Indonesian Batik: Textiles and Techniques

September 16 – November 15, 2013

batik238The origins of the word batik may have come from the Indonesian word tik, which means dot. The verb ambitik means to draw, paint, or write. The batiks included in this exhibit exemplify that theory, showcasing examples of intricate motifs including lines and dots that appear to be drawn by hand.

batik282While the textiles can be identified according to the technique used to create the designs, either using a drawing tool called a canting or a copper stamp called a cap, they are categorized here according to their primary color and the sources of the natural dyes used in their creation.

The makers of Indonesian batik textiles are skilled artisans. This exhibit celebrates their talents by highlighting the techniques used, the colorful palettes, and the textiles themselves.

How batik textiles are made

Batik blocksIntricate batik designs are created using a wax-resist process in which hot, melted wax is applied to cloth using either a copper canting (pronounced chon-ting) drawing tool or a copper stamp  called a cap (pronounced chop). When the wax cools, it acts as a temporary barrier to dyes being absorbed into the cloth.

The first step in the batik process is preparation of the cloth. The most commonly used fabrics are plain weave cotton and silk. The undyed cotton fabric is boiled and cleaned, then starched with a rice paste to keep the wax from being absorbed into the fibers. Finally, it is beaten with a wooden mallet to give the cloth a smooth surface.

Batik exhibit 104The major outlines of a design are either drawn or stamped onto the cloth. Authentic batiks are reversible, meaning the design must be waxed on both sides of the cloth. For batiks with large areas of solid color, the wax may be applied using a brush. The characteristic batik crackle pattern results when cracks form in the cool wax surface, allowing dye to seep into the crevices and penetrate the fabric when immersed in the dye bath.  

Multi-color batik fabrics undergo many applications of wax alternating with dye baths of varying colors to achieve the desired effect.  The wax is scraped away from sections of the design following each dye bath in order to dye these sections in later color applications. After the final dye bath, the last of the wax is boiled off.  Some wax residue may remain, leaving a finished textile with a slightly stiff hand.


Background research and selection of textiles for inclusion in the exhibit was completed by spring     2013 Apparel, Merchandising, and Design graduate Megan Arnt. As a Louise Rosenfeld Undergraduate Research Assistant, Megan worked on this project under the direction of Dr. Sara B. Marcketti.

Additional exhibit planning and installation was completed by Janet Fitzpatrick, Suzanne LeSar, Jennifer Gordon, Raina Edel, Kate Greder, and Sara Jablon.

Thanks to the College of Human Sciences and the Department of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management for their support of this exhibit.