Exploring Batik

CMC students find new way of community service

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Batik is an unusual art form that attracts an unusual kind of artist. Those that find their way to Jason Albrecht's classroom are looking for a way to express themselves outside of rigid guidelines.

Albrecht tried teaching the semester-long Batik class two ways -- once with a strict list of assignments and once with an "anything goes" attitude -- and he found the second option was the only one that truly motivated his students.

Batik is an ancient art, developed in Southeast Asia and Japan for millennia. It became popular in the 1960s and '70s in the United States and then slipped back into obscurity until now.

"It's so old school, it's new," Albrecht said. Batik is a method of dying fabric in which certain areas are blocked using wax to keep dyes from penetrating those areas.

Albrecht calls it "the art of flow."

"There is the flow of ideas from your mind and from your life into the creation of the piece," he said. "There is the flow of the dye onto the fabric and the flow of the wax.

"This art form is a therapeutic medium. You don't necessarily need to be artistic to do it. It's a relaxing, fun art that allows anyone to express themselves."

Albrecht learned the art of Batik at Colorado College in 1996. He made a piece titled "The Tower of Time" that charted the history of evolution. It caught the eye of CC art faculty, and he soon was teaching the class.

Albrecht started teaching Bat--ik at Colorado Mountain College in 2002, and the popularity of the class pushed registration for four Batik classes, ranging from beginning to advanced.

Albrecht's students range from the traditional 18-year-old CMC matriculate to older quilters who want to learn the art so they can customize their fabrics.

"I took the class because I saw what my friends made," 18-year-old Jack Bryant said. Because of his artistic background in high school, Bryant was able to take the advanced class. "I like it because it's not a lecture. You can do whatever you want. You just have to make six pieces.

"While I'm (making Batiks), I feel free. I'm not worrying about bills or my problems."

Recently, students from Al----brecht's class have been meeting to create several Batik banners they plan to donate to organizations in the community. They are near completion of two banners -- one that reads "Jesus Freak" and another that reads "Shine" -- they are donating to a Christian youth group in Craig. The pieces were commissioned by Lori Noland at Sundance Cleaners.

"We've been taking our Batiks to Lori for years to have the wax cleaned away," Albrecht said. "She has always been good to us, and when she commissioned us to do these banners, we said we would do them for free."

Another set of four Batik banners will be donated to Yampa Valley Medical Center's recovery unit "just to brighten up people's day," Bryant said.

Making and donating the banners satisfies community service requirements for several CMC students who were arrested for MIPs (minor in possession) and possession of marijuana. Four of Albrecht's students who volunteered for the project are serving community service.

"It's makes me feel good to be doing something like this for someone," Bryant said. "And it's a lot better than picking up trash."

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