Traditional hand-blocked batik

What makes batik distinct from other forms of design is not its motifs, which can easily be replicated in other forms, but the technique of wax resistance. This ancient technique lends batik the weight of tradition and makes up the central labour of the process.  

The block-printing method — also widely known as batik cap — is, until today, the primary technique utilised by the dwindling number of batik artisans in Terengganu who are our main collaborators. 

The  process involves repetitive application of melted wax onto fabric in desired patterns using metal stamp. The waxed areas resist the dye during the dye-ing process, creating layers of colours. 

The wax is removed by boiling the waxed fabric, revealing intricate designs where the fabric remains undyed. This process can be repeated with multiple layers of wax and dye to achieve complex designs and vibrant colours.

Mengkuang-dyeing and -weaving

 Weaving with leaves and reeds is one of the oldest crafts to still be practiced to this day. Among the common fibres used for weaving in Malaysia is mengkuang / pandanus, a craft that involves a laborious process of harvesting, treating and cutting into even strips, dye-ing, and weaving. 

All woven products at KAAIN is made in close partnership with HKY Collections, based in Terengganu.

A spiky plant found in Malaysian jungles and coastal areas, mengkuang is traditionally used to create mats, baskets, and other ornamental objects. 

The craft consists various roles that are usually undertaken by different groups within the same region. The process started from the harvesters, who would harvest and process the leaves into long and even strips - which involves several steps including (i) removal of thorns; (ii) smoking over hot coal and thumping with a blunt pole to soften; (iii) cutting into even strips using a tool called jangka; (iv) soaking in water for two nights for discolouration; and (v) drying.

The processed/treated mengkuang strands are then personally hand-dyed by Khadijah Yong, the founder of HKY Collections. After these labourious processes, the dyed strands are meticulously woven by the skilled women weavers across Terengganu. The state has long been regarded as the home to one of the finest mengkuang-weaving in the country.