Batik bookmarks

These silk bookmarks from around 1910 were made by the Dutch artist Adri Pieck (1896-1982). The beautiful floral and linear decors are made with a technique called batik.

Batik is an Indonesian technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to the whole cloth. Of Javanese origin, batik is made either by drawing dots and lines of the melted wax on the textile with a spouted tool called a canting, or by printing the wax on the fabric with a copper stamp. The applied wax resists dyes and therefore allows the artisan to color selectively by soaking the cloth in one color.

The cloth is then washed and dried and the wax is (partially) removed. Then the procedure can be repeated to add another color. The natural crackle effect is achieved by wrinkling the fabric. This creates cracks in the dried wax, where the paint is absorbed.

Dutch batik
The word batik is Javanese in origin. It comes from the Javanese ambatik that consist of amba means ‘wide’ or ‘large’, and tik or nitik means ‘dot’ or ‘make a dot’. The word bathikan also means ‘drawing’ or ‘writing’ in Javanese.

Around 1900, Indonesian batik became fashionable among Dutch craftsmen and -women, who were looking for new methods of decorating fabrics. The painting technique was not only used in the Netherlands for decorating fabrics, but also for other materials such as parchment and wood.

Cultural icon
Batik is considered a cultural icon in Indonesia, where ‘National Batik Day’ (Hari Batik Nasional) is celebrated annually on October 2. Many Indonesians continue to wear batik on a daily basis for casual and formal occasions. On October 2009, UNESCO designated Indonesian batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Batik making in Bali is relatively new, but a fast-growing industry. Many patterns are inspired by local designs, which are favoured by the local Balinese and domestic tourists. Objects from nature such as frangipani and hibiscus flowers, birds or fishes, and daily activities such as Balinese dancer and ngaben processions or religious and mythological creatures such as barong, kala and winged lion are common.

Three young women doing batik at Yogyakarta (about 1915), photo: Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies and Leiden University Library via Wikimedia Commons

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