Batik is a technique for decorating textiles, by which parts of the textile that are not to be coloured are covered in molten wax. The wax prevents the textile from absorbing the dye during the decorating process.
The word batik is of Indonesian origin, and is related to a Malay word for dot or point, “titik” and the Javanese word “amba“, meaning ”to write”.
The technique of covering or ’reserving’ parts of a textile with some paste or liquid material in order to create a pattern has been found in many different parts of the world. Theories about the origin of the technique are uncertain. It is known from India, Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Southeast Asia, Turkestan, and West Africa.
Since the 16th century the art of batik has been documented in the Malay Archipelago, and particularly in Java the art was developed to a very high standard. (See Design traditions: the Javanese heritage) When the Javanese invented the canting, a small utensil for tracing lines with wax, they managed to create the finest handdrawn textiles called tulis (tulis translates directly to write).
In the 20th century the invention of the copper block, cap, was developed by the Javanese. This tool revolutionised batik production, as it became possible to make high quality designs and intricate patterns much faster than one could possibly do by hand-painting.
The origin of batik production in Malaysia is not easy to trace. However, it is known for certain that the Javanese influenced Malay batik-making technically as well as in the development of designs. At an early stage the Malaysians used wooden blocks in order to produce batik-like textiles. As late as the 1920s Javanese batik makers introduced the use of wax and copper blocks on the East Coast.
The production of handdrawn batik in Malaysia is of recent date and is related to the Javanese batek tulis. Commercial production started in the 1960s. This craft has developed its own particular aesthetic and design, peculiar to Malaysia. The new Malaysian batik is clearly different from the Javanese tradition of hand-painted batiks.
Malaysian Batik is batik textile art of Malaysia, especially on the east coast of Malaysia (Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang). The most popular motifs are leaves and flowers. Malaysian batik depicting humans or animals are rare because Islam norms forbid animal images as decoration. However, the butterfly theme is a common exception. The Malaysian batik is also famous for its geometrical designs, such as spirals. The method of Malaysian batik making is also quite different from those of Indonesian Javanese batik, the pattern is larger and simpler, it seldom or never uses canting to create intricate patterns and rely heavily on brush painting method to apply colors on fabrics. The colors also tend to be lighter and more vibrant than deep colored Javanese batik.
In line with the 1Malaysia concept, the Malaysian government is now endorsing Malaysian batik as a national dress to every level of the general population, by having local designers to create new batik designs which reflect the 1Malaysia idea.
Malaysia Batik History
The origin of batik production in Malaysia is not easy to trace. Few historical artifacts exist, but it is known trade relations between the Melayu Kingdom in Jambi and Javanese coastal cities have thrived since the 13th century, the northern coastal batik producing areas of Java (Cirebon, Lasem, Tuban, and Madura) has influenced Jambi batik. This Jambi (Sumatran) batik, as well as Javanese batik, has influenced the batik craft in the Malay peninsula.
According to the Museum of Cultural History of Oslo, it is known for certain that the Javanese influenced Malay batik-making technically as well as in the development of designs. At an early stage the Malaysians used wooden blocks in order to produce batik-like textiles. As late as the 1920s Javanese batik makers introduced the use of wax and copper blocks on Malaysia’s east coast. The production of hand drawn batik in Malaysia is of recent date and is related to the Javanese batik tulis.
Commercial production started in the 1960s. This craft has developed its own particular aesthetic and design, peculiar to Malaysia. The new Malaysian batik is clearly different from the Javanese tradition of hand-painted batiks.
Malaysian batik can be found on the east coast of Malaysia such as Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang, while batik in Johor clearly shows Javanese and Sumatran influences since there are a large number of Javanese and Sumatran immigrants in southern Malaysia.
Batik was mentioned in the 17th century Malay Annals. The legend goes when Laksamana Hang Nadim was ordered by Sultan Mahmud to sail to India to get 140 pieces of serasah cloth (batik) with 40 types of flowers depicted on each. Unable to find any that fulfilled the requirements explained to him, he made up his own. On his return unfortunately, his ship sank and he only managed to bring four pieces, earning displeasure from the Sultan.
For men, Batik can be worn at dinner functions. Even the ladies wear the fabric as formal dress, combining batik with modern fashion. The Malaysian government encourages civil servants to wear batik during the 1st and 15th day of the month.
Batik is one of the most long-revered and highly-developed art forms in Asia. With a history that spans over a millennium, it has garnered much recognition worldwide and has become a fashionable technique embraced by many international fashion institutions and designers.
