We were lucky enough to visit the wonderful shop Asoka Batik and be shown around by the proprietor Mr. Kithsiri Asoka himself.
Batik is the art of dyeing cloth using layers of wax and dye to create beautiful images and patters. With much disagreement regarding the origin of the practice it’s widely regarded that Indonesia is the place where batik was perfected. But here in Sri Lanka within the past century local artisans have very much made the art of batik their own.
Besides making clothing and wall hangings of traditional images of Sri Lanka, elephants, etc. Asoka creates his own unique and original creations which wouldn’t be out of place hanging in a modern art museum. He favours bright colours and abstract shapes in his own personal creations, employing various skilled wax resist dyeing techniques like like stippling.
Mr. Asoka gave a demonstration of the techniques, showing us how much effort goes into creating these finished products.
Starting with a piece of natural cotton with a rough sketch of the finished image the artist uses wax to trace around the image and the cotton is dyed, in the elephants case yellow. Then another layer of wax is applied where the artist wants to keep the yellow colour in the final image. The process repeats itself a few more times until the artist is satisfied and can melt off all the wax to reveal the final piece.
Even small pieces usually take around a week start to finish. One tip he shared, flipping around the elephant square to show us; if it is real batik, the image will look exactly the same front and back!
Here’s a video showing some more of Asoka Batik’s wonderful artistry. I really enjoyed my time at this shop seeing all the amazing work and listening to the very knowledgable Mr. Asoka!