Pete and Kim Erskine are on their annual sojourn to source
the clothing, accessories and décor you can’t wait to shop
this spring. They wrote in from the road to rave about their
latest find—the intricate, irresistible, breezy batiks crafted
by hand in Bali.
Every year, Pete and Kim Erskine spend February and March searching their favorite world markets, remote villages, shops and studios for fresh finds to fill our stores. It’s a family tradition that always turns up treasures. And in Bali, it turned into a behind-the- scenes look at the time, craft and creativity that goes into the ancient art of batik—the Indonesian art of hand-decorating cottons and silks with wax and dyes.
Batik is a particular passion of their son, Chauncey, who came along on this year’s trip. He was particularly excited to spend time with our main batik supplier and see how these traditional textiles made by hand for our stores. “It’s the same principle as the wax crayon in the Easter egg dye kits you may have used as a kid,” Chauncey says. “But taken to this whole other level. The amount of time, artistry and hard work that goes into handcrafting piece is unbelievable.”
“The hot wax is hand-drawn or pressed on the fabrics using intricately handcarved wooden stamps,” he explains. “When the fabrics are plunged into the dyes, the wax repels the colors and reveals designs that can be centuries old or inspired by contemporary life.”
“Those patterns are often very meaningful,” Pete adds. “There are designs that are used only for baby slings, or brides, or particular religious or cultural observances. Every handstamped batik tells a different story.”
The results are completely unique—and breathaking. This time of year, batik is also a breath of fresh air. Wandering around the racks of drying batiks in the sweltering humidity outside of Denpasar, Kim couldn’t stop thinking about ways to weave these jeweled colors and elaborate patterns into her life.
“Back home, we’re all so ready to throw open the windows and pack away the wool,” Kim says. “Spring and summer are the perfect time to bring in batik. It’s just this wonderful, wearable art form.” Kim loves the laid-back luxury of a body-skimming batik dress or the pop of color a boho batik scarf can bring to any outfit.
She’s also excited to decorate with batik at home. Handmade batik sarongs make effortless window treatments that filter sunlight and let in fresh breezes. Layering one (or two!) batik sarongs over your bedspread is an easy way to brighten up your bedroom. And batik sarongs also belong in everyone’s beach bag—they quickly transform into bold and bright sun tents, casual swim cover-ups, or an extra bit of warmth around a bonfire. You can even try your hand at traditional textile crafting too, with traditional handcarved wooden block print stamps.
Inspired by the craft, colors and community around them, Pete, Kim and Chauncey are placing orders and looking forward to celebrating the traditional Balinese New Year with friends before continuing their travels.
“Our shipping container from Bali is filling up fast,” Pete tells us cheerfully. “And it’s our second container in less than a year!” Check out the latest batik colors and patterns here.