The pattern of this batik textile is called tambal, a word that means “patch” or “repair” in Indonesian. The motif may have been adapted from actual patchwork fabrics, composed of fragments of valuable textiles and worn by both priests and royalty in Java. Each square pairs a triangle with a schematic design and a triangle with a plant or animal motif.
Whatever the origin of the pattern, the textile is a tour de force for the artist, demonstrating her skill at hand drawing in wax dozens of unique designs. The color palette as well as the depictions of animals suggest connections with Chinese communities on the north coast of Java.
How batik is made:
Using a stylus with a small spout, artists in Java use hot wax to draw patterns on a cotton (or occasionally silk) textile. When the cloth is dipped in a dye bath, the waxed portions remain undyed. For a batik with many colors, the textile is rewaxed and redyed multiple times.