Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.

Cap Batik and cap making

Cap batik. Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
Flower and leaf design on cap stamp.

Batik cap is a batik method in which designs are applied in wax with cap stamps or ‘chaps’ as they are pronounced. They are usually made of copper for its heat conductive properties and used to ‘print’ hot wax on to cotton. Batik made like this has been produced in Java since the middle of the 19th century to speed up the production and lower the cost of batik cloth.

Producing batik cap is still a labour intensive process requiring patience and skill. It is usually done by men, who as boys learn the skill at an early age and with experience can produce perfectly registered designs without the use of drawn guide lines. There are several variables in applying the perfect amount of wax to achieve clarity and precision in the waxed design. The recipe of the wax itself is often a guarded secret and the temperature has to be just right, the amount of wax on the cap just enough to avoid blotches or loss of definition, and the speed of the application timed to perfection. The registration is the most difficult part of the work, some designs require the use of a combination of several caps to complete the design.

Cap batik. Creative and inspirational batik adventures via the Batik Route.
A complicated batik cap design being created using stencils to mask out areas already stamped.

The cap is a stamp made of copper used to ‘print’ hot wax onto fabric. The cap heats up on a pad in a shallow pan of wax, when the ideal temperature is reached the cap will hold enough wax to print a single time on the cotton. The process continues by replacing the cap into the wax pan and then carefully aligning the next application of the cap on to the fabric to repeat the design.

Cap batik. Creative and inspirational batik adventures via the Batik Route.
Rahmad cap printing a Parang motif on to cotton, in the village of Pijnan, in Wijireso, Bantul.

This task takes great skill, having tried it myself with much difficulty, I really appreciate the ease at which the men appear to race through their metres of cloth, applying perfect wax motifs every time, all faultlessly registered.

Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
Kawung cap design being printed a second time with resin based wax.
Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
Cap with floral design.
Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
Line drawing design for the cap maker craftsman to work from.
Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
The cap maker at work, with slotted copper pieces to create joints.
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
A cap in the making; copper strips are bent into shapes with small pliers.

We visited a cap making workshop with Tatang our guide and watched the different stages of the cap being made. Cap-makers are highly skilled in this specialised craft and their caps are works of art in their own right.

The cap is constructed from hundreds of small pieces of copper, carefully bent and arranged to create a motif or pattern involving many hours of intricate and fiddly work cutting and fixing the copper shapes into a delicate design, then it is soldered into place.

Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
Segments of the design are made separately, then assembled together onto the frame to complete the cap design.
Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
Creating joints by slotting the cut copper pieces in place.
Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
Copper shapes from the design are fixed onto a framework, when complete it is soldiered or brazed into place, fixing it together firmly.

After soldering, the cap is set in a wax resin which is then left to harden before filing the printing edge of the copper cap. This is the only way to file flat such a soft metal.

Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
The cap is placed in a mould containing a wax resin, once set it provides a firm support for the copper cap to be filed flat.
Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
The hardened wax resin containing the newly made cap is filed flat.
Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
The filing has to be done consistently and evenly so the metal edge of the cap is flat for printing.

The finished cap has been filed. The wax resin will now be removed with heat.

 

Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
Here the copper cap design shines through after it has been filed, the resin dust is brushed off to see if the cap has an even, flat surface.

While there I commissioned a cap of my own using a motif design with my signature logo incorporated. After six days my cap was delivered to the hotel, my drawing had been interpreted exactly by Saelan the cap-maker, every little detail and swirl was translated to copper, I was really impressed !

Batik cap
Line drawing for cap design

I realised at the last moment that my design would need reversing to a mirror image of itself for the cap print to appear true.

Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
My personalised cap completed, the copper lines following the original drawing exactly.
Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
Mr Saelan, the skilled man who made my cap, centre, with his wife and Tatang.
Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
Close up side view of my cap.
Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
Cap with a pleasingly bold design.
Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
An antique cap with highly intricate patterning. This would have been very time consuming to make and no doubt very difficult to master.
Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
Flowers and insects make up the design on this cap.
Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
The working desk of a cap maker.
Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
Uncut copper and brazing flux, a cap makers materials.
Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
Geometric designed cap with decorative intricate infill.
Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
Cap with various popular motifs.
Creative batik travels by Marina on the Batik Route.
Cap with a Nitik design. The cap method would certainly work faster than a nitik canting but the detail may not be as fine.
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
A cap in a bold geometric design at Saelan’s workshop.
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2 thoughts on “Cap Batik and cap making

  1. Hi Marina
    Again a very informative blog giving us an insight into this skilled craft,
    though these repetitive designs lack the intuitive creativeness of free expression by the artists. Thanks for keeping us up to date with your travels and research and we look forward to seeing the outcome of all the new influences on your own work.

    Like

  2. Hello Marina! I currently learn about batik as the heritage of my own root, Indonesia.
    I am glad that you write the knowledge you got regarding batik and all the processes during your visit to Yogyakarta.
    Thanks for your thorough and informative post. Appreciate it much. 🙂

    Like

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