Indonesia celebrated Batik Day on Friday amid concerns that its nationals are not differentiating between handdrawn, stamped and printed designs
Batik enthusiasts should know the difference between printed, stamped and hand-drawn batik.
Six years after the government dedicated a day to batik on October 2 in 2009, batik has been front and centre in Indonesia.
But at the peak of its popularity, |the true value of batik is still underexposed.
“From the declaration of Batik Day until today, people’s euphoria for batik has remained high. But what makes me sad is that such enthusiasm is not followed by a proper understanding of what batik really is,” says batik enthusiast, designer and radio DJ Wethandrie “Iwet” Ramadhan.
Batik seems to have become a must-have item in everyone’s closet, coming not only as men’s shirts or jarit (traditional long cloths for women) but also as dresses, cardigans and even hot pants.
The batik craze has spread to other corners of the world too, with Hollywood stars Lindsay Lohan and Jessica Alba spotted wearing batik dresses.
Unfortunately, the increasing demand of batik has encouraged the mass production of printing batik — many are even imported from China, which are a lot cheaper than batik tulis (traditional hand-drawn batik made using a canting or copper vessel with a spout-like nib) and batik cap (stamped designs).
The machine-printed textiles have also dominated the market, and the technology has damaged the development and preservation of batik itself, Iwet claims.
“People want to join the batik trend, but due to a lack of understanding, they buy batik without knowing if it was hand drawn, stamped or printed,” Iwet says.
Batik is a dyeing technique where artisans draw designs on fabric using dots and lines of hot wax that is then coloured by soaking the cloth in one colour and removing the wax with boiling water.
The time needed to make a single traditional batik piece varies between a month to a year, depending on the complexity level of its motifs and sizes.
Creative director of Iwan Tirta Private Collection, Era Soekamto, says the printed version of batik should not be called batik as it is just a common garment that features batik patterns.
However, designer Josephine “Obin” Komara of BIN House who made a breakthrough in marrying batik and hand-woven cloth, says that despite the arguments between hand drawn and printed, the issue was really just a matter of price.
“It’s just a matter of price and needs. On certain occasions, like weddings, people will use the exclusive hand-drawn batik. But if it’s just for casual wear, its fine to use printed,” she says. “I don’t think the use of printed batik will weaken the position of batik itself among our people.”
To foster a better understanding of batik, Iwet says the rising middle-class, with their greater purchasing power, should start to learn about how to differentiate batik from its |characters.
Hand-drawn batik has equally sharp colours on the back and the front, much more complex patternsand flaws in its features as it is drawn by hand.
With stamped batik, however, the motifs are usually simpler than that of hand-drawn batik, and the colours on the front part are more vivid than the back..
As for printed batik, the patterns are usually designed perfectly with bright and interesting colours, while the back part is in plain white.
Designers, museums and organisations along with the government have now taken on a bigger role in promoting the philosophy of batik. Renowned designers like Iwan Tirta and Edward Hutabarat have taken this on since a long time ago, with many new designers now following suit.
Iwet with his batik line TikPrive, for instance, explains batik philosophy to his customers and even takes them on a trip to batik-producing regions to attend a batik class.
“There, they can make their own batik, learn about the meaning behind the motifs, until they realise how difficult it is to make batik,” he says. “That way I hope they can respect batik more than before.”