Batik is a traditional technique of applying patterns, pictures, and colors on a cloth using wax and traditional tools. The cloth is the most famous traditional products of Indonesia because it has unique characteristic and high artistic value. UNESCO even listed it as Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. In Indonesia, they celebrate Batik Day every October 2nd.

Various Batik Cloths (Source: Flickr. Credit: Muhammad Fitri)
Various Batik Cloths
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Muhammad Fitri)

How to Make

Based on the technique, there are three ways to make a piece of traditional Batik cloth. The first one is called “Batik Tulis” which means “Written Batik”. The second one is called “Batik Cap” which means “Stamped Batik”. And the last one is “Batik Printing” or “Printed Batik”

To make a piece of Batik Tulis cloth, you need wax and small stove to liquefy it, a tool called “canting” to draw pattern, and colorants. First step is to draw the pattern. Canting is used as a pen and the hot liquid wax is used as the tint. Some batik artisan would draw the pattern using pencil first before applying the wax because once the wax is applied, you cannot erase it.

Writing the Pattern Using Canting (Source: Flickr. Credit: glend deko)
Writing the Pattern Using Canting
(Source: Flickr. Credit: glend deko)

After a while, the wax will cool down and be condensed. The wax will separated areas of the cloth to apply different colors. Coloring batik can be done with two different ways. If the Batik meant to be monochromatic, the waxed cloth is just needed to be dipped in a bowl of colorant. Let the cloth soak in it for a while and the dry it.

When it is already dry, the colored cloth is then put in a boiling water to let the wax to melt and fade away. This way, only the colors will stay on the cloth and the area once covered in wax would be plain white. Batik Tulis is the most valuable type of Batik because of the artsy process of making. It is usually the most expensive type of Batik.

Other technique is called Batik Cap where the wax is not “written” using canting. Instead, they used patterned copper stamp (cap) to apply the hot liquid wax. A batik artisan used to have plenty of cap stamps so they could combine one cap with another and make different product of clothes. The coloring technique for Batik Cap is same as Batik Tulis. Batik Cap is still highly valuable although it is not as valuable as Batik Tulis. The price is usually cheaper than Batik Tulis.

Cap (Copper Batik Stamp) for Applying Wax (Source: Flickr. Credit: Perry Tak)
Cap (Copper Batik Stamp) for Applying Wax
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Perry Tak)

The last technique of Batik making and also the least valuable one is Batik Printing. Batik Printing does not use hot liquid wax or any traditional tools in making it. It is purely fabricated, only they have batik patterns printed on it.

Batik Printing is not valuable and is usually way much cheaper than any other type of Batik. In several places, only poor people wear Batik Printing because they cannot afford the real Batik. But lately, Batik Printing is well spread and some people do not understand the difference so they wear them anyway.

 

Types

Generally, Batik is classified into two categories based on the pattern style, color pallets, and culture influence. There are Inland Batik and Coastal Batik.

Inland Batik is the type of batik that was influenced by local culture and beliefs. They have strict rules about making Batik. Each pattern in Inland Batik has specific meaning and purpose. The colors are ranging only between white, crème, brown, and black. Patterns and color pallets used in Inland Batik has never changed from time to time. The usage of every pattern is even still abided at traditional rituals and events. Inland Batik is commonly found in inland area such as Solo and Yogyakarta.

Inland Batik from Solo (Source: Flickr. Credit: Prakoso Prakoso)
Inland Batik from Solo
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Prakoso Prakoso)

On the other hand, Coastal Batik had plenty influences from outside world. Long time ago, many immigrants and outsiders came to Indonesia using ship. They usually took rest at the village nearby the coast they landed their ship on. Due to this, the coastal batik artisan had socialized much with these outsiders. This led them to see new ideas of art from the outsiders. They then started to adapt their patterns and experimented with new colors.

Because having so much influence, coastal batik tends to have more variety of patterns and wide range of color pallets. Most cultures they adapted are Chinese, European, and Arabic. These influenced can be seen on several patterns of Batik made in coastal area.

Coastal Batik with Thick Chinese Influence (Source: Flickr. Credit: Liz)
Coastal Batik with Thick Chinese Influence
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Liz)
Coastal Batik with Thick Holland Influence (Source: satulingkar.com. Credit: Degina Juvita)
Coastal Batik with Thick Holland Influence
(Source: satulingkar.com. Credit: Degina Juvita)

 

Museum of Batik

To learn much further about Batik; the history, the development, the patterns and its meaning, we would recommend you to visit Museum of Batik. There you get to see plenty pieces of ancient Batik cloths and gain more information to the description written or the explanation from the guides. There are several museums of Batik in Indonesia, such as:

  • Museum Batik Pekalongan on Jalan Jetayu 1 Pekalongan, Central Java
  • Museum Batik Danar Hadi Solo on Jalan Slamet Riyadi, Solo, Central Java
  • Museum Batik Yogyakarta on Jalan Dr. Sutomo, Yogyakarta
  • Museum Kain on Jalan Pantai Kuta, Alang Gallerie Beachwalk Shopping Center L3, Kuta, Bali
  • Museum Tekstil on Jalan Aipda K.S. Tubun 4, West Jakarta

 

Where to Buy

Batik is now well distributed that you can even buy it outside Indonesia. But the price might have been skyrocketed. If you buy the Batik cloth from the origin places, you will get the same quality of Batik with much cheaper price.

If you want a piece of Inland Batik cloth, best place to buy is from Solo city. You can also buy it from Yogyakarta, but you need to be careful as there are many coastal batik clothes from other places also sold in Yogyakarta. Meanwhile, in Solo, most of the Batik sold there are local made.

If you want a piece of Coastal Batik cloth, best place to buy is from Pekalongan, a city called “The City of Batik”. It was the place where coastal batik emerged and developed. The town has plenty of batik shops spread throughout the city.

There are even several special Batik markets where you can find almost any kind of Batik; either it is the Batik Tulis or Batik Cap or Batik Printing, either it is the raw cloth material or ready-to-wear clothes. Most of the shops produce their own batik. You can even see the process of Batik making.

Coastal Batik from Pekalongan (Source: Flickr. Credit: narcist me!)
Coastal Batik from Pekalongan
(Source: Flickr. Credit: narcist me!)

Besides Pekalongan, other places that produce coastal batik are Tegal, Cirebon, Banyumas, Bali, and much more. Coastal batik is easy to find even outside the producing area such as Yogyakarta, Jakarta, Bali, and even other countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, America, and Suriname.

also try to visit (Klewer Market & Kauman Batik Village)

Usage

Traditionally, Batik is not worn as sarong, either it is for men or women. They did not even wear it on random events or daily lives. There are several patterns that are only allowed to be worn by specific people in specific events due to its specific purpose. But as time goes by, the civilization developed and strict regulation started to decreased.

Now, people are allowed to wear any kinds of Batik in any occasions. The product of Batik now is no longer just a piece of raw cloth material to wear as sarong. Not anymore. Some are already sewn and processed to be ready-to-wear outfits such as shirts, dresses, sarong, and tees. Batik can also be applied on non-outfit products such as bags, napkins, and furniture covers.

Batik Applied on Sandal (Source: Flickr. Credit: deviantifa)
Batik Applied on Sandal
(Source: Flickr. Credit: deviantifa)

 

Batik is such an incredible piece of arts. It is not just about esthetics, but also culture and history. That is why many people would not mind spending lots of money to have a piece of Batik clothes.