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Malaysian Batik: Truly A Fascinating Work Of Art

May 19, 2014 Destination ASEAN No Comments Email Email

Imagine. Beautiful maidens swaying demurely in hand-crafted batik sarong. Fashion-conscious gentlemen styled in elegant batik shirts featuring distinctive geometric motifs. Tourists strolling along the beach in colourful batik tops, looking smart casual and relaxed.

Indeed, Malaysian batik embodies fine art that is handcrafted to perfection and brought to life in fashionable style. The most popular motifs are organic elements incorporating flowers, leaves and other elements drawn from Mother Nature. Other inspirations come in the form of geometric motifs with patterns such as sun, star, moon as well as modern butterfly designs. Batik comes in various shades and hues, and can be created on different types of fabrics, including silk, fuji, satin, jacquard, chiffon, rayon, linen, crepe and cotton.

Batik wearers often feel comfortable and enjoy a sense of pride and satisfaction. It is also said that wearing batik helps to boost one’s confidence and self-esteem.Cordato

Our Malaysian pride

Malaysia batik is well-known as one of the greatest fabric creations worldwide. Hand-made batik was established since the early 1900s in Kelantan, on the East Coast of West Malaysia and is today widely received by both locals and foreigners.

There are two types of Malaysian batik paintings – hand-drawn (canting) and block-printed or stamped batik. Each one has its own uniqueness and specialisation.

Not to be forgotten, in East Malaysia, Sarawak has its own version of canting batik and block batik as well. Nevertheless, Sarawak batik differs from these batiks from the East Coast in terms of canting style and product variants.

Batik printing incorporates the use of wax to prevent dyes from running across fabrics. The first step for batik artisans is to stretch the fabric over a wooden frame to prepare for the printing process, whether by hand or block.

Typically, hand-drawn batik is most popular for batik lovers because it is considered more refined with hand painted canting. The batik artisan will first outline the design using a pencil. The design is then traced using a traditional canting. This is a pen-like instrument made from metal, which is moulded to a wood or bamboo handle that is light and flexible. There are various types of canting including canting birds, canting shoes, canting pots, canting balls and canting with various eyelets which are used in handcrafted batik.

Hot wax is filled into the canting and this is used as ink for painting. Multiple brushes can be used to apply the dyes within the waxed outlines to create shaded and multi-coloured designs.

The other form of batik printing, using wooden blocks with artistic patterns underneath, is a faster and more efficient bulk-printing process as it can cover a wider area at any one time. However, over the years, these older versions of wood block-printed batik printing are replaced with copper block canting.

Hand-drawn batik is however, more expensive and exclusive. Artisans who produce hand-drawn batik are therefore much sought after by batik connoisseurs.

The evolution of batik over time has transformed this unique art transcending beyond clothing. More people today are embracing the use of batik crafts, creatively embodied into beautiful home ornaments, objet d’art, stationery covers as well as handicrafts.

In Malaysia, fuji silk, rayon and linen fabric are usually the preferred material to design kaftans, shirts and beautiful ornaments. Such materials are preferred due to the structure and the material of the fabric which look good and feel comfortable under the hot tropical climate. For fashion batik clothing, the selection of soft and warm silk satin, jacquard, chiffon, crepe and cotton are often preferred.

To preserve the batik’s authenticity and prevent colours from running, pre-washing is necessary. This includes a process of dry cleaning, followed by subsequent normal fabric washing. Batik materials will remain in good condition if they are dried and hung at shaded areas and enhanced with fabric softener during the washing process.

The best thing is, you can also create your own batik! However, the basic rudiments about producing your own batik printing should be learned under the tutelage of professionals in order to create a long lasting design, due to the complicated process. The rest depends on your own creativity because batik is a handicraft, which is a combination of skill and imagination.

Whether you are learning to make your own batik or buying a readymade batik designed in various patterns and materials, there are many places that you can source your batik item from.

In the East Coast, there are an abundance of batik boutiques in Kelantan such as Razali Batik Sdn Bhd, Nordin Batik & Craft Sdn Bhd, Kamaliah Batik Sdn Bhd and Nadia Batik & Songket. Batik also can be found en-mass in Bazaar Buluh Kubu Kota Bharu or Siti Khadijah Market Kota Bharu.

In Terengganu, batik are popularly sought after at Noor Arfa Holdings Sdn Bhd, Desa Murni Batik Sdn Bhd, Seem Noor Batek Sdn Bhd or at Payang Market Kuala Terengganu.

If you are in Kuala Lumpur, you can find a variety of quality batik prints in Central Market, ranging from garments to designs on furnishings and craft items. Nearby is the Jadi Batek Gallery which provides workshops and demonstrations of batik printing. Batek Malaysia also has a great range of traditional and modern designs.

Do visit a batik boutique or a wholesaler and see for yourself the wonderful array of design possibilities. Malaysian batik pieces are available at great value for money. So for first timers, if you have not experienced wearing or buying batik before, it will indeed be a fun-filled and enlightening experience. Who knows, you could be a passionate batik lover soon.

Exquisite batik that inspire the senses. Truly Malaysia.

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