Batik - Native Industry

For the most part, batik is a home occupation of the native, but some districts have be-come quite manufacturing centres. The industry is chiefly under the management of the Chinese with the natives as their workmen. In the district of Lassem, where a great deal of batik work is done, the Chinese employers give the work out to the natives, who do it in their homes. Fifty to a hundred kains will be given out to one man, who will have them waxed and they will then be fetched by another worker who will do the dyeing. This work will bring in to the native, on an average, the lordly sum of two and a half cents (American money) a day, and it is estimated that in the neighbour-hood of Lassem alone, there are some 4300 people subsisting on this munificent salary. At that, this group of workers are rather better off than the women who are employed directly by the Chinese for the finer batik work. Large numbers of them bind themselves to work for three years, at the beginning of which period they are given thirty gilders, equivalent to about $12.00; they are given board and lodging and once a year a new outfit, but they receive no more pay. Many of them work like this for years in succession and from time to time they borrow small sums of money from their employers which they cannot pay back, with the result that they are never out of debt and are consequently, to all intents and purposes, practically owned by their exploiters. Authentic figures give 2100 natives working under these conditions in Lassem.

There are a few establishments run by the Dutch in Java, who, besides producing pure native designs, have used native adaptations of European designs with splendid results.

A combination of Javanese and European influences is shown in the illustration facing page 14. This pillow-top, batiked by a Dutch artist, has native motives, arranged in a symmetrical design. As a batik, it is about the finest piece the writer has been able to find, as there is no flaw in the execution. The stiff geometrical pattern, however, does not give quite such a pleasing effect as the freer Javanese design. A sample of this is shown facing page 14 which is pure Javanese decoration. It shows the arrangement of a bird and some octopuses and was used for a small pillow-top; the artist has been left free in this design, not being tied down to a geometrical repeat, and the result artistically is far superior to the previous design.

In the event of some enthusiast wishing to batik in the actual native manner, he can do so by following the process as described by a native and translated here word for word:


"Batik is the art of dyeing fabric in one piece in different dyes consecutively, through the combination of which the pattern of the design is produced.. The materials used in this process are cotton and very occasionally silk, wax, wax mixed with rosin and dyes. The dyes usually are vegetable although aniline is used, but rarely.

"The first of these batik requirements the native buys at the Pasar (market), the dyes they make themselves and in the case of the blue dye it is as a rule the property of a professional dyer, who is called the `toekang medel.'

"The cotton used now by batikers is always of European manufacture and is graded ac-cording to the fineness of the texture. The different qualities are known severally as, `mori moeslim' or fine-weave cotton, `mori mentah' or unbleached cotton, and `mori kasar' or coarse-weave cotton. The second grade is sub-divided into `mori mentah aloes' which is the fine grade of the unbleached cotton and `mori mentah kasar' or coarse unbleached. This last kind is only used by the native aristocracy for the clothing of the members of their houshold; they themselves wear batik of 'mori moeslim' or `mori mentah aloes.'

"The measure used when cotton is bought at the `Pasar' is called `katja' or `saptangnan' and it is a square measure, that is to say, if, for instance, the cloth is a yard wide then the measure or `katja' is a yard square and if the width is a yard and a half, the `katja' is a yard and a half.

"The cotton as it comes from the market is not immediately ready to be batiked. If it is a bleached cotton it has to be treated for the removal of all the starch, chalk and other stiffening with which it is dressed. This is done by washing it several times in clear cold water. It is then soaked for several days in cocoanut oil; this in its turn is boiled out in water containing the ashes of burnt rice stalks; this process is continued till the fabric is free from oil. This soaking and boiling is always done, whether the material is bleached or unbleached, and is called 'mateng' which literally translated means 'done' or cooked thoroughly.

"After the piece is dried in the sun, the cut edges are hemmed `didjilid.' Now the material has to be starched again, `njekoeli'; this stiffening is to prevent the wax from flowing too freely, —a condition known as `mresep.' The rice water that is used for this, is made from a strained rice gruel, or more simply, the water is used in which the rice has been boiled. After the material has been starched it is 'dipe' or dried once more in the sun and it is then rolled up. This roll is laid on a wooden board, `kemplomgen' and pounded with a wooden hammer, 'gandeng,' or if a hammer is not available, the wooden rice pestle, `aloe' can be used. This process is called `nganplongi' and is to make the material soft and supple. Now the material is ready to be batiked, and the following materials and tools are needed.

