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.