Island Life

Balinese Batik

Batik is both the name of a wax resist dyeing technique, and the finished fabric it  produces.  The photo above shows a true Balinese batik, with its trademark “crackle” design.  In principle it’s fairly simplistic, which belies convention.  I tried my hand at making a batik with the help of Yvonne Sherer (a Jamaican master) a few years back.  Time consuming, complicated and messy (the dye took weeks to fade from my hands) are the buzz-words.  I recommend searching out an indigenous cloth (Bali, Pacific rim, West Indies etc) because when chromatically infused with Island ethnicity, batiks immediately transport you to the beach.

A basic broadcloth (often cotton for good color saturation) is stenciled with an outline drawing of the finished design. [Herein lies the secret for judging authenticity, there is no discernible repeat in a real batik because it’s drawn by hand.]  The areas of the base fabric that are to remain white are carefully coated with liquid paraffin and allowed to cool.  Rolled into a compact ball, it’s then placed into a vat of the lightest color dye (in the above example yellow).  The cloth is then hung to dry.  Next the areas that are to remain both white and yellow (here the pale outline of the flowers/leaves) are coated with wax, and it’s into a bath of coral dye.  The process of progressively dyeing the next darker color while wax resisting the previous colors continues until the darkest shade is infused.  With all the colors established, the fabric is then boiled until all the wax has been removed and then dried.  The tell-tale crackle on the finished cloth comes from the wax crinkling when the coated fabric is rolled into a ball to be submerged into dye.

It’s rare to find extended yardage of an authentic batik.  Several weeks back I came across a collection from Katherine Rally, available at Studio Four in New York (one of my favorite showrooms). Rally’s monochromatic batiks are 100% traditionally produced using wood blocks rolled with wax in Bali, and are available in large quantity.  You can see them online at Katherine Rally, or if your in New York, stop in at Studio Four.


Katherine Rally’s Batiks, available through Studio Four

Studio Four  900 Broadway  Suite 201    New York  10003     212-475-4414