This time-honoured craft presents a truly unique textile design technique that involves detailed and meticulous wax-resist illustration and colour dyeing expressed through the infinite designs and motifs of the various forms of nature, featuring floral and animal patterns and geometric shapes.
Liberating Batik from the complexity of its conservative designs and steadfast traditions, myBatik re-interprets the age-old venerable Art into modern, expressive, “everyday” designs suitable for every occasion. Housing eight Malaysian specialised batik designers under its roof, and including a home-grown label, myBatik’s approach corresponds to the present direction myBatik is taking, to cultivate the evolutionary change of contemporary fashion.
Keeping abreast with the times, each design is spawned from motifs and styles ranging from abstract to simple and wearable designs which speak well to the contemporary wearers while capturing the free form of emotion and movement. Drawing inspirations from all eras and cultures, the designs gradually alternate between areas of complicated patterning and looser motifs. Some are simple upon first look, yet complex with a hidden depth of spirit once you delve a little deeper. Not only is nature a great influence but also geometric shapes and forms. From the linear treatment of flowers, vines and leaves to artistic impressions of animals and marine lives, scenic landscapes and mystical seascapes, organic to structured, the sky is the limit as the horizons of Batik continue to expand.
Batik is generally fashioned through the application of wax-resist outlining and colour dye saturation. Using a tjanting, a hand held pen-like instrument fitted with a copper reservoir for melted wax as dye repellent, the motif is drawn on to the fabric. Subsequently, the areas free from wax are saturated with colour dye, and the fabric is finally boiled in water to dissolve the wax away. The vivid motif and harmonious mix of colour will fill one’s senses with a potent sensation reminiscent of the authentic and detailed hand craftsmanship involved in the production process, and the ingenuity and passion behind the design.
There are various techniques to Batik. The two most popular methods are Batik tulis and Batik block print.
Batik Tulis – is the original and foremost technique that involves adept hand-drawn batik illustration where the designs are worked onto the silk with a tjanting. The material is then coloured by hand before the wax is removed. As they are hand crafted, no two designs are the same, ensuring that each piece of batik is unique.
Block Print Batik – involves high quality repetitive motifs made by the wax imprints of wooden or metal stamp blocks, an innovative development that has revolutionised batik production. With designs derived from free flowing inspirations from any period, especially the contemporary, each block-printed Batik from myBatik is of distinguished quality.
Brushwork Batik – a creative improvisation, Brushwork Batik use a wax-friendly brush instead of the pen-like tjanting to create motifs with a more expressive and dramatic impact. Outlines are bolder and communicate well the emotional sentiments of the designer and his patterns.
Tie- Dye – is a refreshing variation of the dye resist process, which involves tieing up the material before applying colour dye to the designated areas. The boundaries of the dyed and non-dyed areas are rather blurred, creating a graded two-tone effect. Tie-dye is typically vibrant and not traditional Batik.
Batik Spray – illustrated by hand-spraying wax onto the fabric using a toothbrush-like instrument, creating interesting speckled effects on the design areas, the outlines and the stenciled shapes.
Cracked Batik- when the wax design on the fabric has dried, the material is crumpled up to create little random cracks on the wax outline. From there, colour is applied to the fabric where individual dye of different sections will subtly overflow into each other through the cracks.
The Merchandise Mix
- Cultivating the authentic Malaysian designs and hand-made Batik fabrics, myBatik comes to life in many modern, international styles to dress the body. Each fabric design is in total harmony, with silhouettes and shapes for elegant and stylish dressing. From resort-beach to urban glam, daytime to evening and casual to formal wear, the Batik design imparts distinctive cultural characteristics to the contemporary shapes.
- myBatik merchandise includes:
kurtas . kaftans . modern blouses . long and short dresses . men’s shirts . sarongs . shawls and scarves .
While it is important to use distinct natural materials such as cotton or silk as fabrics which allow the thorough absorption of liquid wax applied during the dye resisting process, it is also imperative to employ densely woven materials of high thread counts to maintain the intricacy of the Batik design. In addition, experimentation with different materials and colour compositions elevate batik to new levels of elegance and creative ingenuity, such as the recent use of chiffon and Indian cotton with silk. The fabrics used in myBatik as the base of varied designs include:
silk. satin. crepe de china . chiffon, crinkle. chiffon Habotai, thai/raw cotton, linen. viscose and rayon.
Catering to your personal sartorial needs, myBatik retails non-tailored fabrics which can be customised into shapes and forms that express your personal style. These fabrics are sold in lengths of 2 meters, 4 meters and 6 meters (suitable for Saree-making)