Wax resist dyeing technique in fabric has existed a long time. Beginning in Egypt about 300 BCE, then in 7th Century China, in India, Japan and several African countries. In Indonesia, batik became a major cultural and artistic expression, especially in Java. Perhaps the technique came from South Asia starting in the 6th Century, or perhaps Indonesian batik is an old tradition actually native to regions such as Celebes, Lesser Sunda, and Papua. It has been proposed that a batik tool, the canting, was invented in Java around the 12th Century.
Hand drawn batik was first to develop and is known today as batik tulis ("written"). Increased demand in recent times brought about a hand block-printing method known as batik cap by the invention of the copper block cap developed by the Javanese in the 20th century. There is also batik that uses a cap and then finishes detailing the piece with the tulis technique. By the late 20th Century commercial methods for batik print had developed.
Batik is in its essence painting or drawing. The instrument used to create the picture is the canting which is a small copper container that can be filled with wax, with a handle and a spout. This painted design or motif is influenced by its geographical location, the way of life in that region, the religion, customs and traditions in that region, the natural environment, contact with other batik-making areas. Batik can be viewed from several vantages: the process, the quality of the batik, the different motifs and the colors.(N.S,Djoemena, 1990). The individual Batik descriptions will attempt to describe these.
Traditional Batik cloth uses the manual wax-resist dyeing technique. In old Javanese batik, especially from Central Java, the motifs of traditional court batik had symbolic meanings. Some designs were restricted so that certain motifs could only be worn by royalty and others had different proscriptions. In contrast, the colors of pesisir batik, from the north coast of Java, is especially vibrant, and it shows a strong influence of the Coastal Chinese as well the Arabs and the Dutch.
The batik process applies melted wax to cloth before being dipped in dye. A mixture of beeswax and paraffin wax is common, allowing for the characteristic cracking effect of batik. The wax acts as a resist and where the wax has seeped through the fabric, the dye will not take. The fabric is then dried and the wax removed. More colors in the batik require additional steps of dyeing, drying and waxing. After the last dyeing it is boiled in water to dissolve the wax, or ironed between newspapers to absorb the wax and reveal the deep rich colors and the fine crinkle lines that give batik its character.
In the finest work, batik tulis, the application of wax with a canting is still done with great care and takes a long time. Depending on the quality of the art work, dyes, and fabric, the finest batik tulis halus cloth can cost several thousand dollars, reflecting the fact that it probably took several months to make.
By block printing the wax onto the fabric, it becomes possible to more quickly produce designs and intricate patterns than one could possibly do by using a canting. It also becomes more affordable to many people.
Javanese keraton ("court") Batik, also called inland batik, is the oldest batik tradition known in Java. This batik has earth colors such as black, brown, and dark yellow. Usually Yogya Batik has white as the background color. The two keratonan in central Java are actively preserving and fostering their batik traditions: Batik in the city of Solo, previously called Surakarta; and traditional Yogya batik by the Yogyakarta court.
North Coast Batik or Pesisir Batik is created and produced by several areas on the northern coast of Java. Because of trading, the North Coast batik tradition was more open to foreign influences in textile design, coloring, and motifs, in contrast to inland batik which was relatively independent of outside influences. Hence, North Coast batik uses such Chinese and European motifs as clouds and birds, and floral patterns. Significant centers are Pekalongan, Cirebon, Lasem, Tuban and Madura. (wiki)
Jambi Batik was influenced by the northern coastal areas of Java: Cirebon, Lasem, Tuban, and Madura. Garut Batik is produced by Sundanese people in the Garut district of West Java. Balinese Batik is more recent being stimulated by the 20th Century tourism. In addition to the traditional techniques such as 'tulis and 'cap', batik painting is often combined with tie-dye technique.
In Indonesia, traditionally, batik was sold in 2.25-meter lengths used for kain panjang or sarong for kebaya dress. It can also be worn by wrapping it around the body, or made into a hat known as blangkon. Infants are carried in batik slings decorated with symbols designed to bring the child luck. Certain batik designs are reserved for brides and bridegrooms, as well as their families. The dead are shrouded in funerary batik. Other designs are reserved for royalty. In the past a person's rank could be determined by the pattern of the batik he or she wore.
Batik garments play a central role in certain rituals, such as the ceremonial casting of royal batik into a volcano. In the Javanese naloni mitoni "first pregnancy" ceremony, the mother-to-be is wrapped in seven layers of batik, wishing her good things. Batik is also prominent in the tedak siten ceremony when a child touches the earth for the first time. Batik is also part of the labuhan ceremony when people gather at a beach to throw their problems away into the sea. (wikipedia).