Although I knew that Java is in fact the heartland and center of production of all forms of Batik, I decided to go study in neighboring Bali where I had never been. I spent a year learning everything I could about this ancient craft.


Here is a 1 minute stop motion animation of a procession in Bali (notice all the batik)

They say that we cannot escape our fate so, as luck would have it one of my neighbors was a batik fanatic. So, I was able to begin learning the basics of this craft even before starting classes at school. We formed a small group who would meet twice a week as a supplement to the more formal classroom setting.

When I say that my neighbor was a Batik fanatic I mean that in the best way. Master Miki is so dedicated to sharing the art of Batik, that he not only produces many beautiful Batik paintings himself but is a avid teacher offering courses to anyone who is at all interested.

Miki became the guru for our Batik group which we named “Asing Sing Anai” which in Javanese means “strange foreigners” but in Balinese means  “strange but not foreign”

Months passed in this way…alternately experimenting in this informal setting and learning the more traditional patterns at school until our works were completed and it was time to share with the world.


The exhibition named ” Mahot Sawah Selaksa Karya ” took place in Master Miki’s home town of Surabaya (East Java), specifically in the neighbourhood of Jagir.

The week long art show is designed to make art accessible to those who would not normally have access.

Although Batik is still practiced all over Java, Surabaya is an industrialized town which has largely forgotten its crafty past.

The art show was in its second year and was a great success with coverage in the local mass media.  It will likely  continue to grow in the coming years…

so if you find yourself in Surabaya and have already checked out the weekly shadow puppet plays …you know where to go (Mahotsawa Salakasa Karya Jagir).


Mystical Javanese shadow puppets are probably even older than Batik and very much part of the religious and cultural life of the Javanese.

Some say these performances date back to prehistoric initiation rituals.

It is also said that the original motifs for Batik were borrowed from the puppets themselves.

Wayang Golek (wooden puupets) also like to wear batik.



Like most people today Miki usually uses chemical dyes which allow certain freedoms. It is faster cheaper and easier to use.

I was determined to learn about natural or organic dyes so that I wouldn’t have to be polluting my water source when I don’t have to. After the week long exhibition in Surabaya I returned to Bali to continue attending school. There are a few people in Bali who use natural dyes as the Balinese are way more into weaving than they are into Batik.

So I drove my motor bike the two hours through the winding roads of Bali to find Pak Hendri Suprapto giving his workshop in Buleleng to some local weavers who were wanting to dye their threads using natural dyes.

Pak Hendry is a legendary pioneer of natural dyes. I still had one Batik painting which I hadn’t dyed yet, so I wanted to try the natural stuff.


The exact origin of  Batik is unclear. It is practiced in Egypt, India, China and West Africa. It is however 18th century Javanese Batik which is by far the most refined and elaborate.

The word Batik itself is Javanese and means to make dots.

Many of the motifs have symbolic meaning attached to them which would dictate who and where any given pattern would be worn. For example the Parang design pictured here, was for a long time, reserved for those belonging to the royal court of Yogyakarta. The larger the motif, the higher ranked is the wearer.


Another example is the ngetik bunga pattern which would be worn to a wedding celebration and worn by the couples’ parents. Nowadays these meanings are not strictly adhered to. It is very common to see anyone at all sporting giant Parang pattern for example.

Because of the extremely labour intensive nature of Batik, until faster methods of production (batik cap and chemical colors) were developed, Batik was only worn for ceremonial purposes, or (and) by royalty.

There is today, renewed interest in the traditional methods of dying batik – namely with plant matter. This is in large part thanks to Batik-Bixa