I believe so strongly that the spirit of these artisans – their commitment to their tradition, their pride of accomplishments, and their spark of creativity – is reflected in every piece that they make.
Every year, when I travel to Indonesia, I carry with me the most unusual items in my suitcase: large deer antlers. I explain to airport authorities that they are from local deer near my home in the US, and I bring them all this way to be carved by master carvers in Bali. This generally satisfies them, and it makes them smile with Indonesian pride when I tell them about the intricate carving work that “my” carver Nyoman Luter does. He is a masterful artist, working with his wife, brothers, and kids now, caring on a tradition that has passed down from his father. For over 20 years I have been buying bone & antler carvings from him in the “bone carving village” of Tampaksiring, and he and I joke that we knew each other before we both had silver hair.
Nyoman Luter & Family
In Legian, South Bali there are dozens of bead shops on the main road, but over 15 years ago I stumbled into Bigben Beads and they have been my mainstay ever since for our colorful beaded bobbles. The core crew work seamlessly together, so much so I don’t even know who in fact owns the business. They all wear many hats: selling, designing, beading, and schlepping.
Left to right: Didik, Arif, and Leo
Putu Pink has been tailoring for decades, running her business that employees 20 sewers, creating clothing primarily for overseas customers in the capital of Denpasar Bali. She has sewn our Balinese Batik Shirts for 13 years, and I love my visits catching up with her, watching her family grow, and trying to support her trials and triumphs. She represents the strength of Indonesian women, wicked smart, fun and funny, beautiful, totally family oriented, and a ridiculously hard worker.
She is a dynamo!
Deep inside the Denapsar Market, Made Putri runs her own little empire with a huge smile and tons of hard work. I found her by getting lost in the warrens of alleyways a few years back and have been purchasing our bronze collection from her ever since. She is feisty and a sharp businesswoman, but most importantly a fierce protector of her two beautiful daughters.
Made and her daughters
Balinese refer to men senior to them as Pak, or Mr. It is always startling to me when the locals call me Bu (the female version, or Mrs.) as when I moved to Bali I was in my mid-twenties, but now – more than 30 years later – I am surely a Bu. The head of the family I buy our exquisite chess sets from is Pak Made Lugra, a sweetheart of a man with a special air of dignity about him. Together with his wife, children, and a few other carvers, they create a variety of treasures created out of wood, bone and antler.
Pak Made working