Commercial sample of batik wax print style fabric with fish motifs

Manchester, United Kingdom

Date: c.1930-1950

Origin: Manchester, United Kingdom

Dimensions: H 117cm x W 74cm

Venue: Gawthorpe Textiles Collection

This commercial sample was designed and manufactured in Lancashire using industrial printing processes to closely imitate the effect of a traditional, hand worked batik or wax resist dyeing. The design features a simple colour palette with geometric patterns as the backdrop for large and graphic fish motifs. 

Resist-dyeing is an ancient process and flourished in Indonesia as batik (wax resist) where it became a much-admired art form highly prized by royalty. Colonisation by the Dutch in 1800 led to the industrialisation of the hand-crafted process in an attempt to sell manufactured batik back to Indonesia. Selling ‘local’ fabrics to colonised markets was big business in Europe from the 18th century. Creating cloth for export could sustain huge companies in Britain or the Netherlands in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. 

These textiles go under a number of names: Dutch wax print, Veritable Java print and Ankara to name a few. From the late 19th to mid-20th century the majority of these prints were produced in Europe and sold to markets in Africa. European companies would take inspiration from indigenous prints and patterns in the market they were selling to and built-up archive collections of authentic indigenous textiles to draw inspiration from. With the independence of many African countries in the 1960s, local manufacturing grew but now these textiles are often manufactured in China. 

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