Learn to Draw > Applying batik wax

For the application of the wax, the cloth should be held stretched on a frame so that the wax does not stick to anything underneath. When the cloth is ironed, care must be taken not to pull it out of shape, or the subsequent tracings will not fit over the design already printed.

The tjanting filled with wax is best warmed in a water bath. (It is better to have several tjantings with spouts of different breadths, or work is very slow when there are broad lines to be waxed.) As in sgraffito we begin with the outlines and fill in the larger areas afterwards. Techniques of working vary, depending on whether the artist needs to support his arm to steady it or not. For filling in the larger areas a flat bristle brush is used to spread the hot wax.

When all the lines and surfaces are sufficiently waxed we prepare the dye carefully in a vat, according to the maker's directions. It is important that a vat be chosen large enough to give ample room to spread the cloth. If it is too small the cloth will have to be crumpled too much, which will produce more cracks in the wax than is desirable. If the vat is large the artist can determine the amount of wax he wants to crackle. After dyeing and drying, the cloth is ironed between thick layers of absorbent paper.



The iron should not be hotter than is necessary to melt the wax, and the paper should be changed frequently. Ironing should be continued until there is not a trace of wax left to be absorbed by the paper. This should be watched carefully, as specks of wax left in the cloth can spoil the whole effect of the subsequent dyeings, leaving ugly an'd quite permanent marks.

The work is made much easier if the design is so arranged that wax has only to be added and none removed between the dips. Then the wax will have to be ironed out only once, at the end.

It may happen, if the cloth is very thick or if the wax is too thinly applied or not warm enough, that the wax does not penetrate clear through the cloth fibers so that the back of the cloth takes the dye. To avoid this, a wax re.sist can be put on the back as well as the front, or, as is done by the sculptor doing fine modeling in plaster, spatulas can be heated in boiling water, dried and rubbed over the back of the cloth. This will melt the wax once more so that the cloth can absorb it.

The finished wall hanging looks best if enough cloth has been left to make loops at the top and a fringe at the bottom. It deserves a proper finish after so much work has been put into it. The most decorative effect is to hang the loops over a bamboo pole or rod of wrought iron, which, of course, should be handwrought.

Next: Printing

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