One of the pleasures of custom framing consultation is exposure to artwork from all around the world. More people frame items of artwork purchased on their travels than any other type of artwork, so daily life in a framing business is filled with a never-ending parade of the world's contemporary and traditional artwork. The techniques used around the world in varying media always astound me. One of my favorite artforms to frame is the traditional batik, generally a linen or cotton cloth which has been decorated using a wax-resist dyeing technique. The designs on batiks can be abstract or representational, varying from geometric designs to village scenes, as well as representations of deities. The colors used to dye the fabric tend to be browns and indigos, cranberries, and occasionally yellows...whatever dyes are available to the artist at the time of the batik's creation.
I generally recommend two options to the new batik owner:
1. Tape or pin stretch the batik and treat it like art on paper, by matting over the edges and covering with glass or acrylic glazing, or
2. Stretch the batik as a traditional canvas painting.
The first option is generally preferable, as it is the reversible and conservation-minded method of framing an original piece of artwork. Some batik owners, however, don't want to see glass in front of their beautiful fabric, so they may opt for the second option, which involves building a stretcher frame and stapling the batik to the stretcher frame. Of course, as in any stretching application, the fabric is not actually stretched to the point of image distortion, but rather simply pulled flat to just barely taut and stapled to the stretcher. Since most batiks are on such thin fabric, I usually recommend placing white matboard between the stretcher frame and the batik, in order to provide a true color read on the artwork and stabilize the otherwise delicate fabric. If stretching a batik, ensure there is enough space around the edges in the design which isn't critical to the artwork composition that can be folded and stapled. If the batik owner doesn't wish to add a decorative visible frame to the batik, be sure there is enough space to fold the batik completely around the stretcher and staple the back of the stretcher frame rather than the sides. If the batik owner would like a decorative frame around their stretched batik, 3/4" of sacrifice space should be sufficient to stretch and staple to the side of the stretchers.
How the batik looks in its final presented form is a function of the owner's taste and the framer's recommendations. I usually like to use very earthy tones for the frame, such as stained walnut, dark mahogany, or natural wood. If the batik is matted, my recommendations usually involve pulling a slightly softer color from the artwork, one that supports the overall feeling in the batik, such as a light sage, a very soft cream, or in certain cases, a deep sable or brown. While selecting mats, wave the mat over the artwork. This is a fast and easy way to see where the color in the mat being considered relates to the artwork.
The next time you're in Indonesia, don't forget to pick up one of these beautiful, traditional items! And keep in mind, the larger the piece, the more expensive framing it will be.