To dye for
December 19, 2009 11:44 AM   Subscribe

Best known as an Indonesian handicraft, batik is a distinctive technique for textiles that has been used for millennia and can be found as far away as Egypt, Ghana, China and India. An integral part of daily life in Java, batik has spread around the world as a wellknown artform as well as clothing. From its hippy heyday to the smart couture outfits of the Singapore Girl, batik is still daily wear for many and the equivalent of black tie in the ASEAN. posted by infini (13 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
When I lived in Senegal a friend was doing a documentary on small business success stories, and one was a batik shop. It was just an open-air stand on N'Gor island, but apparently they exported a lot of what they made to Brazil.

One day when things were slow they offered to give me and my girlfriend a factory tour. I imagined a wooden shed with some vats of dye bubbling away, but in reality it was just four plastic buckets lined up on the cliff over the ocean and a small campfire with a cauldron of boiling water.

They mixed lye and hot water in one bucket, along with pigment, making a huge cloud of steam. Vinegar and cold water went in another. What was really cool is that the piece they dyed came out dark yellow-orange, but dried to dark purple after it was hung up.
posted by Nothing at 12:28 PM on December 19, 2009

I especially loves my Caribbean batik shirt from St Kitts and still going strong after 10 years.
posted by adamvasco at 12:47 PM on December 19, 2009

I love batik! We've got stacks of it here purchased on trips through Java. Pekalongnan, Solo, and Yogyarkarta all have traditional and more modern batik industries and are the places to go if you want to buy it up cheap. The Singaporeans are far more organized than the Javanese and have been more successful at monetizing the industry, but all of the craft and design basics originated in Central Java. A batik shirt is also the de facto uniform at local Indonesian gatherings for Western men who married Indonesian women.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:59 PM on December 19, 2009

burhanistan, and then we have the malaysians laying claim to it...
posted by infini at 1:11 PM on December 19, 2009

Now now, let's not let our regionalistic emotionalisms get away with us.
posted by BinGregory at 4:13 PM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

de facto uniform at local Indonesian gatherings for Western men who married Indonesian women.

What this thread needs is the IMG tag.
B-stan, what's the hukum on pure silk shirts for men? Encountered any SE Asia qawl on the issue? Alternatively, run into any formal-event-quality batik not produced on pure silk? I look damn good in my batik the few times a year I need to wear one, but the conscience does nag.
posted by BinGregory at 4:34 PM on December 19, 2009

Dad had crisp cotton long sleeved batik shirts for all his formal events back in the day, with a few pineapple fabric ones from the Philippines thrown in for good measure. I don't recall silk being a must... have things changed?
posted by infini at 4:49 PM on December 19, 2009

Mmm, yeah, I can't find anything but silk when I shop, except for low quality polyester machine prints, and I don't see anyone rock anything but silk at the functions I attend.
posted by BinGregory at 4:58 PM on December 19, 2009

I only buy cotton shirts and if asked say that silk should be avoided. Otherwise, I tend not to proffer my opinion to silk wearers unless it seems proper.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:09 PM on December 19, 2009

Batik Keris has some nice cotton shirts.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:10 PM on December 19, 2009

Well it looks like I'm going to have to make that trip to the batik motherland sooner rather than later.
posted by BinGregory at 6:13 PM on December 19, 2009

Heh. If you go to Yogyakarta, get over to Mirota on the main shopping drag. Batik everything you can think of. Bring an extra suitcase, load it up, sell it at a fair but nice markup, and pay for your airfare!
posted by Burhanistan at 6:46 PM on December 19, 2009

An ex specializes in creating fashion with batik out of Bali and India.
posted by nickyskye at 9:03 PM on December 19, 2009

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