the workshop, Widya was an excellent teacher. There are lots of different methods of making batik and on Bali I think it is very similar to silk painting. Widya had lots of designs to choose from or you could draw your own if you wanted. I chose a picture of some lotus flowers, it turned out to be pretty apt as I didn’t realise it at the time but there is a lotus garden in Ubud which we visited a couple of days later.
The design was traced with pencil onto a length of cotton clipped to a frame. Then came the tricky part! Batik uses wax as a resist and in Bali it is applied with a bamboo stick with a copper ‘nib’, Luckily we had a practise piece to try the technique out, the conical reservoir was dipped into molten wax and then you could (in theory!) steadily draw the line of wax. Every 10 seconds or so you had to empty out the wax and refil the pen as otherwise it started to set and block the nib.
Like a lot of things, it’s not as easy as it looks, despite being used to applying gutta! I had some very wobbly lines and some blobs on my practise piece, Widya offered to outline some of the more fiddly bits of my final piece whilst I was still practising, for which I was very grateful. I was the only student there that day so he could give me lots of help! I also used the practise piece to have a go with the actual painting. Batik paints don’t blend or spread in the same way that silk paints do, although the wax does act as the resist. This means that you can paint detail a lot more easily. I painted the darker lines of the flowers first and then went over with two colours, blending as I went. The ‘brushes’ we used were made of wood, one was basically a stick cut on a slant with the end softened somehow. The other was just a stick with some cotton wrapped around the end. I also found the paints themselves interesting as they reminded me of painting ceramics years ago with my mum, in that what you see is not necessarily what you get after the fixing process, a brown dye turned green in the end, a very pale lemon darkened to vivid orange in sunlight.
By the time I had mastered the painting, Widya had (with my permission) outlined my main panel. A little bit of me would have liked to do it all myself but the rest of me was very pleased that I had a decent panel to paint!! What I did do myself was to print the borders, it took about three imprints of hot wax to make each length.
I was glad I had practised with the painting as I’m really pleased with how my lotus flowers came out. The water in the background was interesting as it didn’t blend at all like silk paints, I would do it differently another time.
After painting it was left to dry in the sunshine. The final part of the process was setting it, this is done in a bath of weak hydrochloric acid and salt (if I remember correctly!) followed by a dunk in boiling water to remove the wax and then a final dunk in cold water. It didn’t take long to dry in the sun in the 30′ heat.
The next day he took me to a batik factory where I could see the experts working and also I could buy a length. This is batik to dress-make with, rather than quilting, it is absolutely beautiful and it’s lovely to have a length of ‘proper Balinese batik’
The one place I didn’t get to for various reasons, was Jalan Sulawesi, a street in Dempasar which is full of shops selling batik fabrics for quilting, by the metre, jelly rolls, fat quarters…I’ll just have to go back for another holiday!