Batik is a method of resist dyeing a cloth to achieve unique and colorful designs on it. This ancient handicraft has been a part of Indian culture for over 2000 years. Indian artisans developed this art form many centuries ago and eventually it spread to many other parts of the world, even as it waned in popularity in India itself. Today, Batik fabrics are one of the main exports of countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. In India this art had taken a backseat until the mid-20th century. This period of history brought in a focus on reviving lost arts and providing an impetus to rural handicrafts industries, one of which was the Batik industry. Today, this technique has acquired world-wide fame and Indian batik fabric is highly in demand even in western nations.
Batik textiles take quite a lot of effort to produce as the process to create Batik patterns and designs is both tedious and long-drawn. It involves several steps, starting with covering the fabric with the desired designs, blocking certain parts using a wax substance (which is applied using different types of tools for different kinds of effects), dipping the wax blocked fabric in a vat of color dye and then scraping or boiling off the wax bits. This leaves the previously blocked parts uncolored, creating a unique and very attractive visual contrast. The cloth can then be dyed multiple times to achieve a multi-hued effect. Batik designs, patterns and motifs are distinguished by the ‘seep-through’ effect that the colors display, which is often considered a defect but is in fact an art in itself. Expert dyers know how to manipulate the wax and dye so as to achieve light and pretty striations of color throughout the Batik clothing which really adds to the over-all beauty of the garment.
Indian Batik fabric is available in a lot of different varieties and types, which can be distinguished, first and foremost, on the basis of the types of designs on them. Traditional Batik designs are created by simply applying the wax in a scattered, random manner all through the fabric, which results in a kaleidoscopic burst of colors and patterns. A more structured Batik pattern can be created by using screen printing, in which a stencil is used to trace designs and add wax blocks. Often, repeating patterns of traditional motifs are used to create the most popular or in-demand Batik patterns, designs and motifs. The most exquisite looking are the fabrics found in a hand-painted Batik collection, which come with Madhubani style designs painstakingly etched on to the cloth, blocked with wax, dyed and then boiled. Often, this allows the fabric weaver or artisan to imprint the cloth with their unique, artistic designs and intricate patterns. These can be anything, from simple geometric shapes and lines to abstract stylizations of natural objects such as flowers, fruits or trees, to mythological depictions and religious motifs. More modern motifs and designs are also becoming very popular nowadays.
Cotton Batik is the most popular and commonly found type of Batik fabric in India. Cotton is affordable and easily available to rural artisans; moreover, it is also a fabric that takes to dyes extremely well. Soft, breezy and comfortable, cotton Batik can be used to make all types of clothes. Silk is also frequently used, especially the coarser varieties which are more absorbent. Batik was traditionally only done on cotton and silk, but nowadays other materials like georgette and crepe are also used.
Batik textiles can be used to make all types of clothes, from sarees and salwar kameez to kurtas, kurtis and tunics. Women also love wearing accessories such as scarves, shawls, dupattas and handbags made of Indian batik fabric as this adds an instant touch of ethnic flair to the outfit. It can also be used to make home décor items like wall-hangings, curtains, cushion covers, rugs and so on. Batik fabrics are available in a plethora of bright and beautiful colors and color combinations, from deep reds, greens and blues to pastel yellow and royal purple.
Styling Batik Textiles
In recent years, ethnic prints and fabrics have become extremely trendy in western fashion and Batik is no exception. It has become a huge fad, especially as a casual wear fabric, and has been frequently used in high fashion designer collections. Many celebrities with a relaxed, bohemian sense of style have embraced Batik fabric and used it very effectively to add an Indian touch to their stylish looks. Batik dyed or printed tunics and kurtis are a great way to stay comfortable and on trend during summer, while Batik salwar kameez can help professional women jazz up their work looks. This type of casual and semi-formal Batik clothing can be accessorized with funky ethnic jewelry such as wooden necklaces, tribal earrings, beaded bracelets etc. Oxidized necklaces and glass bangles are a good addition to more festive Batik sarees or Batik anarkali suits.