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As you round the corner and drive into the main section of the village, appearances can be deceiving. There is a barrel in the middle of the road surrounded by and covered with offerings, overcrowded shops spilling their goods out onto the sidewalk, the unkept street. When you look beyond the appearances you find people of the deepest, sweetest character. This is the old, untouched Bali. What it used to be like before Ubud became the center of attraction for yoga lovers and Hollywood stories.

 

What I learned about making a batik was amazing!
 

Batik is the process of making patterns on fabric by layering wax onto the fabric and then dipping the fabric into the dye vat. At the studio where I spent the day working alongside the ladies, they use fabric made of natural fibers and an all-natural dye made from plants.
 

Batik is the process of making patterns on fabric by layering wax onto the fabric and then dipping the fabric into the dye vat. At the studio where I spent the day working alongside the ladies, they use fabric made of natural fibers and an all-natural dye made from plants.
 
As I walked around the studio watching the ladies work I noticed different ways that they painted or drew the wax onto the fabric.  The easy-to-do version with a brush or the more detailed version with a needle-like wax “pen.”  In some instances, a block-stamped pattern with certain pieces being filled in to alter the original pattern.
 
This craft is not for the spastic foolhardy dingbat! That wax that is painted onto the fabric is heating in a wok-like pot over a flame. Make a clumsy move and you will be giving yourself a very hot wax job!
 
I sat down with a blank piece of fabric and started crafting my design. For the first couple of minutes I had stage fright. All of the eyes in the studio were on me! I think most of the ladies were sitting there thinking “what is this little girl doing in here with us?” Since 99% couldn’t speak English, we had a bit of a language barrier problem.
 
I was handed a brush by my neighbor, shown how to dip it in the pot of hot wax and started painting.
 
My thought was to go with a very free-form, free-flowing pattern. Simple and modern like reeds in a river. After all, if I am going to make something, I want to be able to use it!
 

I left the wax drying on my freehand batik and walked over to check out the guys working in the stamp room.  I tried my hand at it too and within minutes had stamped my own butterfly pattern. You know how I love butterflies!
 
The one trick that I did learn was to shake the wax out of the stamp. The first one was a bit of a blob due to the amount of wax that went down. A couple of stamps later and I had it perfected! The imperfection of the fat, smeared butterflies will give me a reason to tell the story of making it…a conversation starter to wear around my neck!
 
After I had both designs completed – the freehand and the stamped – it was time to start the dying process.  We pinned the two pieces to the frame.  And dipped them into the dye vat!  Since it is a natural dye, it will take over 20 dips and soaks in the dye vat to get the desired color.
 
The dye itself is a little bit stinky. It’s a big pool of fermented plant leafs! To get the blue color, he uses three different types of indigo leafs. What results from soaking draws out the color from the leaf and creates the dye for dipping the fabrics.  Between each dipping, the fabrics have to hang there and dry.
 


This is not a fast process!
 


It usually takes around 3 days for the color to achieve the desired results. Since I wanted my butterfly pattern to be a dark indigo blue and my freeform to be a medium green, the process would take a little longer.

The amount of work and detail that go into these are astounding. My designer’s mind was in overload thinking of the different designs that I would love to create.
 


The thing that I most admire about the batik studio is the reason for it being.
 


Prince Cokorda Agung Pemayun Kusumayuda created it as a way for the women in his village to earn an income; the ability to find work outside of the home that could use their strengths as artisans were minimal. By creating this studio, he is helping to create a basis for them to provide for their family and bring more economic stability to the village. Although it does not draw a profit yet, the basis for business is steadily growing. The pieces that they create are shown and sold in the galleries in Ubud and they are distinctively becoming recognized by designers and collectors who seek handmade Balinese batiks.

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copyright 2011-2017 Loxley Browne

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