Shreedevi Batik has in no small measure, contributed to the recent tremendous resurgence
of popularity and interest in Batik textile art. Today, a handmade Batik silk saree worn
at a wedding or formal function replaces the heavy Indian-made silk sarees of yesteryear.
Batik sarees and clothing exudes elegance and luxury and every woman in Sri Lanka yearns
to have at least one of these items in her wardrobe.
The word “Batik” in Javanese means 'writing with wax', and the craft was spread across East Asia by Dutch colonial officers. Batik originated in Indonesia and was introduced to Sri Lanka by Dutch at the turn of the 19th century. The craft fit into the local design ethos and over the years, the batik industry in Sri Lanka has developed into a unique form of textile art exclusive to the country.
Batik is the art of fabric dyeing and laying designs through a wax resist method and has evolved into a vibrant industry of fabric art in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand and Singapore with their own identity, methodology and design. In its purest form batik is a method of decorating a piece of cloth by creating pattern on it with wax and colouring rest of the piece of cloth, creating a vibrant mosaic with coloured and uncoloured areas.
Painstaking and time consuming, Batik was originally a hobby of the elitists in Kandyan court. The aristocratic ladies of the central kingdom were skilled practitioners of batik and soon the skills of batik were introduced to the artesian classes, who developed tapestry, regional flags and traditional clothes of the aristocrats with batik fabrics.
However batik industry was limited to a cottage industry until the late 1970s, when a growing tourism culture in Sri Lanka gave a sudden boom to many local handicrafts including batik. Although the growing interest of tourists in batik was sufficient to keep the art from alive as a cottage industry in the nooks and corners of Sri Lanka, it is the government backing provided through the National Crafts Council, Sri Lanka Handicrafts Board, Institute of Textiles & Apparel (SLITA) and Sri Lanka Export Development Board which encouraged a generation of batik artists to create and experiment with new form and techniques in batik, giving a local flavour to a global tradition.