Saturday, October 6, 2007

Now Here's a Funky Old Thing...

In 1969, back in the Glory Days of all things hippie, I first decided to try my hand at batik-making. I was swept off my feet by the beauty and diversity of the "new" (well, maybe to this 16-yr. old American girl!) fabrics I was seeing - the Indonesian batiks, the tie-dyes, the exotic block prints and embroideries and sheisha mirrors, even the dreaded macrame. Of course I had to try them all! I'll spare you the results of my first adventures in tie-dye; suffice it to say that there was a lot of excited activity involving Rit dye, rubber bands, and white cotton Carters' Spanky Pants around the ol' kitchen stove...

Not too thrilled with the washed-out colors of those experiments, I moved on to trying my hand at batik - and this was my first attempt. As an impulsive and impatient young girl, I lacked most of the requisite supplies for making true batik - no beeswax, no tjantjing or tjap, and above all no patience for the complicated process of layers and resists and repeated ironing-out of wax from fabric. What I did have was good old Crayola crayons, paraffin, an electric skillet, Schaeffers Permanent Black ink, and one of my father's white cotton handkerchiefs, snitched from the laundry basket. Voila -"batik", American-teenaged girl style, 1969!

The piece lingered on my dorm-room walls for awhile, and then sank from view, as such things do, until the inevitable churning of household detritus tossed it up unexpectedly when we moved to our new house last year. Who knew the silly thing was still around? It's not like it was ever, even when it was first created, anything important; it was just my early doodlings with wax, color, and crackle, a Sunday afternoon experiment the summer before I started college. But still (or again), when it came to light again after nearly 40 years, it struck me as playful and spirited and worthy of a space on the wall, and I just stuck it right up there, in a public part of the house, for all to see.

Sophisticated art? Hardly! "Art" at all? Who cares? But there is something in it of spirit and fun, and of a part of myself that I am happy to be reminded of every time I see it. So maybe now I know how to batik and dye and block print and embroider and quilt the "right" way - but I still remember how utterly thrilling it was to lay down these colors of melted crayons on my Dad's stolen handkerchief: the suspense of waiting for the wax to chill in the freezer so I could crackle it up & give it its final wash of black ink, the pure burst of surprise in my heart when I saw how those black lines just made the colors pop right out - that joy was as honest & real as any I've gotten from any more mature, sophisticated, technically-correct creations since then.

And I don't want to forget it!

2 comments:

Deb said...

I thought it was just wonderful before I read your story. Joyful and full of fun. Be glad you still have it to remind you.

Nikki said...

I can't believe you did that with your dad's hankerchief and color crayons. It's wonderful. The joy of experimentation without inhabition.