ant to try your hand at creating your own batik designs from scratch even if you are not artistically inclined?
One need not go to Kelantan or Terengganu to do this as there is a place in the heart of the capital city offering batik crafting classes to the public.
Situated at Jalan Inai, near the bustling Jalan Bukit Bintang area here, local handicraft centre Jadi Batek offers, among others, interactive activities such as batik-making demonstrations and classes, which are drawing both local visitors and tourists eager to savour the unique experience of creating their own batik designs on fabric.
Tourists from home and abroad do not miss the opportunity to learn batik painting through the classes offered.
According to Jadi Batek Gallery Sdn Bhd proprietor and director Collin Yong, visitors joining the batik classes can use the canting (a spouted tool traditionally used in batik making) to draw and colour the patterns or try out the block printing technique using copper blocks specially ordered from Kelantan.
“The batik classes are among the activities visitors can enjoy when they come to our centre,” he told Bernama in a recent interview, adding that they can take their artworks home as mementoes or as gifts for their loved ones or friends.
NOT AN EASY TASK
Jadi Batek receives an average of 6,000 visitors a month, with foreign tourists forming the bulk. Most of them participate in the batik classes as well as purchase batik products showcased in the gallery.
The fee for a one-hour batik fabric (20 x 20 cm) colouring class is RM35 per person; the fee is RM68 for a two-hour class if visitors want to use the canting to draw and colour their own designs.
Visitors can also join a class to create and colour their own batik designs on a 200 x 100 cm pareo (a clothing item that is wrapped around the waist or used as a shawl), with the fees depending on the quality of the fabric used. It is about RM300 for cotton fabric and RM400 to RM500 for silk and each session lasts four to five hours.
Yong said his gallery has a team of 10 to guide the learners as well as teach them to use the canting considering it has to be handled with care as it contains molten wax which is applied on the fabric to create batik patterns.
There is also a method of making batik using copper blocks at Jadi Batek.
He said children are also encouraged to participate in the classes, under the supervision of their parents, as it is not only an enjoyable activity but also helps to improve their gross motor skills and enhance their creativity.
Yong, 51, also said the main purpose of having batik-making classes is to provide visitors with an understanding that the process of making batik is far from easy.
“Our society often perceives Malaysian batik prices as relatively high compared to batik from other countries.
“What people fail to realise is that our batik artists invest a considerable amount of focus and skill in expressing their ideas and creativity onto fabrics. They may not fully understand that it is the intricate process that makes batik prices quite competitive. It must also be understood that batik from other countries is mostly digitally printed, making it more affordable,” he explained.
Those participating in the classes at Jadi Batek do get an insight into the intricacies of the batik-making process. For instance, when using the canting, they are shown how important it is to apply the wax on the outlines of the patterns without any interruption. This is to prevent colours applied during the dyeing process from seeping out and ruining the artwork.
Even the selection of colours for the patterns cannot be done arbitrarily as they would need to match buyers’ preferences as well as look bright and vibrant to reflect the beauty of Malaysia’s characteristic nature-inspired batik motifs.
Yong said visitors can also see firsthand how the colour-fixing process – for the purpose of retaining the original colours of the fabric – is carried out by immersing the batik fabric in a special tub filled with sodium silicate. Once this is completed, the fabric has to be boiled in water several times and dried before it is ready to be sold.
“The batik-making process is, indeed, an intricate one and we hope the public will continue to appreciate the uniqueness of this culture we inherited some 200 years ago,” he added.
Sharing the history of Jadi Batek, Yong said it was established by his parents in 1976. Their store, which was located at Jalan Sultan Ismail here, was said to be the sole provider of batik clothing in the area at that time.
He said his parents ventured into the batik business as they saw its potential – the number of tourists visiting Malaysia was beginning to increase then and they showed interest in buying local handicrafts including batik products. Not only that, with the opening of the casino in Genting Highlands which required its male patrons to wear batik, the demand for batik grew bigger.
“My parents saw the opportunity and seized it,” Yong said, adding that his mother happened to be a seamstress and could produce eye-catching batik apparel and other products.
After nearly four decades in the business, his parents handed it over to Yong who opened a new store at the current location which he considered more strategic for visitors.
“When my parents ran the business, they only sold batik clothes. After I took over, I changed the business strategy by diversifying into other batik products such as tablecloth, decorative sculptures, scarves, neckties and bags of different sizes,” he said, adding that he plans to open branches in Selangor and Penang and collaborate with foreign craft activists to elevate Malaysian batik to the international stage.
Translated by Rema Nambiar