Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Batik Factory, Part 1

We spent our last evening at a delightful outside dinner on the patio ---the dinner buffet included all kinds of Balinese delights from roast pig to chicken satay and jumbo grilled river prawns.

The food has been really good here –and since I am a fan of Indian food as well as Thai, Chinese and Korean ---everything worked for me! I was surprised a couple of times by things that were hotter than I thought! But that’s all good too…

I’ve been reorganizing and repacking my bags..the treasures coming home with me are being carefully placed so all will arrive home safely.

In the mean time, I wanted to finish a post I had started writing, but had got put back because of the amount of photos ---and some little videos that I had to get uploaded to Youtube.

When we think FACTORY ---we think of machines and automation and assembly lines cranking away, don’t we?

Let me tell you…I was SO humbled and awestruck at what we saw going on at the “batik factory” on our first full day in Bali that it has stuck with me this entire trip and I haven’t been able to find the right words to put this all down as to how the experience affected me.

Those who say “oh, I don’t like batik” NEED to come down here and see how it is made. It’s a painstaking artistic process.

The photo above shows 15 meter lengths hanging and drying from ceiling beams in an open air covered area. Batik fabric is done in 400 meter “runs” and then these are divided into 15 yard bolts. The red you see on the ground has been wood block wax stamped, and died in huge vats….

And this is where the youtube videos come in. The clips are short because I had limited battery charging opportunities – but it will give you an idea of how things are done.

The wood block printing is a whole separate process and I’m going to work this a bit backwards….I’ll do the wood block printing in the next post. In fact, there will likely be several chapters to this “POST” because I can’t put it all in one!

This is where they take the dyed fabric and crinkle it up in preparation for putting it down on the ground to dry. Then soda ash and other chemicals are added – and the fabric dries in the sun.

How does the batiking process happen?

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This is waxed and dyed fabric going through the boiling water and wringer process to remove the wax. This is the “inside” of the “factory” and the air is heavy with the smell of dye, the smell of wax and kerosene ---and wood fire.

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This young man has the job of standing over metal drums full of wax…the wax is melted in the drums by the fire blazing below. Did I mention how hot and humid it is in Bali? It is hotter IN the factory than out of it….

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The ever present offering, Please watch over my equipment and keep it running!

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Waxed and dyed fabrics go through a whole rinsing and dipping process.

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Everywhere you look, someone is working at preparing the fabric for the next step.

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Much laughing and joking about this bus load of crazy tourists who come to visit! I know for certain that I’ll never be able to look at another batik fabric without seeing these faces.

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More batik workers, stirring and resting.

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Rinsing vats and piles of damp fabric ready for the next step. I can still hear the sound of this water running…

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See the different colors of lots of fabric in the different vats?

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Now maybe you can see why I’ve had such a hard time putting this into words.

Newfound awe for the working areas.

Newfound respect for the artistry that produces such beautiful fabric with no two pieces alike EVER.

Newfound understanding for a process that is NOT automatic or machine printed, but is painstakingly done by hand…..

Just wait til you see how they do the wood block printing with wax BEFORE the over-dying starts….

If there is a jump in between posts ---just know that it is because we are traveling. It’s a 4.5 hour flight to Hong Kong where we have a 3.5 hour layover before catching our flight to Los Angeles. That’s 15 hours or so there…..it will be over 24 hours before our feet touch down on our home continent.

Farewell, Bali! We are heading home!


  1. I never dreamed the conditions for making this beautiful stuff are so primitive, by our standards. I wish I knew that the workers benefited most from the high price.

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  3. Ah thanks for taking me to Bali with you Bonnie!!!

  4. Oh Bonnie, how will you ever be content to live in this ordinary place we call home after seeing such a beautiful, magical place? I doubt that I will ever see it in person. Thank you for sharing your journey!

  5. I am in awe! I wish that they could benefit directly from their labours. Thanks so much for your posts Bonnie. I now have Bali on my bucket list.

  6. Cindy, The Purple Quilter3:03 PM EDT

    Bonnie, thank you for taking us around the world on such a wonderful adventure!! We learn so much from you, our teacher and friend! :)

  7. I have read many articles about the batiking process. Yet you have really brought it to life with your words.
    I have even found sand particles in a batik I bought maybe 20+ years ago. My sewing machine was NOT happy with that fabric but I loved the fabric too much to not use it.
    My heart has been with you this whole time. Hubby gets an update on you from me every day!!!!
    XOXOXOOX Subee

  8. Anonymous4:01 PM EDT

    Love the rooster in the background,it sounded like he had something to say too!!! Lol. Can't wait to see the haul you bring home with you, and I'm glad you had such a wonderful time.

  9. That was some amazong video! I always love batiks, now I will cherish them!

  10. I bet these guys do not make much money out of the end product. I have seen videos now and then of this process but never a rooster crowing so loudly! Made me feel like I was there with y'all.

  11. Anonymous4:57 PM EDT

    Bonnie, Thank you for taking us along with you. It was so great seeing the other side of the world. Those sunrises are breath taking. Maybe one of these days, I'll able to take a trip with you.

  12. I feel like I've been on a trip. I pray you all arrive safely home.

  13. Anonymous6:53 PM EDT

    It is eye opening for sure. Like the rest of the posters I am grateful to be along for your many trips Bonnie.

  14. Maree mynanamaree@yahoo.com8:19 PM EDT

    Wow, Bonnie, thank you so much for sharing this amazing experience with us! How could anyone see what you've seen and then throw away even a teeny tiny sliver of those precious batiks?! Can't wait to see what you design after this awesome trip! Safe travels back home to NC! ☺

  15. I think it was Moda that had a whole long video about how their fabric is printed. It was not too long ago so I would imagine it is on their website somewhere. It is really an amazing process. I love batiks and gladly support their economy.

  16. Anonymous9:32 PM EDT

    i have no idea where i got the idea or info to do it now but back in the early to mid 70's i took some muslin and made batik fabric to make a curtain for the back door in the little house we'd just bought. of course mine wasn't as nice as what we find today but done almost the same way but in the kitchen. i made mine yellow and orange. hadn't thought about that for years until seeing your post about how it's made. how wild is that?

  17. I thoroughly enjoyed your journey! Thanks for sharing...

  18. The work is amazing. I hope I get a chance to see this some day. As you said it gives a new appreciation for the fabric as a work of art.

  19. I LOVE batiks...and it's been so interesting reading your posts and seeing your pictures. I know that the fabrics are created in a factory, but they are amazing richly-colored works of art. Here's one of my batik creations: http://www.flickr.com/photos/60397128@N08/7648153954/in/photostream


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