My favorite hobby is dyeing fabric in the batik style. Wax is used as the resist. There are multiple dippings of the fabric into a vat of water with soluble dyes. Where ever the wax has been applied, no dye can penetrate, leaving you with the color beneath. With this method, you can create any kind of image, considering how many dyeings and waxing applications you do. After you boil the wax off, a beautiful pattern emerges.  It is a fantastic challenge. Completely unpredictable, similar to developing your own photographs as you’re never certain how they will turn out.

I did this piece as a secret Santa in 2002? and of course procrastinated like crazy. I think I finished that night and realized I should take a picture of it before it goes forever. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a flash with my camera because I was using a manual one at the time. So, I used a spot light tethered to the top of the fridge, which made the light source a little uneven. Putting out a black bed sheet on the kitchen floor, I laid the wall hanging on it  and stood on a stool to take the picture. Hence, the golden glow. In photoshop I tried to get it back to its original shades of olive greens and dusky browns.

Usually, a piece will take many tries to get the desired result, this one, however was amazing, everything went well and I only had to do one trial run. I think it’s because I sketched it out several times, going over and over the intent and of course  the color sequence: cream, yellow, greens and browns. The purpose of the piece was to get an emotional light streaming through the tree trunks. After the dyeing was completed, I used strips of black wood paneling back to back with the fabric sandwiched between on the top and bottom as a kind of frame for hanging cloth.

A while ago, my mom gave me her batik book by Ila Keller, written in 1966. I love its thick yellowing pages, black and white photographs and really bold, simple designs. It’s one of the best batik books  published.

by Maud Rydin

1966 version

She goes over the Javanese history of Batik and has such concise methods of attaining a really great design. There’s a lot of trial and error involved, but totally worth the effort.

In the diagram below, she shows how you start out by drawing your design on the fabric and then compiling  the dye information for testing. Bees wax can be used, although I like a paraffin and bees wax combination on a cotton/ linen cloth. Very hot wax is brushed on the cloth or, if you’re using a tjanting tool, you would draw your image on the fabric like using a pen. The cloth is then submerged into a dye bath. Since the wax is not penetrated, your shape will stay intact. The more dyes you use, the more depth you can receive.

It would be my dream to have a studio with hot running water and a stove to do this art. I don’t have a basement in my current home like I used to, so I’ve had to use my little bathroom and kitchen the past couple of times.