Batik-making is one of the oldest arts in the world, having been done by the native Javanese women and children for many generations. For some years past several artists in Holland have tried to follow the Javanese motifs in ornamenting fabrics, but the honour of really developing batik-making into a beautiful craft is due to the energy of a woman. Mrs. Wegerif Granestein has not confined her work to cotton fabrics like the Javanese, but has worked on parchment, leather, silk, and velvet, giving a wide and varied scope to the uses of her work. She has worked in conjunction with well-known architects, and has introduced batik into original decorative schemes that have made her work recognized in Europe. So successful has she been that many orders have come to her, and she now employs thirty craftworkers in her studio who do this work under her supervision. Beautiful hangings can be seen at most of the Arts and Crafts Exhibitions in Europe. The knowledge of the work has spread to England, and beautiful hangings can now be obtained from private studios in London.
As batik-making has proved a lucrative employment to those who have already taken it up, it is to be hoped that Americans will not be behind in developing batik.
The bold barbaric designs made by the natives of Java have usually been adhered to, but there is no reason why other motifs should not be developed. Mrs. Wegerif Granestein makes many of her designs after L'art Nouveau style, which is still so popular in Europe. In this country it would seem more appropriate to develop it along Indian lines. The crude designs would lend themselves to the technique of this interesting art.
The actual process of batik - making is primitive in the extreme. It is merely the protection of certain parts of the material by the application of hot wax. The material is immersed in dye, which does not colour the parts protected by the wax.
In Java, the batik-makers do not draw the design directly on to the material, but apply the wax by means of an instrument called a tjanting on to the cloth. It is not necessary to use a tjanting to get the desired results, as this can be accomplished by means of a stencil, or by using a confectioner's tool for covering cakes with sugar. This enables batik to be made without drawing it first, a plan to be recommended when the worker is an artist, but for a girl who is only capable with her hands the stencil would be more practical. If the confectioner's tool is used, however, the hot wax is put in the reservoir (which is kept refilled from a pan of boiling wax) as it empties itself on to the material.
An Improvised Tjanting For Batik Making.
Hanging By Mrs. Wagerif Granestein.
Batik Work Bag.
When the design is covered by the wax, the material is dipped in a dye bath, which must not be above the heat of 60 degrees, or it will melt the wax, and the batik will be spoiled. When several colours are used, repeated applications of wax and several dippings in the dye are required to get the desired results. As this is a somewhat tedious process, batik is usually done in one colour, while the natural colour of the ground is left to form the design.
When a dark design on a light ground is planned, the wax is applied on the background, and the design formed by dyeing the uncovered parts. It is needless to say that this takes considerably more time than the other. The wax cracks when applied in large masses, and fissures of colour appear through the material, giving the appearance of veined marble, which adds no little to the interesting qualities of the work. It will be noticed that our illustrations have a dark pattern on a light ground - although I have seen quite a number of batiks with a light pattern on a dark ground, they are just as beautiful as those in the accompanying illustrations.
In cutting a stencil for a dark pattern on a light ground it will be necessary to cut out the background out of the design, rather than the design itself.
Batik is particularly beautiful when used for ornamenting leather, and the crinkled sheep-skin that we get on this side is well adapted to this interesting kind of ornamentation.
A study of pieces of batik done by the Javanese is very interesting. These cotton table-covers and hangings are familiar to all of us in East India shops, but when we realize they are done by hand, and in the way I have described, it makes them more interesting.