Two Days At Batik Jolawe

Batik has a long and rich heritage on the island of Java.

Tools for making batik, including canting, different types of wax, and natural dye-making materials

Tools for making batik

We spent two days with Dedi Perwadi and his wife  Wineng of Batik Jolawe, where they make batik cloth using traditional methods of hand drawing with wax and dying with natural materials.

Different types of wax and materials for making natural dyes

Different types of wax and materials for making natural dyes

Batik is made by applying wax to a cloth in a particular pattern, then dying the cloth. The wax prevents the dye from reaching the cloth, so when the wax is washed away it leaves behind the pattern on the cloth.

Learning how to use the canting, the tool for applying the wax

Learning how to use the canting, the tool for applying the wax

canting is used to apply wax to the cloth. It is a small tool with a wooden or bamboo handle. At the end of it is a small reservoir for the hot wax, and a spout for slowly dripping or pouring the wax onto the cloth.

Perfecting my canting methodology. It was a pretty steep learning curve to not accidentally leave gobs of wax all over the fabric.

Perfecting my canting methodology. It was a pretty steep learning curve to not accidentally leave gobs of wax all over the fabric.

Every time you want to add a new color to your batik, you must re-apply the wax to all of the areas you do not want to color. It is a detailed and painstaking process.

A display of the different methods of dying batik

A display of the different methods of dying batik

It’s a deceptively simple process. Anyone can do it, but it takes a real artist to draw masterfully with the canting and understand all the nuances of the dyes.

Hugo perfects his skill with the canting. Don't worry, this pot of wax was not hot!

Hugo perfects his skill with the canting. Don’t worry, this pot of wax was not hot!

The first day, I wasn’t very satisfied with my work. I thought there would be more contrast in the dyes I chose.

You can see the fish, but unless you look very close, the details are lost

You can see the fish, but unless you look very close, the details are lost

So I came back again a second day to re-apply the wax and try a new dye.

Meanwhile, Hugo got to do a bit of painting himself. He calls it "a bunch of eels."

Meanwhile, Hugo got to do a bit of painting himself. He calls it “a bunch of eels.”

There was also a cat to play with, so he was pretty happy.

The cat was not interested in his overtures of friendship

The cat was not interested in his overtures of friendship

I’m pretty sure my skills improved in the second day. I only burned myself with hot wax once, and the end result was much,  much better.

I think I'll turn it into a pillow for Hugo's room at home. Next step: learn to sew!

I think I’ll turn it into a pillow for Hugo’s room at home. Next step: learn to sew!

If you are interested in visiting Batik Jolawe, check out their website here. There is a long entry on February 28th about our group’s visit.

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Taman Sari Water Palace

When I visited Yogyakarta in 2011, I didn’t have a chance to go to Taman Sari, a site that I first read about on Atlas Obscura.

Side note: Atlas Obscura is a fascinating website to read about weird and wonderful places to visit around the world. You’ll find yourself making long mental lists of where to visit in your next holiday.

ANYWAYS…

Taman Sari is the former garden and bathing house of the Sultan, built in the mid-18th century.

The (former)  main gate to the complex.  Now visitors enter through what used to be a side gate.

The (former) main gate to the complex. Now visitors enter through what used to be a side gate.

The complex used to be in the middle of an artificial lake, which contained several man-made islands reachable via underwater tunnels.

The lake has since been drained, and now there is a residential neighborhood surrounding what remains of Taman Sari.

Entering the gate leading to one of the bathing areas.

Entering the gate leading to one of the bathing areas.

While the lake is no longer there, the tunnels are still accessible and open to visitors. I was most excited to see the underground Mosque and the MC Escher-esque stairs described in the Atlas Obscura article. And judging by how much Hugo loved exploring the tunnels at Wat U Mong, I was pretty sure he’d love it, too.

Here’s where our visit got a little disappointing:

Inside one of the bathing areas. Notice the brown murky water?

Inside one of the bathing areas. Notice the brown murky water?

The whole site is undergoing some major restoration work, which means the pools have been drained and the tunnels are closed to visitors. According to my guide, they will be open again in March not long after we leave Yogyakarta. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to return to Yogyakarta again!

Leaving Taman Sari feeling a little let down, we hopped into a becak (a three-wheeled cycle taxi) for a short tour of the neighborhood.

Hugo cautiously accepts his first becak experience

Hugo cautiously accepts his first becak experience

The neighborhood surrounding Taman Sari is home to many workshops for traditional arts and crafts. We saw some batik artists at work:

Applying the first coat of wax

Applying the first coat of wax

Some wayang (Indonesian shadow puppets):

There was incredible detail on this particular panel

There was incredible detail on this particular panel

And some marionettes:

These are characters from the Ramayana story

These are characters from the Ramayana story

After a long day out, our becak returned us to the Taman Sari gate to go home.

Until next time, Taman Sari. Some day you will show me your underground secrets.

Until next time, Taman Sari. Some day you will show me your underground secrets.