My role on April’s trip to Swaziland with Ace Camps was to teach the group of travellers about pattern, and to give them an intro to the principles behind designing for batik. They came up with some really, really nice designs (see below), which set us all up nicely for the three subsequent days we spent elbow-deep in wax and dye, learning how to batik at Baobab Batik.
Although I was teaching on the Ace Camp, I actually had a very rudimentary notions about batik, which meant that I arrived at Baobab Batik (a glorious drive through puddles and pineapple fields!) full of ideas… but as soon as I realised how TRICKY is is to paint wax accurately, under the watchful eye of the lovely Sebenzile, and how LABOUR INTENSIVE the multiple dying process is, I had to change my design ideas radically.
Here’s a little step-by-step of an extremely pared back design that shows how it all works:
- My overly elaborate sketches and plans had to change when I first started trying to paint on fabric with a brush and hot wax. It’s really difficult!
- Sebenzile, on the other hand, makes it all look easy as she brushes on the wax, tautly pinned over a beer box.
- My pencilled shapes are thickly covered with wax, which penetrates all the way through the fabric, in order to protect the base colour from the dye
- Cold dye is sponged onto the fabric in the dye house and hung up to dry. As this is a final dye, it has to cure for a period before the wax is washed out.
- I’m kicking myself for not having photographed the process of boiling the fabric to get the wax out. I do, however, have this lovely pic of Sebenzile kindly ironing my washed-and-dried design.
- Ta dah! The end result is my very simple, but I think, rather effective, batik design.
I’m dyeing to do more batik soon (get the pun?), but next time I go, I’ll be visiting the Kingdom of eSwatini, because just days after we left the country, the king changed its name!