In Ho at the Batik Factory
Wednesday it rained all day but we did go to the batik factory that was working in the rain. We got permission to walk around but we were not allowed to take any pictures. They are afraid that you will steal their trade secrets I guess. I really believe they are concerned that you will report them to OSHA for violations. It is so hard to try to convey what we saw. There were women in the front folding the cloth after it came out of very old fashioned mangles. One woman had her baby tied to her back as she sat in a chair folding cloth. The next minute she was breast feeding the baby, uncovered and still folding. Others were catching rain water off the roof into large garbage cans that were full of the colored cloth.
We went out to the back where the real action was. There were three rows of workers, maybe six or eight in a row, each row having a specific job. The first row had large metal barrels that had a very hot charcoal fire under each barrel.The men had large poles that they used to stir the fabric that was in each metal barrel. They did wear rubber boots and long rubber gloves. With their poles they would then lift the fabric out of the pots and literally throw it back to the barrels on the next row. Hot water mixed with the colored dye flying everywhere. I think that this was the first rinse and then it would be thrown again to the last row where women would lift out the cloth and wring it by hand. Each piece of cloth is no less than six yards in length. Back breaking work. Here among all this open fire were a few young children wandering around. It seemed quite frightening to this foreigner.
There was an area with lots of tables where they were stamping the fabric with different colors and designs. The basic white fabric with some kind of a pale pink design comes from China. Unfortunately there was not an even flow to this workplace so I don't know the actual order in which the fabric is created. Maybe that is part of the "trade secrets". I just know that the work was very interesting and that I was amazed with the woman that was melting wax over a small charcoal stove and was moving the wax around with her fingers.
On Friday when it was sunny we drove back past the factory and saw some of the fabric laying on the ground, even up one of the roads to dry. It is so wonderful to see the colors they produce. We have been to a batik factory (also in the rain) in China but there it was only the Chinese blue and white and the designs were created from tying the cloth. Here it is done with stamps.