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. There’s quite a bit of disagreement regarding the origin of the practice but it is 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 works, employing various skilled wax resist dyeing techniques such as stippling.
Mr. Asoka gave a demonstration of the techniques, showing us how much effort goes into creating these finished products.
The process starts with a piece of natural cotton where a rough sketch of the finished image is drawn. The artist uses wax to trace around the sketch 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 Asoka told us is that if the piece is real batik, the image will look exactly the same front and back, and he flipped around the elephant square to show us!
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!