Focus on Design

Deborah Cake, a Boston-based graphic designer, has been involved with Aruna Designs for twenty years.

Deborah Cake Focus On Design

The tricky part of batik is getting the chemistry of the dyes right. Nothing is written down. The women were trained to develop their own method of adjusting the color. Mrs. K. Radha carries all the designs and dye chemistry in her head.

Originally, Mrs. Radha was a farmer. After receiving training in batik from Shanthimalai 15 years ago, she is now Batik Master and head of the department.

Once Mrs. Radha draws designs in pencil on the fabric, the artisans execute them in wax. Next the fabric is immersed into the first dye bath. This creates the light colors. Then wax is applied again, to cover the parts of the design that will remain light (see below).

It's not easy to paint with wax, and it has to be done very carefully. As with any art, the skill is hidden in the artwork; you're not aware of the hours and the care that go into the production of each piece.

Overdyeing creates rich layers of color. The waxing and dyeing process is repeated several times. Finally, the craftswomen have to boil the pieces to get the wax out. It's hard and hot work. While drawing on their accumulated knowledge, Mrs. Radha oversees production from start to finish; her quiet presence keeps the work flowing smoothly.

The artisans are very proud of their work. I loved being with these women who have shared years together at their craft. They have created a workplace animated with playfulness and joy. We chose about 12 different designs and ordered 100 pieces for tablecloths or wall hangings.

The batiks are available at Boston area craft fairs and at One World Goods in Rochester, NY.

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