25 November 2012

Batik, Batik!

Cheryl and I arrived in Bali on Thursday afternoon around 3pm. By the time we got outside to our driver--at 10 minutes before 5pm--we were drained: we stood in line-after-line showing IDs and passports, paying airport taxes ($40), all while wondering how to quickly calculate Singapore dollars to rupiahs in our heads. (I admit this was mainly me, as I don't do quick calculations very well and Cheryl is kind of a math whiz-kid:  lucky me!!)

This was a short trip. For some reason this didn't dawn on me until I was packing in the early a-m, on the morning of my flight. I was only going to truly be in Bali for 2 days. It wasn't going to be like when I was in the Philippines--I was there for nearly 8 days. My pack felt light, which was good. But, whoa- expensive . . . To be doing this trip right before leaving for the holidays in the US was a bit taxing on my nerves and my bank account. As a result, I was being a bit of a curmudgeon.

But never one to be down for long, I decided to go forth and have fun. Short trip or not, this was the experience of a lifetime!

When we got to our hotel, Cheryl and I sat down in the restaurant to eat and then we decided that we would start off our weekend by getting our complimentary massage. (I had forgotten about all of the things I would be getting for free for purchasing a Groupon for this trip. I never thought I would become a Groupon-using person, but suddenly I was happy for making the purchase:  breakfast, transportation, and a massage. Nice!)

After our massage, we met up with Dhivya for a mid-evening snack. It was so nice to be somewhere where I could actually afford a couple of glasses of wine.

The next morning Cheryl and I had to be up early to take our batik class.

The driver picked us up at our hotel in Kuta at 830am. We were taking our class in Ubud, which was about an hour and a half away. (Next time, this is where I plan to stay--Kuta was way too crowded and not very laid back.)

Hot Chilli was our driver's name. He was a fascinating character who got his name by being born in a garden. He sang to us all the way to Ubud.

Widya's Batik was off the beaten path. The studio was in a perfectly-sized-open-air room, surrounded by dogs, chickens, ducks, a cat, and a cow. It backed up to a production ceramics studio. After brief introductions, we began our work right away.

Batik is a process by which wax decoration and fabric dye are alternated to create a layered design. 

The first step of the process? Figuring out what design to create. Prior to our arrival, Widya had laid out two large pieces of sketch paper and our cotton fabric, which measured about 3 feet x 2 feet. Cheryl chose a design from the stack that Widya had collected over the years. They were almost like stencils, or like picking out a tattoo design. I decided to combine freehand drawing and parts of previous designs. We also both wanted to incorporate stamping.

Once we had traced or drawn our imagery onto our fabric with pencil, we had to trace over the pencil with wax. We used a small, handmade tool for doing this. It was a piece of bamboo with a small copper bowl and spout wired to the end of it. This part of the process took a while. Widya and his studio mate Komang ended up helping Cheryl and me finish outlining our designs, as this is a practiced process that takes many months to perfect. (Leave it to me to create a design that had a ton of  patterning in it: triangles, flowers, stripes, and scalloping.)

Once the wax was traced over the entire design, we began painting. We filled in the entire design, as if we were coloring in a coloring book. The fabric dyes were already mixed up, and we followed a color wheel to determine what colors we wanted. I stayed in the blue, pink, orange, yellow, and teal family. We painted with sticks and cotton nibs. Some of the colors painted on true to their color while others changed with sunlight or during the finishing process. Our trust was completely in the color wheel!

Once we completed painting in our pieces, another layer of wax design was put on top of the painted work. This was done almost entirely by Widya and Komang. But, Komang read my mind! He knew exactly what I wanted . . . He traced back through my stripes, added in dots, and reverse-scalloped on my cloud shapes: exactly what I would have done. I loved it!

Once the second layer of wax design went onto our work, Widya began preparing the fixatives and dyes. He worked on Cheryl's piece first, bowling off all of the wax before submerging it in the fixative. The fixative created the "magic" where the color changing--if any--took place.

After the fixative, the work was dipped in the dye. The dye filled in where there was white fabric or, in some cases, where the wax had been boiled off. It was incredible to watch the colors coming to life right before our eyes!

The colors were fabulously bright!

The process took about 7 hours, not including travel time. But it was completely worth it! It was an entirely new and unique experience for Cheryl and me, combining both culture and creativity. And, it has added another layer to my work as an artist: I can now use the knowledge of this process in my current work. And, I can go back to Widya's studio to do more pieces that I can include in future works. There is an absolute depth to combining travel, experience, and creativity that I would not be able to get from anywhere else--it's completely unique to Widya, Bali, and the interaction with my creative background.

The piece I made at Widya's studio is one of my sister's Christmas presents. And while it's no longer a surprise for Kerry, I think she will appreciate the care and attention that went into this piece of artwork. Three different people worked on it: Widya and Komang from Bali, and me. And I personally signed the work over to her during the wax-tracing part of the process: it is a completely original piece of handmade artwork specifically made for her. And she got to share in the process of the making of her artwork through Facebook and--now--this blogpost, which is super-great!!

I'm so thankful to master batiker Widya for letting us into his studio and sharing his process with us. He is a great source of inspiration and tenacious artistry. I'm looking forward to a long creative friendship with batik! This is only the beginning...

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