After our snorkel safari, we knew we wanted to take a class or two and learn ourselves sum’thin’. We thought about a cooking class, but realized that Balinese cooking is a bit too fried for us to want to be making all the time at home (fried noodles, fried rice, fried fish, fried scrambled eggs…). Yoga was flat out – no way! Considered a jewelry class for Anner and wood-carving class for me, but we really wanted to be able to take a class together. We pondered a batik class, but…nothing – a perfect idea! A beautiful art form that neither of us knew anything about and was a specialty of Bali? Bring it on!
The town of Ubud is sort of the center of the classes world in Bali. What started as a quaint village surrounded by rice paddies and beloved by visitors as a calm slice of island life about 10 years ago, has grown to be a mecca for holistic yoga fans and art lovers. You can find numerous blogs bemoaning it’s growth and change, but going to it for the first time, we quite enjoyed it (despite it being a bit more touristy than we’re used to).
We found a variety of places to take a class in batik painting and settled on one slightly out of town, Widya’s, due to all the reviews revelling in it’s relaxed nature. Loved hearing you could take as long as you needed to work – you weren’t rushed to complete your class in only 2 or 3 hours. That’s a plus for us as we like to really get into our art and just spend the day creating. For the class we chose, we were picked up at our hotel at 9:30 and dropped back off around 4:30. Yep, nice and un-rushed. Loved that.
“Enough prelude,” I hear you cry, “Tell me about batik! What exactly is it? How did you do it? Did you enjoy it? Were you any good? For goodness sake, get to the details already!” Right! Diving right in… batik is a process where you start by creating a wax design on a piece of fabric. We used cotton, but it is often done on silk for high end pieces. To add the wax, you use a tool called a canter (pronounced “chanter”) which is a wooden dowel or piece of bamboo with a thin pipe of copper or brass tubing at the end. Above the tube is a little metal reservoir which holds the melted wax for it to then flow out the tube. You have to dump the wax and refill it every 10-20 seconds so it doesn’t harden in the tube.
Let me just say, using the canter took some practice! We definitely got better, but we’ve a long way to go to really say we have some control.
For us the next step was to do a stamping process on the edges. You don’t have to do this and lots of the other classes made smaller pieces with no room for stamps, but they worked well for us and it was fun to try another process.
The stamps themselves are pretty amazing! They are each hand-made, usually to the artist’s specifications. Made of copper or brass, the creator solders together sheets and wires to create a design which is attached to a lattice framework and rough handle. Each one could by 2-5 pounds! I thought they were works of art in themselves and couldn’t resist buying an antique one for my studio wall at home.
After the wax is dry (and often after we got a little help fixing mistakes!) it’s time to start painting. The wax acts as a resist, so paint won’t go wherever it lies. That allows you to easily fill areas with paint that has the consistency of a dye. You can keep areas right next to each other the same color or totally different as the wax keeps them apart. The wax will leave a white line between the areas when everything is done. White because we were using white cotton. If you dyed the cotton first, it would leave that color as the line.
After finishing the painting, we let the pieces dry in the sun. We were using natural dye paints, and as it turns out, the sun dramatically changes some of the colors!
Others change color even more dramatically in a chemical bath – watch the magic happen:
Pretty incredible, eh? The whole experience was so wonderful that we decided to go back and do it a second time. We’d happily do it again, too! Yep, this is an artistic process that hooked us both. Wonder if we’ll find ourselves setting up a little batik space at home?
Here are examples of some of the amazing batiks we saw around Ubud. You can see why we were so inspired!
You can see why we have become a bit smitten and hope we can try batik again some day. If you ever get the chance, it’s a day well spent!