On a rainy Sunday morning, five of us set off for Grennan Mill Craft School, Thomastown, Kilkenny for a day-long batik workshop. Aside from some dabbling with batik in school, none of us had any experience with the craft.
The Grennnan Mill Craft School is a wonderful space for a wide range of crafts; the room we were in was a dedicated batik workshop so was well equipped with all the necessary tools and equipment. Our teacher was Tunde Toth, who started off by giving us the history of batik and showing us some examples.
Then it was over to us. We were tasked with creating a design featuring both lines and shapes. The nature of batik is layers – building up layers of wax and colour to create a final piece packed with pattern and colour.
We were shown how to use the various tools – from paintbrushes to apply the was, to a dedicated batik tool called a tjanting tool with a fine spout through which we could pour the wax onto our fabric in neat lines and handmade copper stamps created by students of the craft school.
Tunde showed us how to best use all three tools, by immersing them in hot wax until they were sufficiently coated. We were then let loose with the tools, creating our own masterpieces.
I’m not going to lie, there’s a lot more to batik than we initially thought. Tunde was quick to tell us that while it would be easy to draw lines with the wax, we would then simply be drawing, and there’s more to batik than that. And she was right. We embraced the use of shapes and lines, combining all three tools to build up a multi-layered piece.
After each layer of wax and dye, the fabric needed to dry sufficiently so that we could move on to the next layer. We indulged in some multi-tasking, working on two pieces at the same time. This meant that at the end of the day, we ended up with two works of art – one was limited to three colours, while the other used as many colours as we wanted.
It was wonderful to see everyone’s pieces all displayed at the end of the day. All were unique and vibrant, and perfectly showcased the different techniques we’d learned during the day.
Although there are a lot of steps, and patience, involved in batik, it’s a rewarding craft with endless possibilities. A couple of us have since been bitten by the batik bug and are already planning to buy some paraffin wax pellets.