Gahara Batik, the Process

Not many people understand and appreciate the workmanship and art form of batik. At Gahara, our artistry begins with creating the motif. Many of ours are inspired by wood carvings which predominated in Kelantan and Southern Thailand during the Langkasuka period, namely in palaces and distinguished homes and buildings that played a role in signifying cultural diversity, nobility and social status. Focusing on a single composition of a woodcarving, a new design will be created by one of our artists. The design will then be handed to another artist to create the copper block or mold. Gahara designs predominantly use stamping than chanting. It does not rule out the possibilities of other ways to create designs but we seek a signature in block printing to show its multifaceted beauty.

Credit to: Malaysian Craft Council, Pinography & Permatang Pauh Women Project

At Gahara, the length of fabric that the batik maker can work with is 2-5 meters. The fabric will be stretched out on a wooden frame like a painting and worked on horizontally. Composition planning will determine whether stamping or coloring will be the starting point. The wax may be painted on a white or colored fabric using a chanting or brush or it may be stamped onto the fabric using a copper stamp dipped in melted wax. The fabric is then dyed, and the areas that have been waxed will not be penetrable by the dye. The process can be repeated many times to get a multicolored result. Any irregularities or residual wax in the garments portrays the uniqueness of this handmade product and can increase its value. 

The soaked fabric is then boiled in water and soda ash, and dried sufficiently. 

It must be noted as well that the weather plays a critical role in batik. The weather determines the production length as the rainy season may impinge on its completion date and also affect color absorption. The hot, dry season usually hike batik production in the east coast areas of Malaysia. Once the fabric is ready, it is available for sale. 

Natasha MH is a speaker, trainer and educator in performative arts and creative communications. Currently the CEO of Gahara she can be contacted at [email protected]

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