Nitik

Nitik design waxed on plain cotton fabric using a special customised canting to make small squares, photo by batik artist Marina Elphick.
Nitik design waxed on plain cotton fabric using a special customised canting to make small squares

Nitik means to create a dot. It is a type of batik motif which is made up of many tiny square dots arranged in a repeated geometric pattern.

A Nitik canting that has been specially customised. The spout end has been cut four times to form a cross. When used confidently the canting creates tiny squares of wax.
A Nitik canting that has been specially customised. The spout end has been cut four times to form a cross. When used confidently the canting creates tiny squares of wax.

I bought a Nitik canting from my friend Tatang while in Yogyakarta, a tool quite different from the regular cantings, having a spout with four corners splayed out-wards. When used to make a dot, the spout creates a miniature square. In practise this is far more difficult than it looks !

Nitik batiks at various stages of the process at Mrs Aminah's and Mrs Yati's  home in Kembang Songo village.
Nitik batiks at various stages of the process at Mrs Aminah’s and Mrs Yati’s home in Kembang Songo village.
Sample of Nitik design Rambutan.
Finished sample of Nitik design Rambutan.
Samples of different Nitik designs.
Samples of different Nitik designs.
Nitik motifs in various designs awaiting first and second dye baths
Nitik motifs in various designs awaiting first and second dye baths
Woman creating Nitik using her customised canting to wax the fabric with a dark mix of beeswax and pine resin.
Woman creating Nitik using her customised canting to wax the fabric with a dark mix of beeswax and pine resin.

I took many photos of Nitik batik at various stages when I visited Kembang Songo village, Yogyakarta, which is renowned for its production. I also saw many fine examples on display in the Danar Hadi Museum, Surakarta and The Yogyakarta Batik museum so I thought it would be good to discover more about Nitik’s history.

Nitik shown in the Danar Hadi Batik Museum.
Nitik shown in the Danar Hadi Batik Museum in Surakarta
Complex Nitik design on display at the Danar Hadi Batik museum
Complex Nitik design on display at the Danar Hadi Batik museum

Nitik Motifs are among the oldest batik patterns in Indonesia and were inspired by traditional woven cloths from India. The double ikat cloths known as Patola and woven in silk, were brought to the North coast of Java by traders from Gujarat, India in the early 19th Century.

Silk woven Patola from Gujarat,  with patterns that inspired Nitik
Silk woven Patola from Gujarat, with patterns that inspired Nitik
Detail of Patola from India.
Detail of Patola from India.
Patola being woven on a loom, India
Patola being woven on a loom, India

Patola were renowned for their colourful diversity and geometrical style, both the warp and weft threads were tie-dyed then hand woven, making intricate patterns possible on this fine woven silk fabric. The procedure was not only time-consuming, but also very costly so Patola was reserved for royalty, aristocrats and the extremely rich.

Woman working on a Nitik batik that has had two dyes. She blows on the canting to control the flow and temperature of the wax. photograph by UK batik artist Marina Elphick.
Woman working on a Nitik batik that has had two dyes. She blows on the canting to control the flow and temperature of the wax.

The Nitik motif was developed in coastal cities in the north of Java where the weavings were first seen. From Cirebon and Pekalongan to Surabaya, batik artisans began imitating the patterns formed by Patola weaving techniques, using popular colours from the region; red, blue, green and yellow. Nitik was less expensive and faster to make than the woven cloth and the new designs supplied a huge demand for ritual and ceremonial batik.

Nitik design combined with  Parang Barong motif from the Royal courts of  Yogyakarta, dyed with the traditional colours of the region
Nitik design combined with Parang Barong motif from the Royal courts of Yogyakarta, dyed with the traditional colours of the region
Nitik design from the Royal courts of  Yogyakarta
Nitik design from the Royal courts of Yogyakarta

The Nitik designs soon arrived in the royal courts of Yogyakarta and Surakarta where they were refined and adapted for the Kraton ( Sultan’s Palace). Here batik motifs followed certain rules and were dyed browns, indigo and cream white, reflecting the colours of court batik, these dyes were also used in Nitik made in the Central region.

Nitik incorporated into a more complex design from Yogyakarta, seen at the Danar Hadi Museum, Surakarta
Nitik incorporated into a more complex design from Yogyakarta, seen at the Danar Hadi Museum, Surakarta
Detail of Nitik from a batik Kain (large sarong) displayed at the Danar Hadi Museum
Detail of Nitik from a batik Kain (large sarong) displayed at the Danar Hadi Museum
Large Nitik sarong ready for it's first dye at Mrs Aminah's house
Large Nitik sarong ready for it’s first dye at Mrs Aminah’s house
Close up of Nitik
Close up of Nitik
Detail of a Patola pattern that would have influenced Nitik design
Detail of a Patola pattern that would have influenced Nitik design
Nitik sample from Kembang Songo village
Nitik sample from Kembang Songo village
Tatang, Mrs Aminah and Mrs Yati in The work room, Kembang Songo
Tatang, Mrs Aminah and Mrs Yati in The work room, Kembang Songo
Detail of waxed, un-dyed  design combining Parang and Nitik motifs
Detail of waxed, un-dyed design combining Parang and Nitik motifs
Detail of Nitik on Tatang's batik in progress
Detail of Nitik on Tatang’s batik in progress

The information above was not easy to find and I found very little about Nitik in books and not much detail on line. I pieced it together from Indonesian blogs, Google and the photos I took at Danar Hadi Museum. I would appreciate any additional facts or personal knowledge of the technique so please feel free to comment.

Architectural detail that reflects the Patola designs of Gujarat, India
Architectural detail that reflects the Patola designs of Gujarat, India
Nitik designs based on a geometric grid. Most skilled batik artisans work free hand with only a ruled grid as a guide.
Nitik designs based on a geometric grid. Most skilled batik artisans work free hand with only a ruled grid as a guide.
My first attempts using the nitik canting, batik artist Marina Elphick. Contemporary interpretations of Traditional batik motifs.
My first attempts using the nitik canting
Design samples inspired by traditional batik motifs including Nikit ,Ceplok, Kuwang and Parang. These will  be sketches for new batiks I am planning. Batik artist Marina Elphick creates contemporary batik art,
Design samples inspired by traditional batik motifs including Nikit. These will be sketches for new batiks I am planning
Batik sketch in progress
Batik sketch in progress
Batik sketch, two dyes
Batik sketch, two dyes
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5 thoughts on “Nitik

    1. I think Diane bought some from Tatang too to sell to Guild members, he only had two left when I bought mine. I don’t know how easy/ difficulty it would be to customise your own, I might experiment splicing some of my old cantings and see what happens !

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  1. I have been following your adventure and the Batik route right from the start of your arrival in Yogicarta .You have given me and I am sure many others a lot of pleasure with your most interesting account on the origins and workings of batik art .
    Your descriptions and photos have given amateurs and professionals
    alike an amazing insight and understanding of this beautiful art form .
    I love the batik works you are doing and hope that you will continue to keep us informed on how this experience is going to influence and develop your own work .
    Emmy Elphick
    emmyielphick&gmail.com

    Like

  2. Incredible – the whole blog! Page after page of dazzling colour, intricate geometrical patterns derived from nature and mathematics, stunning landscapes and figurative works. ALL DONE IN BATIK! Look no further for art – and abandon the Tate Modern that emperor with no clothes! I wish I could own it all – Why don’t I have Saatchi’s money I could sponsor some real art!

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