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The Art of Batik
Art isn’t necessarily confined to one media, one style, or even creating objects that can be pointed to and called “art”. A spirit of artistic creation can infuse every aspect of a person’s being. Art can become a consuming passion that leads us down self destructive paths just to create in a certain way. Art can obliterate time and make the act of creation all consuming. Art can just be a pleasant way to pass the hours on the long journey of life. Art can give expression to the things that dwell in our hearts and minds. The inner world that speaks to us through our dreams can sometimes be reflected outward through the things we create with our hands, evoke with our voice, or play on a musical instrument. It can save us from the madness that the pleasure and pain of life brings, or it can be the madness that drives us to our demise. Art can illuminate the ineffable and it can also obscure that which we cannot bear to face. Art can give form or expression to that for which no words exist, or will ever be articulated to exist. Art can bare the soul to any one capable of seeing it, and it can hopelessly confuse the closed mind. To some, art is a frivolous waste of time, and to others it is the spice of life. Art; sacred, profane, and all points in between, is in the eyes of the beholder, and there really is no accounting for another’s taste.
I’ve always liked to do creative things with my hands. Growing up I had art classes like most kids (hopefully), and my teachers had us use all sort of different mediums to “do” art. So I worked with pencils, crayons, charcoal, ink, markers, oil paints, acrylic paints, watercolors, clay, wood, metal, and in high school, even batik once. Into my early adulthood I still wasn’t sure what physical medium worked best for me. Then I decided to try batik again.
I had just done a couple of batiks, actually just using paint brushes to apply the wax, and the results were good but very painstaking, when serendipity came into my life. A kindly Indian man (who’s name I couldn’t hope to remember) was conducting a few kids batik workshops in the art classroom of the PlS.U. Hub, and he also was doing one class that was open to adults. I only knew about the class because my friend Samantha happened to be working there over the summer break and she clued me in. So I attended the class and it changed my life. We were given a piece of cloth, told to draw up a design, and given sets of colors that we could work with. I created a flaming phoenix in white, yellow, red, & burgundy. He had the most amazing tools. I had to find out if he knew where I could purchase these tools. He told me that he had been using them for around 11 years, that they were wrapped with braided human hair, and that they were made by a friend of his. He told me his friend lived in Seattle now and he gave me his name and address. He had no idea if his friend could or would make any tools for me because he didn’t think he had made any since his own were made. So I wrote to this other gentle man (whose name I also have no idea what it could be), explaining how I had met his friend, used his tools, had an ardent interest in batik and was interested in trying to obtain a set off tools like he made for his friend. I didn’t receive a return call, or any sign that he might respond to me for perhaps as much as 2 months. Then a package post marked from Seattle arrived at my doorstep. In it were 6 batik tools of various sizes, hand crafted for me, with a note to enjoy the tools, and to please just send him $50 for the them. It was an amazing act of random kindness, made even greater to me when a year or so later I had to rebuild a few of the tools and I realized how much time must have gone into creating them in the first place.
The actions of someone I would never meet and those tools changed my life. I entered an emotional rough patch towards the end of my college studies, and batik was a force in my life that kept me moving forward when nothing else did. It quickly became abundantly clear to me that batik really was my art medium. Applying hot liquid wax onto fabric is kind of tricky, and with these tools also kind of painful to work with as well. I had to plan and scheme my way through the steps it took to realize my designs. Still, I found myself able to sketch and draw using wax with confidence and precision. When it came to using the dyes, again I was working with a liquid medium, and something about it really clicked with me. Perhaps it is because I am very much a Scorpio and very much a water person, and these liquid mediums fit comfortably with my nature. For years I experimented and played, mostly creating batik shirts as I honed my craft. I rebuilt my tools a few times over and eventually got into the shop and crafted some new ones for myself.
I wish I had more pictures to share of my past work, but the bulk of this work was done before I had a digital camera, and the environmentalist in me was largely opposed to using the chemicals involved developing photographs. The spiritualist in me liked to live in the moment and let my creations move on into the world and speak for themselves. This website is for me to share “art” that I created in the past and to push me toward the batiks that I will create in the future. I’ve done a great deal of construction work in the last decade, which has further refined my ability to craft physical objects. I have also come to realize that it is time to start making batik tools to pass onto other souls and spirits out there on this mad planet we call the earth. In the not too distant future, I will begin making available some excellent batik tools the likes of which I can’t find anyone making available at any price. My next round of work will be on Romanian hemp fabric that came from my work with my compatriots at Ecolution. Until then I invite you to check out images of batiks I have made in the past, until I have images of new work to share. Any comments that you might have are most welcome. If anyone out there has pictures of any of my creations, especially being worn, please send them my way. Blessed Be.
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