June 13, 2013
The real deal
A while back I began to notice that almost no one is wearing real Batiks. A year ago when I visited the Tong Tong Fair, I was disappointed that there was little Batik being sold, and the batik that was being sold wasn't handmade, it was mostly printed.
This year I was paying more attention to the actual Batiks being worn. Because of my Batik Statement project I'm more focused on the subject. What shocks me, is that actually no one is wearing real Batiks and if you ask them about what they are wearing they assume its real. Most of the time they even bought it in Indonesia or on a Pasar Malam where it is being sold under the name 'Batik'.
This is not a scam, you might think that, but in Indonesia printed cloth, or painted by hand, made with canting or cap can all be called Batik. It's not the technique what gives it its name, but the patterned style.
So to really support batik, and to make sure to be wearing the real deal some tips and tricks.
1. One basic trick is to check both sides of the batikcloth (blouse, skirt etc.). Batik is an Indonesian Heritage, because it's made on a specific way only in indonesia! The applying of the wax is always done on both sides of the cloth. This makes the lines more clear and the coloring very pure. Note: On Indian chintz wax is only applied on one side. If the Batik is printed, one side is more faded, the pattern is not so clear.
2. Batik Tulis is handmade, therefore irregularities can be found in the pattern. Not every dot can be the same, and that gives it it's great quality. The more difficult it is to find irregularities the better the Batikmaker is. Of course this depends on the motif of the Batik, but in almost all Batiks a pattern is repeated. Compare and if it is exactly the same, the Batik is printed. Note: Batik made with cap makes the pattern also look similar, but because it is a handmade process you can see the difference between print and made with cap (the cap is pressed to the cloth by hand, also the making of a cap is an art form by itself)
3. Buy the Batik at the workshop. Most workshops have their own store/shop. When you're in a Batikshop, ask if you can visit the workshop. Most times it's behind the store. You can even see the making of the product you're going to take home with you.
4. Buy the batikcloth in Indonesia and let it made into a blouse, skirt or dress also in indonesia. This way, with the tips above, you can be sue your batikclothing for the next Pasar is the real deal. And you can choose how the pattern is shown on your clothing. Note: Some Batik cloths are specially made for blouses so that when the fabric is cut, the pattern is still in tact. Where these Batiks are made, you can also buy the eventual blouse.
That's all the tricks and tips for now. I'm not an expert either, and sometimes printed batiks can be really well done. I'm been told that nowadays wax printed Batiks are being made on Java. This development makes it even more difficult to see if it's Batik Tulis or fake.
To support the fine art of Batik Tulis and to keep it from extinction we need to make an effort. It is know that the technical quality of Batik Tulis, made with canting, is far less than what it was before the arrival of the cap. The knowlegde about the technique gets lost because faster methods are being developed (cap and worse, printing) and isn't passed on to the next generation.
The beautiful documentary 'Batik, Our Love Story' shows this troubling trend in very fine colors. A great story, but with a possible very bad ending.
I'm looking for places to screen the documentary, but there is more needed than sitting down and watching this heritage like watching hunting panthers on the verge of extinction in nature shows.
Why isn't real batik for sale on the many Pasars we have. Where does it go wrong?
In the end we all want the real deal, right?
I'm working on it and in the meantime use my tips and tricks and if you have any useful tips or tricks I can share with my readers, please let me know (comment below!). Also if you are interested in screening 'Batik, Our Love Story' in the Netherlands, please send me an email (see 'About Me').