5 March 2009

Batik painting and pottery classes

I've recently started taking lessons in batik painting and pottery - two things I've always wanted to try my hand at. And what better place to learn than here in Malayia? Just look at the environment! The lessons are held in covered outdoor studios in lovely surroundings not far from my home. Admittedly it's pretty humid and there are a few mosquitoes biting but otherwise it's a real pleasure to be creating surrounded by nature!

The batik classes are actually held in a working studio - my teacher is Malaysian fashion designer Azizi of Zizi Design, who creates beautiful, exclusive silk garments decorated with gorgeous hand painted batik designs.

In his workshop several batik artists recreate his designs on huge lengths of silk. Fascinating to watch and learn from these experts!

Batik is a process of resist - portions of the fabric (usually silk or cotton) are coated with melted wax and the fabric is then submerged in or painted with dye. The dye does not penetrate areas of fabric that are covered with wax and they remain their original colour. The wax is applied with a traditional tool called a Tjanting. This little metal holder with spout is attached to a wooden handle and is dipped into the (very) hot melted wax. Lines are then drawn with it to create the design. The trick is to avoid getting blobs of wax on the fabric whilst keeping a steady hand and not forgetting, of course, not to touch the hot metal. Believe me this instrument is hard to control at first and potentially lethal!

First we practiced drawing lines with the Tjanting - quite tricky to keep a steady hand, and ensure that the wax is just the right temperature. Too hot and the wax flows too fast creating blobs and thick lines. Too cold and the wax won't penetrate the fabric. A bit of a challenge next - we had to come up with a design and draw it straight onto the fabric which has been stretched on a frame. The wax was then applied to our designs with much muttering about blobs, wobbly lines and blocked tjantings! A good thing we are not using pure silk for our first attempt!

At last came the magical part - colour! Juicy dyes applied with brushes which spread quickly to fill in the design. It's a little like trying to control watercolour and can be rather unpredictable! The photo shows Evelyn at work on her banana trees with brush and dye.

Here is my first attempt! Lots of very thick wax lines where they shouldn't be there (oops!), but I'm quite pleased with it - I think the dark blue background sets off the hibiscus flower and butterflies well.

Our work drying in the sunshine. Next week we will find out how to remove the wax and fix the dye before attempting another design - on real silk this time! I've brought the stretched silk home so that I can prepare for the lesson in advance and hope to show you the design in due course.

Here I am in the pottery studio! I've spent two lessons learning how to prepare the clay and how to create basic pinch pots. Not very exciting, but you've got to start somewhere! Kneading the clay is pretty hot work and I'm finding new muscles in my arms! As for the pinch pots, well, I have to say that my first attempts at these little pots are pretty awful, but my pottery teacher Mr Lam is very encouraging - so maybe there's hope yet! Mr Lam, by the way, is also a very talented oil painter who paints colourful nostalgic scenes of Malaysian life in the 1950's and 60's. I hope to show you some of his work in my next post.


  1. Oh my goodness, you are so lucky! Such a beautiful setting, and your batik is absolutely gorgeous! (Personally, I think it's the best of the bunch.) The colors are rich and deep, and the flower and butterflies are regal. Reminds me of kimono fabric. That must be such a tough art. I have new respect for batik artists now. I've always wanted to try the wax resist method on eggs, but I've never been brave enough to try. And the pottery! Looks like it was tons of fun. Can't wait to see all the results next time. Fabulous, fabulous!

  2. OH this looks like fun! and in such a beautiful surrounding. Wish I could partake in these classes too. I have always to learn pottery. And Batik painting is beautiful! Looks like you are doing a job there Caroline with your piece. Love your necklace and apron too....have a nice weekend:)

  3. This looks like SO much fun! I found you through IF. Even though you didn't post it, the batik has to be one of the most intricate artisitc processes...Your photos would have fit this week's theme.

  4. oh that is so amazing and excellent, and I am jealous! I love love love taking classes like that, and when I was 7 months pregnant I took a pottery on the wheel class. BIG mistake, but hang in there with thse little pinch pots, after they are glazed and fired I bet they will look wonderful, even with wobbly bits!

  5. Hi Caroline!

    You did beautiful work! I would love to learn too. Where is this Batik lesson you took? I would like to learn too. I took a basic batik lesson once but it was only the coloring part. Please reply. Thanks!

  6. This place is known as MyBatik! It's located at Persiaran Ritchie, Jalan Ritchie. This place is as lovely as how the pictures depict. You can learn basic or advanced batik painting classes here, there are packages provided. Go to www.mybatik.org.my for further informarion. This place opens daily from 9 am to 5 pm.

  7. Hi Caroline, can you let me know how to get in touch with the pottery classes? I noticed that your post was dated March 2009 hence am not sure if they are still ongoing but would love to check it out. Many thanks!

    1. Hello Elaine - Persiaran Ritchie, Jalan Ritchie in KL. I have no idea whether classes are still held there, sorry!

  8. I brought my wife and kids to KL last month and we happen to drop by at a batik place after shopping at KLCC. Both my sons are extremely active and can never sit still at one spot for too long. I brought them to mybatik shop and what a turn of events! They asked me again and again to let them try batik so I did. Surprisingly, they managed to sit still the entire time during the batik painting. Well, they're only 10 and 13 years old but I was quite amazed that they drew such wonderful batik paintings! I would strongly suggest parents to bring their kids over there to express their creativity! Here is the shop's website I got from the staff www.mybatik.com Oh, and don’t forget to try their delicious food! My youngest daughter got a free cup of babycino while we got free Danish from the cafĂ© there, http://greentomatocafe.com.my/ Do visit!


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