Crackles are the fine veins that may or may not be coloured; running through the outlines or certain areas of design in a piece of batik. It was once considered a sign of inferior batik in the olden days, especially on indigo coloured batik but acceptable on brown batik. However, it has evolved to be a much appreciated characteristic associated with fine handmade batik.
This particular effect is rendered through folding, crushing, freezing or utilising any method that breaks up an area or the outlines of uninterrupted dried wax in the design. It happens before placing the cloth in the last dye bath. By doing so, the crackle that is synonymous with handcrafted batik is produced.
A mixture of waxes is the core of such an effect; usually consisting of beeswax and paraffin. Beeswax is malleable, thus functioning by regulating the flow; and paraffin for its brittleness. Paraffin is never used on its own as it does not cling to the cloth well. Besides that, the key is controlling the amount of paraffin in order to achieve the amount of veins the artist wishes to attain. The more paraffin is used, the more cracks would appear and vice versa. Traditionally, resins such as the residue of pine-gum distillation (known as gondorukem in Malay) and cat’s-eye resin (damar mata kucing) are used to increase the ability of the wax mixture to adhere to the cloth. Animal fat such as tallow is also added to liquify the solution.
Some artists may prefer to use microwax (microcrystalline wax) as a replacement for beeswax or even add it to the mixture. Even though both microwax and paraffin are by-products of crude oil distillation, microwax is darker, stickier and denser than paraffin. It is also more elastic, hence making it a suitable choice to replace beeswax.
A recent trend has emerged whereby soy wax is used instead of the conventional beeswax and paraffin. It attracts artists because:
- It has a low heating point (130°-150°F/54°-66°C) which reduces the risk of burns.
- It burns clean, thereby emitting no toxic fumes.
- Due to its low heating point, it is washed out with hot water or warm water and synthrapol, thus eliminating one of the more laborious steps in batik making.
- The crackle effect can be done without the need to create a wax mixture.
How is this effect achieved?
Samples of our gallery paintings that uses this technique.