I make many of my lamps from West African batik fabric that I purchased while in Peace Corps or on later trips to Africa. In most cases, I bought the cloth directly from the artisan, but I also buy cloth from fair trade importers. Batik fabric is dyed all the way through and has fine, spidery lines that make it particularly beautiful and interesting when back lit.
I first became fascinated with batik as a kid when I got to try it at summer camp more than 30 years ago. I quickly learned that it is much harder than it looks. The basic idea is that you apply wax to areas that you do not want to dye. After the first dye bath, you cover more areas with wax and eventually end up with a colorful pattern of image. In reality, all the conditions and materials have to be just right to get decent results. My attempts were all pretty disastrous, which gave me a keen appreciation for the people who do it well. It is a pleasure to think about those people and their work as I make their fabric into unique and colorful lamps.
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