I have been wanting to go to Fresh Creek, Andros in the Bahamas to the Androsia Factory to see the Androsia batik process since we started coming to the Bahamas five years ago. Our sailboat’s draft didn’t allow us to add it to our itinerary. Our new-to-us Kadey Krogen trawler brought us to Andros and the motherland of Androsia fabrics. If you’ve been to the Bahamas you’ll recognize the iconic design of Androsia fabric. I’ve sewn a few items from this batik material, but I always wanted to know more about this native Bahamian fabric art and experience it for myself. When we were planning this year’s trip to the Bahamas we decided to leave Palm Beach and head straight to Andros since we could check in at the Fresh Creek Airport. I contacted Androsia via email and phone to set up the visit and batik lesson. The factory is an easy 10 minute walk from the government dock in Fresh Creek, which allows dinghy docking for $6.40 for the day. The Androsia boutique store is a smallish building on the right-hand side of Androsia Street, an unpaved, forested road. Ahead is the factory with the wax, dye and sewing rooms. Eight talented artisans work there. Phyllis, the supervisor, described the process for us. The stamps are made from sponge or foam with a wire backing and handle (highly customizable stamps which last several months). The stamp is dipped in hot wax, some wax is shaken off, then carefully applied to the fabric with gentle pressure for about three seconds making each yard of fabric truly unique. If you hold the stamp level there is less chance of leaving drips of wax where you don’t want them. There are stencils on a light table under the fabric to guide some patterns. A stylus with wax is used to “write” the brand name on each piece. Where the wax is applied, the fabric will “resist” the dye – it will not be absorbed into the fabric where the wax is placed. There are usually four dye tubs (bathtubs!) each day. Some fabrics go through more than one dying cycle. After the dying process, the wax is soaked off in very hot water being pulled out of the hot water by hand. The dyed fabric is dried on the lines outside in the sun. Each batch of fabric is hand labeled and numbered with a handwritten note and bundled until it is sewn or shipped. In the last
room three seamstresses cut the fabric and sew garments and household items using a serger and Juki sewing machines. A seamstress might make 24-32 shirts a day. Each piece is ironed to a crisp finish. You can find more details on their website.
After the tour, I had arranged to have a batik lesson ($25) making a yard of cotton fabric (you could select a t-shirt, etc). So in the wax room Phyllis showed me how to apply the hot wax on the sponge and then to the fabric on the light table. First you try on a trial piece and then you can stamp your final piece. Apparently, I went too fast! A few drips here and there when I didn’t hold the sponge level, oh well. With the “pen” that holds wax I tried to “write” my name, but I asked Phyllis to write “Androsia” so it would have the signature trademark. I used the angelfish stamp and selected to have it dyed in navy blue. Very cute. Fun to decide where to stamp the design and where to sign it. The dying and drying process will take three days so I have to wait to see the final outcome as weather challenged us to move to a calmer anchorage. I can see that there is definitely skill and talent acquired with experience to make the unique beautiful fabrics. For me, well even with a few drips and drops, I’ll know I made mine myself!