Harry Adams

Department of Infectious Diseases
Brody School of Medicine
East Carolina University

Batik textile from Bali


Story of the block

In December 1998 I spent five days in Bali, mainly in Ubud, the cultural center of the island. The whole time I was there, I looked hard for batik art but didn’t find the work for which I was looking. On my last day in Bali, I was on my way from Ubud to Denpasar to catch my flight out when my driver stopped at a batik “factory” and show room. That is where I found the pieces that you photographed.

The technique of batik is at least a thousand years old and many believe that it was brought to Indonesia from India. Even though batik originated elsewhere, it reached its highest artistic expression in Indonesia, particularly in Java. The technique of batik is a simple process, albeit a very demanding one. A sketch of the final image is made on white cloth. Wax is applied to the fabric to prevent the dye from penetrating the cloth. The area that is to remain white is waxed first and the cloth is dipped into a dye bath whose color is the lightest tone of those to be used. Wax is now applied to those parts in which we wish to retain the first color and the fabric is immersed in the second dye bath whose color is darker in tone that the first. This process is repeated until the darkest tone required in the final design has been achieved. The waxed fabric is then placed between sheets of absorbent paper and a hot iron is applied. This process is repeated until all the wax has been removed from the fabric. At this point the final design is seen clearly for the first time.