Sunday, August 14, 2011

flourishing batik

flourishing batik,
flying dragons, leaping dolphins,
fluttering butterflies

Ubud is full little shops selling batik kamben, rectangles of cloth long enough to wrap around the waist twice and tie. A lot of this cloth (which tourists erroneously call sarong, a Malay word for a sewn tube of cloth) is designed for the tourist trade, printed in modern designs with vibrant colors. Today Robin takes us to a wholesale batik store, owned by a family whose baby she caught. We tour the shop where the cloth is dyed using the wax resist technique. In the showroom our group of ladies goes on a buying frenzy, pulling piece after piece from the stacks on shelves and flourishing them like banners. There are dragons, dragonflies, butterflies, dolphins, turtles, lotuses, sunflowers, suns and moons. We are given a special discount because of Ibu Robin, so of course we spend even more. Contemporary batik is quite different from traditional batik. Contemporary batik is often printed on rayon using stencils and aniline dyes. Traditional batik is made on cotton with natural dye colors, typically indigo, brown and yellow, representing the major Hindu deities, Brahmā, Vishnu and Śiva. The traditional method of batik making is called batik tulis. A design is traced onto the white fabric, which is stretched on a frame. Lines are drawn with a tjanting, a tool with a wooden handle and a tiny spouted metal cup for applying klowong, melted wax. The cloth is dyed to get the first color. After the cloth dries, some of the wax is scraped off with a knife and dyed again for the second color, and so on for each color. The cloth is hung in the sun to dry, then dipped in hot water to remove all the wax and dried again. Batik is used in many ceremonies in the Balinese life cycle, including the tedak siten ceremony when a child's feet touch the earth for the first time, special gold batik prada for temple dances, and as a shroud for the deceased.

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