Friday, June 7, 2013

Bali Batik

In Bali, we got sucked into exactly the kind of look-and-buy “workshop” tour that we hoped to avoid.  We had rented a tiny villa outside Ubud—8 minutes outside, by car, but about 45 minutes on foot.  We had prearranged a transfer from the airport to the villa through the owner, and the driver lived nearby, and was available for day trips, or just a drive into town.  The driver seemed great, and after he dropped us off, we arranged a day trip for the next day, to see some of the sights around Ubud.  We had an idea of what that was going to be like; it did not overlap much with his idea of what it would be like, and his fluency in English seemed to decline whenever we were trying to communicate that we weren’t interested in buying paintings, sculptures, furniture, etc.  Our first stop was at a painting factory, where the demonstration portion was essentially paint by the number.  After walking around the gallery in horrified stupor, we tried again to explain what we wanted to do.  Our next stop was at a bird and reptile park, which sounded good, but wasn’t—imagine a petting zoo from the early 70s.  We won’t dignify it with any more description.  We had a quick conference together on how we’d turn the day around, and went back to the driver, resolute.  David has since ridden on a donkey, and the struggle for directional control is not that dissimilar—if you are persistent, vigilant, and quick to react, you can mostly go where you want, at the speed you want.  Tour guides don’t have ears that rotate towards the tasty greens—or passing donkey flesh--they want to chew on, so that makes them a little harder to anticipate than donkeys.
However, we did get to see a batik fabric workshop that we really were interested in.  Aside from our stop at a grocery store, it was the only redeeming factor in his tour. 
Handmade batik is beautiful; it was neat to see the process in person:
After the initial design is sketched on blank fabric, some portions of the design are painted in wax with a small wax cup with a nozzle.  The wax is a blend of beeswax and paraffin, which give the wax both a supple adherence to the cloth, preventing dye from soaking in where applied, while remaining slightly brittle, and cracking, which allows some dye through, and gives batik its unique appearance.  Layers of dye and wax are built up, and when the last dye has been applied, the wax is either washed out with a solvent, or ironed between sheets of paper to draw it (mostly) out.
They also used wax stamps to apply repeating patterns; this is much faster than hand-painting, and the resulting fabric is less expensive, though still quite pretty.
Most of the fabric was then made into garments by a team of seamstresses.  There was a small selection of uncut fabric as well.  There were three fewer pieces after we visited.
20130211_180108_SGP4_2013-02-11 18.01.08
We’ve said over and over again that we don’t buy things, that we can’t buy things, but fabric tends to be one of those things you can fit in, and it’s generally not that expensive. We’ve since shipped this back along with a regular shipment home, so we’re not still carrying them, and some of them are gifts for other people as well.
After this excursion we decided to see the area around Ubud at a more leisurely pace, on our own two feet.  We got used to that 45 minute walk into Ubud.