Batik Creations are the Fabric of Their Lives
A Ban
GuiZhou, China
Fabric Decoration

Nestled in a valley beside a rushing stream, deep in the mountains of southern Guizhou, you may find the home of A Ban. She may not be at her house in rice harvest season, instead she will be toiling to bring in the autumn crop of rice from the paddies surrounding her house. But when she returns, or in the quiet times between planting and harvesting, you may find her creating the most exquisite batik designs on deep-indigo blue dyed cloth. She gathers woad in the woods nearby and brews the traditional colour made famous by the Miao people. You can smell the herbal aroma when you enter her home. Then using age-old tools handed down from her grandmother she laboriously uses melted beeswax to draw on cotton cloth the motifs of the Miao - the golden pheasant, dragons, butterflies and fish that will later be made into jackets, scarves, skirts and bags worn every day by the women of the mountains. Sitting next to her, I am scarcely able to breathe for fear I will interrupt the flow of her creation. Her inspiration does not just come from her ideas, but from the deep well of myths, beliefs, rituals and history of her life and people. The techniques and skills she displays have made A Ban nationally famous, but master artists like her are a diminishing group and the future of their artistry is becoming uncertain.

Recognising that the Miao batik artists required wider recognition and support, Man Li moved to nearby town Dan Zhai and began one of the most prestigious batik art workshops in China. Under her wing are up to fifty talented Miao women, producing marvellous work in a sheltered environment. Ms Yang, holds the wax knife dipped in wax to draw, and as I follow her I see the dots, the strokes are very mature and skilful. Only then do I notice she lost her right hand in an accident, and I hear how she had to re-learn and perfect her painting skills all over again with her left hand. Another, although not able to walk, will touch you as you see her hand and heart are so rich with creativity. When these women need to re-connect with the spirit of their art, they sing traditional Miao songs together, humming and echoing the old scripts. Man Li is passionate and proud of what she and her team have achieved and has confidence in the bright future of the collective she has established.

Batik, or beeswax resist dyeing of fabric, is an ancient art form in which designs are drawn on fabric, then dyed.
The artist uses wax to prevent dye from penetrating the cloth, leaving “blank” areas in the dyed fabric. The artist uses hot wax and draws dots and lines of the resist with a spouted tool called a canting.
The cloth with the finished wax images is repeatedly dipped into an indigo dye bath. The process can be repeated over and over to create complex multicoloured designs if desired.
After the cloth is dry and the dye has set, the resist is usually removed by placing the cloth into boiling water to melt the wax (which can then be used again).
Batik is done by ethnic people in the South-West of China. The Miao, Bouyei and Gejia people use this method, along with patterned weaving, to make their traditional costumes
The finished product. The cloth is then used for skirts, panels on jackets, aprons and baby carriers to name but a few applications. Much like the Javanese, their traditional patterns also contain symbolism, with the patterns including the dragon, butterfly, and flowers, all with deep meanings.

click on a gallery item below to enlarge


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