Batik is another wonderful technique for textile printing that has seen it years of highs and lows since my birth in the 1960’s. It has been a staple for tropical island apparel , especially with tourists from the Western Hemisphere to the Eastern, as well as to Caribbean Islands. Some high profile and big box designers work with it. Ralph Lauren and Tommy Bahama are there. In recent years, Indonesian batiks have become a staple for fiber artist who make quilts. I have no real complaints about this , but many of the mass-produced patterns do not even use the original wax resist technique. There is quite a bit of rotary screenprinted batikesque fabric cranked out of Indonesia and selling for $8/Lyd at big box fabric merchants such as Jo-Ann’s and Hancocks. I truly admire the spirit of the designs and the intention of the quilters. But, I also have a yearning for the real thing that is coming from highly skilled artisans who have learned the craft from their family members and fellow villagers. Batik is the national fabric of malaysia and Unesco has finally approved it as part of Malaysia’s national heritage.
I also admire the great batik designs that come from artisans in Africa, Thailand, China (Oh, yes!) and Central America. Maybe it is just wishful thinking, but I am feeling all of the barometers of change that need to exist to bring this technique from countries around the world into the spotlight Stateside.. I was so happy to hear back in January that Harrod’s was celebrating a week long tribute to Malaysian batik and that they were presenting a fashion show of some of Malaysia’s most influential and progressive apparel designers who use silk batik fabrics.
Batik is showing up more in soft home furnishings lately. I stumbled upon a wonderful website that used African batiks for bedding and bath products. It is Royal Hut. Check them out! A Bahamian company named Androsia makes and sell batik fabrics by the yard that are very clean one color batiks, all with island motifs, and the color palette is stunning and clean.
You may also want to check out the edited selection of Ann Dunham’s Indonesian batiks that are touring the U.S. right now. Ann is President Obama’s mother and she was a collector of Indonesian batik. It makes my heart happy to see true wax resist batik celebrated for the art form that it is.
Batik has proven to be timeless and updated. Batik is not just for breakfast in Bali anymore!