An article arrived in my email from Fabricadabra that caught my eye. Look at these pillows! I read the little promo blurb and discovered these are wax print fabrics from Holland. I’d never heard of wax print fabric so I followed my own advice (remember the renew your creativity article?) and did a little research.
What You Always Wanted to Know About Wax Print Fabric
I checked Wikipedia; no information. So I just searched for the history and here’s the brief version of what I discovered. According to a Selvedge magazine article, wax print fabric was developed in Holland in the 1800′s as a result of a merchant traveling the trade routes between Java and Holland who thought he could reproduce and sell Javanese fabrics in Java. They weren’t interested, but the west African people along the trade route were so drawn to the bright bold Javanese fabrics that it gradually became a national cultural dress style. The Dutch have dominated the African print fabric market since the early 1900′s.
The Javanese patterns evolved into what is now easily recognized as “African tribal” print fabrics which are designed and produced in Holland (though there are cheaper knock offs from China and Japan and even Africa). In Africa, Dutch wax print fabrics carry the prestige of a Rolex or Rolls Royce. Nigerian fabrics tend to use lots of golden yellow and red; Congolese like yellow, green, purple and white; in Ghana the marble effect is popular and for Cote d’Ivorians it’s the large block prints.
The patterns and colors often represent specific meaning to the wearer. According to Wren Design, it can represent fables, proverbs or historical events. The colors can represent age, tribal orientation, or marital status. Or sometimes they’re just pretty.
Wax Print Process
The actual process of wax print fabric is a wax resist batik type process with the fabric printed on both sides for better color fastness. A double roller system prints hot resin on both sides of the fabric at once creating an Indonesian batik look.
Although traditional African patterns have long been available, updated fabric patterns using this technique are making their way into haute couture and home decor. These fabulous patterns embody “the energy, the music, the people, the expanse of the continent” according to Patricia Brien.
What Have You Learned?
What aspect of design has caught your attention lately? How did you research or learn more about your interest? We’d love to hear about your newest nugget of knowledge. Go on, share with us in the comments.