Batik is a technique that has been practiced in parts of the world for centuries, most often noted in Indonesia, India and Africa. Although some aspects have changed with technology, the basic method remains the same. Wax is heated to a melting point and applied onto fabric with a brush or with a tjanting tool. It is with this wax that a design or pattern is initially created. Once the wax cools, the fabric is dyed either in a dye bath or dye is applied by hand. The areas that are covered with wax will resist the dye. Wax is reapplied over the newly dyed areas to continue the design and these steps are repeated any number of times. Eventually the wax is removed by ironing the fabric between layers of newspaper, and the process is started over until completion. A waxing and dyeing step is represented in each color present on the finished piece.
Really, the process is long and slow. So, in contrast to my daily life and in order to portray an element of agelessness, I rely on traditional batik methods. I prefer submerging each piece in a dye bath for each color, although many times I do color-washes because, really, it’s not practical to take a whole year to finish a piece. I use fiber reactive dyes and cotton fabric. Each piece is dyed and waxed many times to achieve the wide array of colors. I combine the traditional method of vat dying with experimental approaches to color combinations and wax applications. Thanks to the appearance of small hands in my studio and spilled cups of coffee and glasses of wine, I have now integrated more “natural” sources of color.
Using wax at a range of temperatures and varied combinations of waxes, allows me to alter the color penetration and create more depth and design. I use traditional tjanting tools along with an assortment of brushes and random objects (i.e. whatever toys have made their way into the studio, and often into the wax) to apply the wax. I etch writings and images into the wax during various stages of the process to bring out details and to add a measure of spontaneity.
The originals are reproduced in limited editions using technology that surpasses my understanding and results in beautiful giclee prints.
A unique characteristic of batik is the lines and cracks of color that appear when wax cracks in a dye bath. This crackle effect can be manipulated by variations of wax and heat, although it can never be fully controlled. It is this aspect that gives batik its mystery and its freedom to speak for itself.
I work with batik because I love the challenge to work within the parameters of the wax and dye along with the challenge to push those boundaries back farther each time. I am drawn to unpredictable outcomes of unorthodox combinations of colors and techniques. The mystery that the layers of wax hold right before they are melted off, and the layers of work and cracks of color that always remain present even if faded through the process, are reminiscent of our own memories and a history that exposes itself in our own spills and stories.