Huge slabs of paraffin wax are brought in from the industries in Ujjain. The various dyes are bought from the cities of Ujjain, Ahmedabad and Bombay. The fabric for dyeing is brought in from Maheshwar, Chanderi and Erode.
The Natural color blue is derived from indigo, while orange and red colors are made using henna. Turmeric is used to make yellow color, while black color is made by burning iron. However, natural dyes are fast being replaced by chemical ones. A combination of two or more colors can also be used to create different effects.
The other raw materials are firewood, kerosene and wet cotton.
The usage of industrial wax is deeming it difficult for the craftsmen to re use the leftover wax without wasting it. There is also a considerable wastage of water during the process.
Tools & Technology
Long tables (1) with sand spread over it in a thick layer are used in this method. The fabric is placed over them and the sand prevents the cloth from sticking to the table, when the wax is applied. Sometimes the fabric is tied to wooden or metal frames like hammocks when the wax needs to be applied in large patches as fillings.
Wooden blocks (2) and a special brush made from coconut fiber hunched and tied together are used to make styluses to make patterns with wax. Flat brushes are otherwise used to apply wax, especially when large areas have to be covered.
A large burner with a wide bowl (4) of bubbling wax is a common feature right next to each artist. This is used to keep the wax constantly heated and in liquid form, when the artists dip in their styluses to make wax patterns. The dyes are mixed in big bowls (5) or large plastic buckets.
The bundles of fabric are first made ready and processed. They are bleached and left overnight to get a stark white colour. After this the fabric is spread on a table with sand, or tied to frames for wax to be applied.
There are three ways the wax patterns are made.
1. One is using the coconut-fiber brush (2). Freehand drawings are made by the skilled artists. These brushes are dipped into the pot of wax and dexterously moved over the fabric to create free flowing patterns. The artists do this with dexterous speed and high concentration before the wax cools, without any pre-drawn sketches or guidelines on the fabric.
2. The other method is using wooden blocks (3) which are dipped into the vat of wax and pressed onto the cloth for the rugged patterns.
3. The third method is using a flat brush or a rolled up (4) wad of cloth to apply wax over large areas of the fabric.
The type of wax traditionally used is 30 per cent beeswax and 70 per cent paraffin wax, but these days mostly paraffin wax is used as it is easily available and less costly. The wax is carefully heated while working, as overheating would lead to the wax catching fire with the smallest of sparks.
The fabric is sometimes crumbled to create the fine cracks in the wax. This process requires some expertise to achieve the right type and amount of hairline cracks.
The fabric used is carefully chosen since it has to be able to withstand the heat and weight of the wax. For this reason, synthetic fabrics are mostly avoided.
After this the fabric is soaked with a color fixer before it is dyed. It is dipped in tanks (5) filled with dye for about 10-15 minutes. The fabric is then run through boiling water to remove the wax. The dyeing is repeated according to the number of colors in the required design. The lighter colors are started with first, gradually moving on to the darker dyes.
If there are any spots left undyed, a process called 'topping' is carried out where the cloth is dipped in a direct dye to color the spots. The finest Batiks are reversible. Motifs are drawn, waxed and dyed first on one and then the other side of the fabric.