Getting up close and personal with art of batik

Cutout of batik prints promoting this beautiful artform outside Kuala Lumpur City Gallery at Dataran Merdeka. — Filepic

There is a place in the heart of the capital city offering batik crafting classes, where even those who are not artistically inclined can try creating batik designs from scratch.

Situated in Jalan Inai, local handicraft centre Jadi Batek Gallery offers batik-making demonstrations and classes which are drawing both local visitors and tourists eager to experience creating their own batik designs on fabric.

Jadi Batek Gallery proprietor and director Collin Yong said visitors joining the classes could use the canting (a spouted tool traditionally used in batik-making containing molten wax) to draw and colour the patterns.

They could also try out block printing using copper blocks specially ordered from Kelantan.

Jadi Batek receives an average of 6,000 visitors a month, with foreign tourists forming the bulk.

Most take part in classes as well as purchase batik products showcased in the gallery.

An hour of batik fabric (20 x 20cm) colouring class is RM35 per person and RM68 for a two-hour class if visitors want to use the canting to draw and colour their own designs.

Visitors can also create and colour their own batik designs on a 200 x 100cm pareo, with the fee depending on quality of fabric used.

Yong said his gallery had a team of 10 to guide learners and teach them to use the canting, applying the molten wax on fabric to create batik patterns.

Visitors can get guidance on the intricacies of batik, including drawing and colouring in patterns. — FilepicVisitors can get guidance on the intricacies of batik, including drawing and colouring in patterns. — Filepic

Yong, 51, also said the main purpose of having the classes was to provide visitors with an understanding that the process of making batik was far from easy.

“Our society often perceives Malaysian batik prices as relatively high compared to batik from other countries.

“What people fail to realise is that our batik artists invest a considerable amount of focus and skill in expressing their ideas and creativity onto fabrics.

“They may not fully understand that it is the intricate process that makes batik prices quite competitive.

He said batik from other countries was mostly digitally printed, making it more affordable.

Participants in the batik-making classes can also get an insight into such intricacies as colour-fixing, where the fabric is immersed in a tub filled with sodium silicate.

Once this is completed, the fabric has to be boiled in water several times and dried before it is ready to be sold.

“We hope the public will continue to appreciate the uniqueness of this culture we inherited some 200 years ago,” he told Bernama.

Jadi Batek was established by Yong’s parents in 1976 where their store was said to be the sole provider of batik clothing in the area.

Yong’s mother, a seamstress, produced eye-catching batik apparel and other products.

After nearly four decades in the business, his parents handed operations over to Yong who opened a new store at the current location, as he considered this more strategic for visitors.

“When my parents ran the business, they only sold batik clothes.

After I took over, I changed the business strategy by diversifying into other batik products such as tablecloth, decorative sculptures, scarves, neckties and bags of various sizes,” he said.

Yong plans to open branches in Selangor and Penang as well as collaborate with foreign craft activists to elevate Malaysian batik to the international stage.

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