Natural Colored Batik

March 03, 2015

Batik has always been and will always be Indonesia's leading heritage. The masterfully painted cloth is known internationally for its unique style and traditional ambiance. But even Batik is not safe from industrilization. Batik, as we and the rest of the world know today may not be the same as it used to be.


Originally, Batik patterns were close to nature, utilizing animal patterns and even plants. But today, the variety is endless. From clouds, to humans, to completely abstract patterns. Batik was then used only by older people for special occasions. However, modern society uses Batik for everyday clothing and it is also used by younger generations.



Batik used to be made with natural colorings made from plants and trees. For instance, ancestors used the indigo plant mixed with molasses sugar and lime for blue paint. With natural ingredients and the right technique, the Batik produced would be stunning and could last for many years! And because our ancestors were much closer to mother earth than we are today, they used natural ingredients in almost everythin, including the cloth itself. The craftsman would made the cloth out of silk, cotton, and even plant fibers. Firstly, the craftsmasn would draw the design on the cloth. Then, heat wax on top of the stove. After that, with a special pen-like wooden tool called canting, the craftsman traced the pattern carefully.


To color the cloth, the craftsman must boil the ingredients in water until the water almost completely evaporates. The ingredients are then lifted and left overnight. The leftover sediments can be boiled again and be used as compost. So everything returns back to Mother Nature. The traced cloth is then dipped into the colored water, and then dried by flapping the cloth like a flag. It is important that the cloth is dried this way, not by heat. To reach the desired color, the cloth is dipped again, and flapped again. If the customer wants a lighter color, then the cloth would go through less dipping. After reaching the desired color, the cloth is submerged in hot water until the wax is peeled off from the cloth, exposing the true color of the cloth that was protected by the wax. The cloth is then washed and dried in a cool spot. These steps are crucial in creating the unique and original Batik color.



Batiks that are colored with natural ingredients must be handled with care. When washing the Batik, do not use a washing machine. Wash the Batik by hand with shampoo, not with detergent or other chemicals that contain acids such as lime or lemon. Before soaking the Batik in water, dissolve the shampoo first, and do not soak for too long. The cloth also doesn't need to be brushed. After taking it out of the water, do not squeeze the excess water, but let it dry in a cool place without direct sunlight.



Being more known intertionally has its downside. The order for Batik clothing increases and people need to find out how to produce fast, and one of the ways is to use chemical colorings instead of natural colorings. Although using chemical coloring is said to be faster and cheaper, the quality of the Batiks that are produced decreases. The colors easily fade, especially with multiple washings. A piece of Batik that should last for 50 years now can only last for 50 washings. People are fighting to bring back natural colorings to Batik, not only to preserve Indonesia's heritage, but to save the earth from harmful chemicals used to produce modern Batiks.


Batik is not only a piece of cloth that can be glued to our body. Thw whole process of Batik making is an art. The hand-drawn patterns traced carefully with wax. The water-boiling and the multiple dippings. Everything takes patience. And although the patterns can now be easillly seen on television, on the bus, in the shopping mall, it is important to know how the gorgeous piece of cloth actually became what it is. Modern Batik with chemical coloring is also beautiful. However, nothing can compare to the beauty of the original, eco-friendly, natural colored Batik.