The Ancient Technique of Batik

Rosellas_250The ancient technique of Batik is where the artist draws the design using hot wax. I worked for three days with an expert batik artist in Asia and I was amazed that he removed the wax using acid. I would be terrified that the acid would eat into my silk.

Consequently for many years I decided not to experiment with Batik and only commenced silk painting when I discovered gutta. However, many silk artists do use Batik in a simpler format than what the Asian artist used.

It seems to me that the real problem with using wax, is that it has to be removed. The artist in Asia used to remove wax layers between colours and I have always found this method of working ‘backwards’ a problem; my brain simply does not equate!

If you want to use wax and experiment, then please do so and don’t let my comments stop you. I understand that soy wax is much easier to remove than bees wax or other forms of wax. Some folk steam the silk to remove the wax, after first wrapping it in paper. About three days after steaming, the silk is placed in a bowl of hot water which has synthrapol added to it and the rest of the wax comes away.

However, the more traditional method of removing the wax is to iron it off between sheets of newsprint. I personally find this method most off-putting! Then, as normal, the silk is rolled up and steamed to set the dye. No doubt, the hot steam would remove the last traces of the wax.

I will stick to gutta! You can learn how to use gutta by joining the online Silk Painting course.

Tips and Hints

If possible, acquire a professional steamer. It is much easier to use and the results are always the same. I have never had a single problem using mine. You simply roll your silk over a stick, onto your butchers paper (I add a piece of unpainted silk to the surface of my painting on the side where the gutta is, so that it will not stick to the paper) then sit in the steamer and steam for a couple of hours. You can steam a number of pieces of silk at the same time. If my silk is too wide for the steamer, I fold one side over with paper and silk between it and the rest of the painting. I use a horizontal steamer as shown below.


This video shows an artist using hot wax in a Tjantin (Canting) tool (the artist is holding a piece of folded paper to catch any drips) and drawing some really intricate patterns.


These videos are used under the You Tube Public Licence agreement