Sunday, October 24, 2010

Palou Bali: Balinesian Batik

Bali's major industry is tourism, followed by the creation and export of handicrafts.  Agriculture fits in somewhere.  One of the crafts known for Bali, and Indonesia is batik.  Batik is a means of creating a dyed pattern on cloth.  Both silk and cotton batiks are manufactured in Bali.  While in Bali we toured a small batik mill in the village of Cili (pronounced "Shilli" ) near Ubud.

I previously knew nothing about batik, but while visiting the mill I learned there are two basic styles of batik--  one style weaves the bolt of cloth, then stamps a pattern using various colored dyes onto the cloth.  The second method, described as Balinese batik weaves the pattern directly into the fabric.  This is a far more complicated and labor intensive process, and produces a higher quality batik.  The stamped method, although producing a sharp and multi-colored pattern, is of lower quality I was told, and typically produced in Java.  (There was clearly some animosity and rivalry between the Balinese and Javanese.  Our driver and tour guide told me that, "there was no good karma in Java").
Many of the looms sat idle in this mill.  There were only four or five employees working while we visited.  We were told that demand for the batik goods is currently way down, apparently due to the decline in the world economy.  Most of the goods from this mill are shipped to Europe.
The pattern--  The process starts by winding white thread (in this case cotton) onto a frame.  Small plastic shields are placed around sets of the threads in areas where it is desired to prevent the dye from permeating the threads.  In this case, the desired pattern will be multi-colored, so there are multiple colors of plastic shields, one for each of the series of dyes used, aside from the first dye.  When the pattern is complete with the application of the plastic shields, the threads are carefully removed from the frame.

Dye vats--  These are the dye vats.  This area is essentially outside--  there is a tin roof shelter, but no walls.  A wood fire is used to heat the water for mixing the dyes.  (The dyes are purchased from Germany--  Ritz?).   Near the back wall there is a small trough of running water coming from and going to who knows where.   I'm not sure in the U.S. OSHA or the EPA would be thrilled about this.
Hung out to dye-- After stewing in the dye vats for the appropriate length of time, the bundles of thread are carefully rinsed and hung on the wall to dry.  These workers were carefully making sure that the various loops of thread were not tangled--  a tangle could spell disaster.  After drying the plastic dye shields are removed.  If the fabric is to receive multiple colors, only the plastic shields for the next color dye to be applied are removed, and the next round of dying/drying occurs.

Loading the bobbins--  After drying, the dyed threads are loaded onto bobbins, which will then be used with the looms.  Note that the thread has its pattern "programed" onto its full length  in a linear fashion, as the color varies at appropriate points and segment lengths.
The loom--  The fabric is woven on wooden looms, which are what I would describe as semi-automatic.  The shuttle (the loom equivalent of the needle for needle and thread sewing) is scooted across (the warp?) by stepping on one of two wooden peddles on the loom. (One peddle scoots the shuttle left, the other right by striking the end of the shuttle.  Prior to scooting the shuttle across the warp (?) the set of warp (?) threads are alternated, creating the weaving.

Outdoor work space--  As with the dying operation, these looms are in an outdoor area, with only a tin roof to shade and shelter the workers.  (The showroom for finished goods was indoors--  however, it was much cooler outside than inside the showroom, since there was no apparent air conditioning.) 

Finished goods--  A shirt made from Balinese batik fabric.  The patterns are directly woven into the fabric, and consequently the fabric is completely reversible-- the pattern appears on both sides, as opposed to the stamped batik, which has the pattern only on one side.

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