Trending at Unnati : Classy Batik Silks – The Art of Precision and Beauty by Artisans of Central India

What can batik be termed as? An art, a craft, or simply a beautiful process?

Well, truly speaking one could say all three rolled into one. It is art because what is produced is a work of wonder and beauty from honing basic knowhow to a fine art through becoming highly proficient at something through practice.  It is a craft because it involves an exercise of the human skill for achieving something artistic and decorative. It is a process since steps have to be undergone according to a system of rules and principles, methodically and with care to produce a desired result.

Unnati Silks and the intriguingly unusual Batik Prints

Batik has always been an exotic tale or one that is strangely interesting. Batik is no stranger to Unnati Silks, and time and again dabbling in Batik has been done with change in design, choice of fabric variety, an experiment on anything not cotton. Batik has been extraordinarily colorful when done on cotton because of the wonderful adhesion qualities of the fabric, its adaptation to color and design of any sort undoubtedly the best. But that does not mean other fabrics cannot be tried out. Results may not be as outstanding in quality, nevertheless sufficient to draw interest and excitement.

Just a short time back, there have been two extraordinary batik experiments at Unnati Silks – one on pure Bengal silk sarees, the other on Kota cotton sarees.

The wonderfully soft Bengal silk saree

Bengal is famous for its handloom silk sarees. Fine, smooth, of good texture, airy and light on the body, the Bengal Silk Saree is preferred for almost any occasion from daily casual to traditional occasions, social functions to grand parties and weddings.

It is a marvellous fabric that shows up designs and adornments in a vibrancy and luster that is most endearing. Batik has been tried out most successfully in designs covering most of the body, plain and lightly distributed in motifs supplemented by a decorative border and pallu. Floral forays, light and spaced motif experiments to the positively dense or heavily color filled imagery are variations of the Batik theme.

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There is a plant with shoots on a space filled canvas, there are colorful object filled placements seemingly random but studied closely show a pattern emerge, there are the extremely plain versions but attractive by way of body color and decorative border, but all of them having one thing in common – the beautifully executed Batik in brilliance and vibrancy. Backed by the Silk Mark label, the Bengal Batik Silk fabric gets an additional legal backing to the even otherwise genuine handloom claim.

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The other venture is the Kota Batik cotton saree.

The Kota Cotton Saree is translucent muslin, much preferred for its light weight, softness and airy comfort. Known for its smooth texture the Kota Cotton Saree is woven in a manner designed to produce check patterns on the fabric.  If the Kota Cotton is a endearing fabric and you bring the unique and enchanting designs of Batik onto it, you have a lyrical quality to it.

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Lovely floral compositions in vibrant Batik red, enigmatic figurine fantasy in green Batik, blocks of a shapely pattern neatly arrayed in light brown Batik – on the pallu or end piece, are some of the many and more captivating designer offerings in Kota Batik cotton sarees. The body of these sarees have the randomly strewn straw design that acts beautifully for a filler on a plain expanse. The focus of the Batik designs is concentrated on the pallu and the border. The changes in shades of the same color on the background mesh of the Kota fabric sets of a nice Batik designer pattern throughout, that would not have been possible on a plain fine weave. The voids in designs due to the batik characteristic combined with the underlying mesh pattern gives that beautiful designer effect that again would not be possible if was a plain weave.

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What is Batik after all?

Batik is an art medium and methodology for creating design, usually on cloth, by applying wax to portions of the material, dyeing the fabric, then removing the wax. This gives outcomes of vibrant colors and incredible designs. A more difficult variant is the Pen Batik, a more intricately applied art with special tools follows the same principles of using wax resist and dyeing, but is more painstaking and with exquisite outcomes.

Batik is a process that makes use of ‘resists’ for making designs on a fabric.

The conventional Batik process has a resist or a physical block in some form or the other to prevent desired areas on the fabric from being penetrated by dye. Generally wax is used as a resist in Batik. The block printed areas where resists are in place, come out as un-dyed areas in the dyed fabric. It could remain that way or further these un-dyed areas could be coloured differently in repeat wax dye process. This can be repeated several times at the same place or different places with wax-dye process time and again for every subsequent colour change.

Batik can be done with various types of dye & wax on cotton, silk and other natural fabrics. Cotton is easy to work with and generally gives best results. Repeated waxing and dyeing over the same place gets newer overlapping results. The idea in multi-layer colouring is to start with lighter shades of the dye and proceed to deeper ones. Here care is taken that wax resist is neither light nor heavy since lighter would mean possible penetration of dye onto resist area and heavy would mean the wax will not resist properly and could cause patches or dye spreads when removed.

The rarer but finer Pen Batik

The rarer type of Batik is Pen Batik. Fine designs are made on the fabric using ‘Tjanting’ tools. Molten wax at a certain temperature is carefully put on the design lines with Batik dropper pen.  A lot of care has to be taken since too thin a layer could give way to colour dye through surface cracks. Temperature of the wax is normally kept between 200 and 230 degrees.

In both the cases boiling water is used to melt away the wax. After the entire resist dyeing process is over, and the wax has melted away in hot water, a neatly dyed plain or designer fabric is available.

Why is Batik Popular?

Batik is akin to the tie & dye process art with a slight difference. Instead of tying the fabric at various points, wax is used as resists in the specified areas of the design. Wax is easily removed and the process assumes a neat finish. The colors used in batik for the beautiful creative designs on the fabric, make the products look stunning. The artistic freedom that is available makes for a lot of unusual imagery that has captured the imagination of the market. Moreover, the colors used are very durable and what once was exclusive, is seen on everyday clothing as well.

Batik is simple but charming, the process that is definitely DIY if one tries moderately, yet enjoyed due to the manner of execution by the specialists, an art of infinite possibilities that has always something new and unexpected at each re-appearance.

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