The name batik has its origin in the native cotton cloth or "battek " worn by the Javanese, a people possessing a knowledge of art and literature before the Mohammedan and European conquests.
The sarong, or skirt worn by both men and women alike, is a strip of cotton 2 yards long and 1 yard deep, which is gathered round the body and twisted at the back. It is patterned in curious designs that have been in use for generations. Geometrical these designs are principally, in which appear the swastika and latticings of Asia. Some are bold and natural, and show the palm leaves and animal forms of Persia and India, showing the art influences that have swept over these adaptive and assimilative people. The cottons are painted by hand by men, women, and children by a curious process. An outline of the design is first made in a rich, deep waxy dye; the parts to be left white are covered with wax, and the cloth is dipped in or painted over with dye. This mordant must be applied for each colour; later, the wax is steamed out in hot water. It is a slow and tedious process, often the work of weeks.
The designs are made by some workers by means of a tin funnel in which hot dyes have been poured. The funnel has a fine point which enables the artist to do very fine drawing; the picturesque qualities of the designs make these hand-painted sarongs very marketable. They vary in price from one dollar to thirty dollars each. Not only are they worn by the natives, but a sarong is the deshabille dress of the Dutch women in Java.
Many of the sarongs are rich in colouring, - dull reds, with deep greens with delicate traceries and intricate designs.
It would be almost impossible to get the beauty of detail in modern work, as Westerners have not the infinite patience that Orientals possess, and as there is an inherited art born in them; we can hardly expect to compete with them in quaintness of design and beauty of detail, but it is an inspiration to see their work, and interesting to think of the antiquity of the craft of batik-making.
Leather-Work Designed Am Executed By The Misses Ripley.