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BATIK...from the island of the gods, fabric to free the spirit!


Published: 03/30/2009

by Barb Alexander


I specifically chose Bali, "the island of the gods", as a vacation destination because of the fabulous batik fabric that is produced there. It was February 1999 and my search for rayon batik fabric led me to Benny and Frida, who, with their two sons, run a small and very ethical batik factory specializing in high quality, artistic rayon fabrics. Benny and I agree our meeting was destiny, not chance.

I had no intention of starting a business but when I saw the sophisticated batik Benny produced, I knew I had to share it with the rest of the sewing world back home. Soon I was importing his high quality rayon batik fabric under my The Batik Butik label.

Benny insists on using only the very best quality rayon available in SE Asia. His dyes are also top quality resulting in colourfast fabrics that are closely-woven with a soft smooth surface and a flattering drape. Comfort is the hallmark of this fabric!

Ethics are very important to me and to many of my customers. After all these years of working with him, I am still impressed with how well Benny treats his workers and the level of loyalty they display to him in return. Four of the five factory workers and their families live with Benny and Frida in the family compound.

At first Benny supplied his own image designs for the fabric but soon my former business partner and I were bringing our own artwork to Bali to have exclusive fabric made for us. A few years ago I approached Diane Ericson and Lois Ericson to provide me with images for my fabric line. I worked with Lois in her studio manipulating some of her fabulous polymer stamp and embroidery card images making them suitable for batik. Diane Ericson provided me with some of her lovely stencil designs and some original artwork. In addition, I do some of the artwork myself.

Art images, like those provided by Diane and Lois, are taken to Bali where I work with Benny's son, Vicky. He scans images into his computer and with the help of Corel Draw, Photo Shop and other programs we simulate what the images would look like on a width of fabric, adjusting the image size, direction, angle and pattern repeat to suit garment proportions.

When we are pleased with the result, the images go to the "tjap maker" who, completely by hand, bends, snips and attaches strips of copper to a steel base accurately duplicating the art image. This process is extremely labour intensive. Each tjap (pronounced "chop") takes almost a week to produce. Tjap making these days is mainly performed by older craftsmen and, like many time-honoured crafts, it is in danger of becoming a "lost art".
***This is a partial excerpt from the article by the same name appearing in the Spring 2009 issue of A Needle Pulling Thread Magazine, which can be purchased by calling toll-free at 1.866.969.2678 or online at: