Space to Create
TRADITIONAL ARTS AND CULTURE WILL PREVAIL AS LONG AS THEIR PRACTITIONERS ARE SUPPORTED IN THEIR CREATIVE ENDEAVORS. THAT IS THE AIM OF THE 'MEET THE MAKERS' EVENT.
Held for the eighth time from Nov. 21-23 at KOI Gallery Kemang, the handmade crafts show 'Meet the Makers' brings together artisans from across the archipelago to exhibit their wares and demonstrate to buyers how items are wrought manually using methods cascaded over generations. From hand-woven textiles and fine art batik ‘which can take months to make’ to ceramics and handmade shadow puppets, the cultural compendium is cross-fertilization for buyers to learn about the context of Indonesian heritage and for traditional craftsmen to glean modern market demands.
'We call it modern heritage' so it' s heritage but with a modern aesthetic, which is slightly different and with a different market,' explained Maria Cristina Guerrero, executive director of Non-Timber Forest Products, one of five NGOs that jointly owns Borneo Chic. The Kemang based shop sells the water-reed mats, rattan baskets and naturally dyed textiles made by Dayak tribespeople of Kalimantan, a distribution channel through which artisans in outlying regions can market their products in Jakarta while catering to tried-and-tested markets back home.
Presented with opportunity, craftsmen are galvanized to up production standards and observe market segmentation: traditional tenun ikat (woven cloth) for instance, still thrives as a souvenir commodity, but for it to be commercially viable requires functional adaptation to modern lifestyles, such as using the cloth to make laptop and eye glass cases, notebook covers and other everyday items. NGOs work in the field with the craftspeople to demonstrate how to create value-added designs, such as by incorporating water-reed mats with leather and brass to make handbags.
'Often people ask 'Why are these things so expensive?' But they don' t understand that to make something like that takes months,' Guerrero explains. 'We really need a special place not to introduce our product but to educate the people to appreciate art and culture. That' s the main point,' concurs Harriadi Mardoyo, owner of Rumah Pekunden Ceramics, one of the slated speakers at the event' s opening seminar.
This year' s Meet the Makers will feature 18-20 artisans, including several profiled below.
Harriadi Mardoyo, Potter
Growing up at the foot of a hill in Semarang, Central Java, on his way home from school Harriadi would dig his fingers into cracks on the rock face to find water.
Shoehorning deeper, he discovered clay, and also his calling. Harriadi, a civil engineer, built his own kiln based on a photograph in a pottery magazine. The monstrous contraption in his studio at his Javanese joglo in Depok can fire up to 400 ceramic pieces at one time. Other ownbrand devices include the 'jigger', a press mold operated by foot, which he uses to shape plates, lamp stands, water jugs, vases, canisters and more, and onto which he handdraws batik and oriental-leaning floral motifs derived from textiles and batik literature. Product placement is purposely restricted ' there are sporadic exhibitions at malls, modest shelf space at Grand Indonesia cultural emporium Alun Alun, but no physical outlet.
'Based on our experience, even if we exhibit at the mall, people will be more appreciative if they come here so they can see the whole production process. This is the hunting process,' Harriadi' s son, Bregas Harrimardoyo, who helps run Rumah Pekunden, said at his studio.
Visitors learn about the entire creation process, from processing the clay from powdered minerals and churning it in a large urn to chiseling designs. Then comes the first firing to solidify the mold, glazing to apply color, and then glaze firing to finish. Now in his 70s, Harriadi still mines his artistic identity with the zeal of a newly self-aware artist. 'Most craftsmen don' t take the time to build their identity; it' s easier just to copy,' says the potter. '[Late batik designer] Iwan Tirta once said that in batik, we don' t need patents because no two designs can be the same if they' re handmade.'
Agus Ismoyo, Batikmaker
A founding member of Meet the Makers, Ismoyo established the coalition to help struggling artists, craftspeople and designers achieve financial independence ' although he shirks the notion of monetization. 'We were having difficulties selling our wares and the economy was diminishing while the prices of materials increased. We are culturally-minded, and I think it' s important to be able to commercialize the culture ' not industrializing the craft but creating a livelihood for the craftsmen so that they can be independent and be proud of what they do,' said Ismoyo.
He will showcase wearable art pieces, a commercialleaning product line run as an income supplement for his Jogja-based label Brahma Tirta Sari, which he adamantly distinguishes from the brand' s art pieces. Cultural art, he says, is a 'perpetuation of the culture, and for the artist personally it is a visual manifestation of intangible values.' Batik' s acknowledgement in UNESCO' s 'Intangible Cultural Heritage' list, he says, signifies that batik does not recognize brand names ' 'it is about the batik process itself and not who makes it.'
Grasiana 'Yana' Wani, Weaver
Yana is from a proud family tradition of weavers; her mother, Sisilia Sii, is featured in Weaver' s Stories from Island Southeast Asia by Roy Hamilton, a senior curator of the Fowler Museum' s Asian and Pacific Collections. Sii had never woven cloth commercially when, widowed young, it became her lifeline in supporting four children. Although Sii' s mother died before she had the chance to learn nggaja and samba weaving reserved for senior women, Sii said her mother visited her in a dream and taught her vicariously. Yana is following in their footsteps. 'It has been passed down by my ancestors until now ' three generations. In my community, the women weave,' Yana said.
The Baduy, Indigenous Tribespeople
The Baduy community have been invited to exhibit their weavings and bags at Meet the Makers, but as is their custom, they will not use transportation to get there; they will set off on foot three to five days beforehand. They use only plant-based indigo dyes in textile-making; their clothes are a uniform of blue-and-white stripes, with stripe width earmarking social status.
'The inner Baduy don' t have much contact with the outer world and they depend on everything that they do with what nature provides them. So they' re here to share their story,' explained Guerrero.