Does the title sound familiar? I totally understand that “Erm, errrr/ ain?” look on your face now. I have been so lousy and not shared the final day of the Kuantan trip with you guys at all. And somehow, this fact has been on my mind for so long and I just cannot seem to write more of my Sri Lankan vacation until am done with this one. Let me be fair and provide some context here for what did on Day 1 and Day 2.
This was the highlight of the trip for me because we got a chance to visit a Batik cottage industry there. I am not sure if I can call it an industry because there were just 4 people working there and it was a family consisting of father, son and couple of young guys who were helping them. And you know what we did? You know? You know?
We made a little handkerchief for ourselves! K and I have safely tucked them away and we definitely don’t plan to use them. Frame them, maybe!
I think I will let the pictures do the talking in this post. Umm, majorly, I mean. Grrrr, I noticed that deflated bubble, you people!
When we entered the cottage, we were greeted by a spacious hall with very few batik clothes on display and there was no one around. Like, not a soul. After exploring for about 20 mins, a slightly elder gentleman who seemed very kind and helpful came to us and introduced himself as the owner of the place. We did not even ask him to show us around. He just asked us to follow him for a small tour. As we entered the backyard, we were greeted by hundreds of these -
and some more!
I told you!
Alright, I’ll spare you. But I was just so awed at those moulds. There were so many of them. They shared that they had discarded many recently and so they had few moulds at that point in time. Those moulds had some really intricate patterns !
Our guide and showman, the son of the owner stepped in to show us along. He cut the cloth into squares,
got ready with the gloves and a smile,
dipped the mould of a pretty flower into hot molten wax,
pressed it so skillfully against the 4 cut squares,
added another mould that said “Kuantan”, below the flower
and fielded the umpteen doubts that we students had, so patiently.
Then came the big moment. Each of us was given a brush and asked to dip it in hot molten wax and write our names above the flower. Ofcourse, I raised my hand and went to do it first. Here’s K doing his bit
There was this small little stove, pretty small for the dimension of the fabric they were working with, where they were melting wax. It looked like a kitchen stove and the wax was just the size of a huge block of butter.
Once the wax is in the molten form, they use the specialized tools with varied tips to create patterns on the fabric. I found this entire process so creative. The tools reminded me of calligraphy nibs as well.
I get hyperactive when I see pens, pencils, paper, nibs, plain fabric – the whole thought of filling it up with whatever you feel like enthralls me like crazy! And imagine them doing it everyday – so lucky-licious!
Once they are done with the wax imprinting, they let it set in a bit, dip it in a solution ( I forgot the composition) and they set it out for drying. This according to them is crucial for the stage when the colour seeps in, in the appropriate places. They had a lot of patterns out for drying.
Let us now go back to our little masterpieces. So we had basically imprinted the patterns using the seals on the cloth. Thye did not put it out for drying as these were more of keepsakes. The owner of the place and his son immersed them in a solution cum dye and presto!
However, the wax pattern still stuck and the dye obviously did not get underneath that. This was intentional because we wanted the patterns to be white against a blue background. In order to get rid of the wax and let the colour set in, they dunked the hankies into a boiling brothy thingy that was a mix of some chemicals as well.
After that, they submerged it in cold water and let hang out to dry
While our precious ones were drying, we went for another tour of the sale area.
I have seen men in batik shirts but it was cool to see how they were made right from conception to final product! You can see O getting into the patterns. K admired everything at a distance, totally unwilling to try any of them.
They did not have a lot on sale that day. The owner shared that they were recently back from an exhibition where they sold a lot of their fabric at wholesale prices and in bulk to garment makers. This family basically makes only yards of batik cloth and have one tailor who makes traditional outfits out of this fabric in small quantities. But their main business is selling the cloth itself to other garment companies who convert them into bed spreads, outfits etc.
L and I got ourselves big batik pouches. The boys toyed around with shirts, sometimes pretending to be interested but never considering buying any. We let them be and went to check on our dearies. There they were all sunny and dry and waiting to be tucked away in our pockets.
We thanked them all profusely for the lovely experience. I totally love visiting arty places. Design excites me. And something like this inspires me. Imagine a small family of 4 churning out yards and yards of fabric. When asked if they are happy doing this, the owner said that it meant everything to him but he wasn’t sure if his son feels the same way. We could feel the tinge of sadness in his voice when he said how everyone is going away from traditional forms of art, into the cities and then get caught up with life. He said it bothered him to even think of an art disappearing from the face of earth only because people do not appreciate it enough to pursue it. I found my voice in him when he said all that. While art is something that is ubiquitous, the traditional forms need a lot of reinforcement and perseverance on part of man to survive. And there is so much beauty and inspiration in these forms that one cannot imagine any form to just dwindle away.
We wished them well and promised to come back to visit them when we visit Kuantan again.
We set off on the road trip back to our resort, all the while clicking away.
I love the happiness I experience when I upload our little memories for my desktop as wallpapers. I always used to ogle at the resplendent images on default in any PC. Going on these roadtrips fills my cup of happiness to the brim and we are really thankful to be able to appreciate the beauty in every little grain of sand in such proximity.
Road trips – So fun. So good!
With that, I wind up the Kuantan road trip series. And now, I can peacefully resume my Sri Lanka tales. Phew. Feel 5 pounds lighter.