If you haven’t taken advantage of Judy Flores’ batik painting workshops yet, you need to go online now and grab a slot in one of her monthly sessions – they sell out fast.
The workshops are a unique opportunity to learn firsthand from one of Guam’s cultural icons, and it’s a master class in the ancient Indonesian art form of painting based on a wax-resist dyeing technique.
The three-hour workshops take place at her garden studio in Inalåhan, where she has tables set up in her covered patio areas for her small groups of students.
I was lucky enough to spend Saturday afternoon at her July workshop, and was pleased to discover that despite my lack of artistic talent, I was able to create some colorful silk scarves that I would actually wear or could give away as gifts.
Flores starts the workshop by explaining the materials we’ll be using, from the melted wax heated in an electric pan to the pen-shaped tool called a tjanting that is used to draw designs.
If you can master that tjanting in the course of the workshop, then you either have Indonesian blood or the fine motor skills of a neurosurgeon. There’s a little cup at the top that you dip into the wax, and a little spout at the bottom that seems tiny until the wax gushes out and creates blobs that look nowhere near the fine coconut fronds you’re trying to create.
Did I mention it’s also a great exercise in letting go? Perfectionists and control freaks are gonna have a hard time with this. You’re gonna see Flores’ amazing batik scarf of an underwater landscape with corals and angel fish, and think, hmm, I could do that.
Then you’re gonna use the tjanting and quickly realize, nope, you can’t.
What you CAN do is let go, and have fun with it. Don’t fret over the wax blobs splattering where you didn’t want them to go. Don’t worry that you got some green dye in your orange-tinged sunset.
Instead, experiment. Try using the copper stamp – called a tjap in Indonesian – or practice some of the techniques she suggests, like going all Jackson Pollock and splattering the wax onto the silk.
At my table, Liane Schaefer worked on a flame tree design while her daughter, Lei’isa, went with an anime style on their scarves. The 44-year-old Yigo mother was inspired to take the class with her daughter since one of Flores’ paintings adorns a wall at the First Hawaiian branch where she works.
She enjoyed the chill vibe of the workshop while at the same concentrating on the fluidity of the dye on the silk material. “The paint, it moves, so you have to be really aware of that.”
Another first-timer, Amanda Dedicatoria, a 25-year-old from Mangilao, encouraged others and praised their designs as she outlined flowers on her own sun catcher. Like Schaefer, she wanted to take advantage of learning from a local artist she has admired.
“I thought it was just an amazing opportunity and I just thought it was really exciting to learn with her and get to know her.”
I personally had an epiphany with Flores when I was trying to mimic the look of Two Lovers Point. She watched me, pointing out where I should paint the cliffside black and then suggesting crushing the wax by scrunching the material.
Instantly, I envisioned her iconic paintings and literally squealed at her, “that’s how you achieve that crinkled look!”
Batik painting workshop: $ 55. Learning how to paint like Judy Flores: Priceless.