"1. Wax. Usually six parts of `melam geplak' and one part `melam poetih' are used, with sometimes the addition of a little `melam ireng.' The 'melam geplak' consists of a mixture of 'damar mata koetjing' which is a kind of rosin that comes from Borneo, melted with animal fat. The `melam poetih' is pure bees-wax and the `melam ireng' is dark coloured wax which has been used already in a previous batik and which has become dark from the blue dye which it took up when in the blue dye bath. The first two kinds of wax can be bought at any market, but not the 'melam ireng,' as every one who batiks always saves enough dark wax from former work, or in case of need, a neighbour will always lend some.

"2. A pan called `wadjan' in which to melt the wax. This is generally of iron, though poor people use stone pots.


"3. A little copper instrument called `tjanting' used in drawing with the wax on the material. It is made of fine thin red copper and has one or more little spouts and a bamboo handle. These tjanting have different names according to the type of work for which they are used. (a) Tjanting `isen isen'; this has a very slender spout and is used to make very fine lines and little dots. (b) Tjanting `kjan dangers' : this instrument has a larger spout and is used to wax the parts which have to stay white in the first process. (c) Tjanting 'penangang'; this is the tjanting used to cover up the bigger surfaces. (d) The `penembok' has a very wide spout to cover parts that are to be completely protected by wax. (e) The tjant ing `pengada' has two spouts next each other for the drawing of parallel lines. There are various other varieties that have three, five and sometimes as many as six spouts for making little rosettes and groups of dots. Tjantings are always made by men and the work is not subdivided, that is to say, one man makes the instrument from start to finish; as a rule the makers have at least twenty-five tjanting in the course of construction at the same time. It takes a good workman six to seven days to make about 250 of the little tools, that is, about forty a day. Figuring the cost of materials and charcoal used in the making, together with over-head expenses and the receipts figuring at the rate of 24 cents (American money), for 240 tjantings, it will be seen that an excellent crafts-man makes on an average about 30 cents in Dutch money, equivalent to 12 cents American, a day.

`4. The 'djegoel,' an instrument which replaces the brush used in Europe and is made of a thin wooden stick with a wad of cotton tied to the end. This is for waxing very large surfaces.

"5. The `iroes.' This is a spoon made out of cocoanut shell and has a bamboo handle; it is used to mix the melted wax and to scoop the wax off the water in which the finished batik has been boiled.

"6. The 'wadja.' The copper pan in which the fabric is boiled when the wax is being re-moved.

"7. The 'panjawanjan. Asmall movable stand over which the material is hung during the waxing process.

"8. The 'tjawang.' A small bamboo clip used to fasten the fabric to the stand. Rich batikers use an iron clip called "bandoel."

"9. The 'doelang.' A large wooden trough for dyeing.

"10. The `pane.' A small vessel also used for dye made of wood, copper, or earthenware.

"11. The 'blebeo.' A wooden straight-edge for use when drawing straight lines—a process called 'batikan garisan.'

"12. The `semprong.' A blow-pipe with which to blow the fire. The fire is made, as a rule, between three stones set in the form of a triangle, upon which the wax pot is placed.

"To do real batik work the proceedings are as follows. First the main out-line of the design is sketched on the material, with charcoal or pencil, and when this is completed the fabric is hung over the little stand and with the tjanting the design is drawn in with wax, the material meanwhile being supported with the left hand; the worker sits on a little mat in front of her stand. The finer parts of the pattern are drawn in without pencil guiding lines..

"When one side is decorated the piece is turned around and the back is very carefully drawn in. With all the surfaces covered which are not intended to be blue it is ready for the blue dye-bath. This dyeing in blue is done by the batiker herself or more often by the professional blue-dyer who does it for a small remuneration. If red is planned on the batik, the wax is removed from the places where this colour is wanted by sponging with hot water.

The material is then restarched with rice-water, aren sugar and pulverized randoe leaves, so that the wax will not run or become soft. The parts that are to remain blue have to be re-covered with wax and the piece is ready for the red dye.

"This red dye is made from an infusion of soga bark; successive dippings are made until the desired colour is obtained. To make the colour permanent and at the same time to obtain the much desired purple glow, the material is dipped in a bath made of a mixture of Java sugar, whiting, and alum. It is left in this solution for about an hour, after which it is well rinsed and transferred to a hot water bath. The water is boiled and the wax is dissolved; the wax floating on the top of the water is collected for further use. The finished batik is then dried in the sun. If other colours are required on the piece the same program is repeated."

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Batik Of Malaysia

Batiks And How To Make Them:
Batik In Java

Batik - Native Industry

History Of Batik In Holland

European Use Of Batik

Batik - Utensils And Materials


The Batik Process

Batik - The Use Of Too Much Dye

Batik - The Value Of A Dye Record


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