The journey of Bali Batiks

 

 

I know many of you love batiks from Indonesia as much as I do.  I want to share some of my experiences when adding batiks to my assortment of fabrics.  It began when I saw the beautiful colors of the Lisu applique,  which you can read about in another blog on the website.  I immediately thought of having the batiks and applique in quilts. 

I went to the Houston Quilt Market to explore possibilities for buying batiks.  What I found out is the companies in the US couldn't tell me when I would get my order, if I would get my order, or if I would be able to get the same fabric again.  Since my company was small, I felt like I didn’t have a chance with the US companies.  It didn’t help that I had very specific needs if I was to make my ideas come alive. 

Traditionally after spending time buying fabrics in Thailand, I would go to a beach area there to “unwind” at the end of the trip.  Most of the time, there was minimal “unwinding”  because I was still on sensory overload and too excited about what I had bought.  This time I truly had visions dancing in my head that wouldn’t go away.  As I was doing some creative thinking on the beach (beach time really gets my creativity soaring), an "ah ha" moment came to me.  Despite my disappointment in finding batiks in the U.S., I knew that most batiks are made in Bali, Indonesia.  So the questions started bombarding me- "Is Bali nearby"? "How much are the flights"? "Is it expensive to spend days trying to find cotton batiks?”  “Will the cost of the batiks justify the expense of going there?”   The only way to answer these questions was to go. So began my Bali batik journeys.

I found out about a couple of batik makers in Bali before I went, so I was prepared-or so I thought.  Many quilters who go to Bali, may think that the batiks that we commonly use, are all over the place.  It is true that there are a lot of batiks, but the more traditional styles with natural colors are used mostly in sarongs and other clothing, but not in fabrics.  I had emailed one batik maker in Bali and thank goodness, I did.  I knew the batiks were a cottage industry (like much of the Thai fabrics) and made in very nondescript places.  However I anticipated as we drove around that I would see the “factories”, but we didn’t find anything.  Imagine driving around and snooping in homes and hidden locations to see if it was a factory.  Not only is that time consuming, but it could be dangerous.

 

After missing the batik maker several time, we drove to a location, that I still didn’t think was right.  I didn’t see any production or batiks.  Finally walking up to the door, I saw a window with a batik shirt, and I was somewhat relieved.  We met with the owner and he took us for a tour of the process.  He then took us into a room where he showed me samples.  I told you that I had specific needs, which were, I needed 12-15 bolts per color set that would go with each of the applique samples I brought.   He showed me hundreds of 2” x 2” pieces of fabric designs and colors for me to review.  The beauty of batiks are the changing colors that run throughout the fabric and his 2 x 2 squares made it difficult to determine the colors I needed.  For 3 days, I worked on 10 color sets and finally gave him my order.  We discussed that I needed 2 1/2 inch strips. He said that he could cut them for me.  However, when I saw the samples, I noted that the cuts were not consistent. so I didn’t order the strips, but I order the bolts of fabric. 

Here is a excellent documentary on how batiks are made from beginning to end-https://youtu.be/-nsMFIZfBiE

Watching this, you will understand how many processes it takes to make batiks and how great the price is for the time it takes to make it. 

It took about 3 months to receive my order, and I had it shipped it the fast way-not by sea.  I envisioned opening the boxes and being overjoyed.    That did not happen because the colors were really different than the 2 x 2 samples I was shown.  I put my big girl panties on, and went to figure out what I could do.   I could only use about 1/2 of what I ordered, and the rest I saved for future sets.  An even more expensive attempt happened the next time we went to Bali to buy batiks.  When the scheduled delivery date arrived according to the tracking information,  nothing showed up.   We waited a few days and then called FedEx.  They informed us that the tracking number was not valid.  We never had a problem like this when shipping from Thailand, so after 2 days of making calls, we found out that when the boxes hit the US, they get different tracking numbers.   A week later, they told us they found some of the boxes and a few days later they were delivered.  Unfortunately, they empty boxes!  Not only did I have no product to show for my money,  I had spent about $1500 shipping those empty boxes.  Long story short, there was a corrupt Fed Ex agent and after several months, Fed Ex settled with us for the merchandise and shipping.

I finally found a batik maker that I can trust who makes quality fabrics.  I’d like to tell you more about our batiks.  They make them with a higher quality cotton than most other  batik makers. , The dyes are thicker and more saturated.  I have batiks from many of the big name batik companies and there is a big difference with ours.  The solid black that we carry has been praised by many of the buyers using it.  Here is a description from one– “The black is a deep saturation of color for the deepest black.  The lush depth of color is locked into the densely woven fabric.  The hand of the cotton is full and rich.  The color holds and adds a depth and a pop to help your projects shine.  I use a lot of black fabrics in my projects and once I found this black, no other will do.  The integrity of the fabric is rich and dense.  It is the blackest of black and the color holds.  As long as I can get this black, I won’t consider any other’” NCSimpson-Bunt 

Doing business in other countries has many risks, but I’m happy that despite that, I can continue to bring you beautiful and unique textiles.