Learning the Far Eastern Art of Batik

>Main Line Times

Learning comes in many shapes and colors and costumes. At the Chatham Park Elementary School recently, artist Laura Cohn brought her love of Indonesia and its native art and touched the souls of every fifth grader in the school. During her week’s stay, the students learned about the culture and customs of Indonesia while they created a true community art project.

According to parents Anne Castimore and Belinda Masloff, organizers of the yearly artist-in-residency project, the resulting work of art allows the fifth-grade students to leave a legacy to their elementary school. This year, with Cohn’s guidance, they created a wall hanging of individual and colorful squares of batik.

Following Cohn’s instructions, the students carefully decorated squares of white cloth with hot wax. Some used cookie cutters; others used a potato masher to design their squares. They dipped the utensil into the wax and then pressed it onto the cloth. Imagination revealed the inner artist in each child.

When the wax dried, the cloth was ready to dye. Washed in colorful dye, the fabric took on color only where the wax had not left a mark. Next, the wax was washed off in baths of warm water, leaving behind each lovely design. All this was done while the boys and girls listened to the gentle strains of native music.

This will truly be a community art project, Ms. Cohn explained. When all the squares are sewed together, it will be hard to find individual contributions. Each child will feel pride in the complete project.

Ms. Cohn spent five years in Indonesia and fell in love with the country, its culture and, most of all, its people. Sharing her own joy about this Far Eastern country as well as its language, location and history, she hopes to do her own part for global understanding. Before beginning the art project, students enjoyed an assembly program with slides and video about the country. They also learned several Indonesia words.

Ms. Cohn plans to return to Indonesia when her toddler is old enough to make the long journey.

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