Hidden in the last wing of a building in Ayer Rajah Industrial estate, behind a blue door with a small paper sign, lies one of Singapore’s oldest existing batik factories; Design Batik.
This idea of making Batik pieces on a large scale was first started by a German lady known as Dressler who exported them exclusively to Germany. In 1965, Ms Patricia Quek bought over the company after developing an interest in Batik design, thus establishing Design Batik. Despite its name, don’t expect it to be anything near the mental images of sweatshops or toiling workers that the word ‘factory’ might conjure.
Filling the first three rooms of the space are mounds of colorful cloth. There are different patterns and floral motifs, and each cloth is unique and expressive in its own way. This is because every fabric has been hand made, utilizing a more modern and industrial technique of Batik. Batik was originally a Malay painting art-form which involves using wax on a piece of silk cloth. Wax prevents the seeping in of the dye at the part of the cloth, and patterns are created through the simple yet fascinating process of utilizing positive and negative space.
The printing room is split into two parts. The first is where large pieces of fabric are stamped, by hand, with large stamps with some wax on it. The pattern of the stamp is first drawn out and then sent to a metal factory in Kelantan, where it is made from scrap metal and will weigh at least five kilograms. Once the wax dries, the fabric is brought to the second part of the room where it will be dyed. The final stage of the process is to wash the fabric in a large concrete trough of water, to remove the wax; and leave it to dry. All of this is carried out skillfully by workmen and women, who have been in this trade for over 3 decades.
Batik is often perceived as a dying art, and trade. What Ms Quek thinks is needed to rekindle interest and popularity of batik material are bright young designers and minds capable of reinventing and finding new ways to utilize this beautiful fabric.
– Amelia Fong
Design Batik Pte Ltd
67 Ayer Rajah Cres #01-03 Ayer Rajah Ind Estate
+65 6775 7370
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