Batik – Why I never want to stop traveling

Okay, we all love to travel, but you know those moments that you just can't get close to home? The ones that blow you away and make you question the reality of things. From up in the clouds, captivated by a breathtaking view on a mountaintop, to colourful costumes and wild dances at a traditional ceremony – some experiences just give you butterflies and become unforgettable.

 My unforgettable experience was Batik. Now, in case you’re already getting ready to open a new tab and Google Batik, wondering how something so uncommon could be compared to a mountaintop or a festival – don’t worry, you’re not alone. When I tell people that don’t know about batik, the sparkle in my eye is often met with raised eyebrows and confused looks, while they mouth it back to me “Ba-Tik?”

 Well, in the spirit of exploring, today, I want to share my passion with you, and in the process, probably put Indonesia on your list of places to visit.

surrounded by batik


Storytime - Yogyakarta, Indonesia / February 2017: ´Borobudur’

Situated in the most vibrant, traditional and artsy city that I’ve come across in Indonesia (and also my favorite) is one of the most famous and largest temple complexes the country has to offer. After gazing at the beautiful sunrise in the Borobodur temples, I ended up in the temple museum, where a woman was sitting on the floor, a big cloth covering her lap. In her hand was a small, odd looking, tool. As I approached, I was mesmerised by the way the pen-like utensil was moving over the fabric, creating an impressive pattern as it moved over it. My puzzled yet hypnotised gaze met with a toothless smile and the word “Batik”

As I pulled my eyes away from the old woman’s lap,  I feasted on the finished batiks behind her, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. “Impossible,” I thought to myself, all this with that tiny instrument. “That must take months,” I jokingly said to the woman who had returned to her fabric. “Some take years to complete”, she replied without looking up. I was fascinated, with a mixture of admiration and disbelief I knew, this would never let me go.

batik process by Sagar Cikutra

So what exactly is Batik?

Batik is an ancient wax-resist dyeing technique involving wax, dye and a lot of patience and concentration. To decorate fabrics, a small pen-like instrument called a “tjanting” is used to draw the pattern by hand. When the pattern is finished, the fabric goes into a dye bath, where the wax-covered portions are protected from the dye. Next, the fabric is boiled to take off the wax, materializing the pattern. This produces a single collared Batik and is repeated for each colour. Although the process may sound exhausting to us, it is actually said to be meditative and relaxing.

Slow Fashion – How slow do you wanna go?

Batik takes “slow fashion” quite literal, with some pieces taking several months to complete. The labour intensive and time-consuming process often makes Batik pieces expensive, and therefore, Indonesians usually solely wear them to special occasions, keeping the garments a lifetime.

The ‘for-a-lifetime’ idea behind batik inspired me to use it as one of my slow fashion designs. With many of the traditional patterns unchanged for centuries, each carries a story and personality with it, fitting to all walks of life.

So how long does it take to finish a Batik – Really?

So the exact time it takes to finish a batik depend on a couple of different aspects

  1. The type of Batik technique
    - (hand drawn/tulis or stamp/cap, read more here)
  2. How many colours does the batik have
    - The more colours, the longer the process takes
  3. The type of dye used (synthetic, natural)
    - Chemical dyes allow the colouring to soaks into the fabric directly. hile natural dyes have to be soaked longer and dipped more often.
  4. Pattern
    - The more complicated the design (using small dots, strips, curls in the background) the more time intensive the drawing.

 Batik tulis bungana

As an example, check out the Batik in the picture. It traveler by hand, dyed in blue, brown and off-black with natural dyes. It’s the ‘Bungana’ batik (online end November), a contemporary design made by Ibu Dalmini, and from start to finish, the whole process took about a little over a month.

Got it, now where do I get me some Batik?

Yesss, finally we get to the good stuff. Although I’d love to take you along to my favourite workshops, Ill have to be with you in spirit. Without a doubt, you’ll want to head to Java, Indonesia the homeland of Batik. Nowhere else in the world has the art of batik been developed to the high standards like here. As you travel around Java, you’ll find that every city has its own specific batiks.

Short on time? Decide where you want to visit based on what type of batik you like best. If you fancy the more traditional, darker looking batiks, head inward, toward Yogyakarta and Solo, where the mystical stories and meanings of the individual patterns will captivate you just as much as the batiks themselves.

If colour is more your style, stay on the coastal villages like Pekalongan and Lasem. Here, Chinese and Dutch influences have brought forth more vibrant and lively patterns that you can show off with that beach tan.

I could go on and on about Batik (ask any of my friends), but for now I think that’s enough. I’ll tell you all about my passion, AYO and my journey from traveller to entrepreneur in future blog posts all the while (of course), throwing in some Batik info.

In case you’re already looking up cheap flights to Indonesia, or just want to know a bit more about Batik, feel free to send me a message, and I’ll tell you more!

 natural dyed handwritten and stamped batik


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