Javanese Stamped Block Batik of Jogjakarta


Javanese hand-drawn (batik tulis—pronounced BA-teek TOO-lis) has been around for hundreds of years, especially around Jogjakarta, Indonesia.  Reportedly in the 1920s someone found a way to streamline this labor-intensive process of wax masking cotton cloth with intricate designs & patterns.

Some Javanese artisan created a slightly new art-form—stamped or block batik (batik cap—pronounced BA-teek CHAP).  Don’t worry!  This is not some heartless machine stamping out hundreds of square meters of patterns per hour.  Not in traditional Jogja!

The first stamped batikers handmade an incredibly detailed hand-made stamp out of copper.  Whenever they needed intricate repeated pattern the Javanese batik artisan plants the stamp or cap on a wax-soaked pad saturated in near boiling wax. 

He skillfully picks up just enough wax to transfer the intricate design. 

He then expertly places it on the cotton cloth in perfect alignment with masks he’s made before.


In this way he can quickly & consistently mask a beautiful pattern clear across a bolt of cotton or silk in a fraction of the time it would take to try to draw it by hand.


Even though some scoffed this method as too mechanical, the Javanese craftsman (it always seems to be a man) has to demonstrate remarkable finesse & skill to pull this off resulting in a flawless pattern. 

In the 1980s I moved to Indonesia, discovered these stamps in Jogjakarta & realized that they in-and-of-themselves are stunning works of art that most people outside Java have never seen.  They’re frankly too heavy for tourists to carry home on an airplane from Indonesia. 

I wondered where they came from & asked around.  Someone at Jogja’s old traditional market told me that there was an artisan who made them  but he only came twice a month to sell.  His long-term customers knew when to come to buy.  No one else seemed to know.  I looked for him, but in five years of living in Jogja I never found him . . .

. . . until this year!  On a survey trip with Matt Brandon a Javanese batik-insider whispered to me an obscure tip.  My wife & I made a search months later & found him!  Watch my blog in the coming weeks to see this Indonesian national treasure at work! 

And remember, if you come on a photo tour later this year, you may have opportunity to make better images of him than I did.  Like a dare? 

See September 14-25 photo tour info on Matt Brandon’s site at:

Buy the optional extension tour to Jogja--the world's batik capital--see these Javanese stamped block batik artisans of Indonesia.