Evocative Bali Craft
One of the aspects of our short but interesting tour of Indonesia, which is forever etched in my mind, is the many types of handicrafts in vogue there. The crafty carvers of Bali have indeed carved a place in our hearts. From painting to sculpture to other forms, the craft magic was enchanting and wove us into its spell. I will talk about some of them here.
1. Stone Carving
From the time we left Denpasar for Ubud, we saw plenty of Stone Workshops, one after another, along the road. Stone carvings and sculptures had always been and still are very popular among the locals. One can witness it in any temple or building or even homes. Most places would have at least a couple of stone security guards wrapped in a black and white checkered sarong!
It is said that there is a rain forest scattered with mysterious stone carvings in Sulawesi which could be even 2000 years or more old. The legend has it that they were all once living beings and because of some curse, they all turned to stone!
2. Wood Carving
After spending some time in Goa Gajah or Gajah caves and the ruins of the Buddhist temple there, we were looking at the shops selling Batik stuff. The guide sent us a message saying if we hurry we might catch the wood carvers at work before they wound up for the day. We swiftly poured into the vehicle and in good time we made it to the wood carving workshop at Kemenuh village, Ubud and we all poured out.
Well, workshop is an understatement. This was spread over very large area. On hearing the artist at work, we made a beeline.
The carver was making steady progress, oblivious of the group of people poring over his shoulder taking pictures and at times with blinding flash. He was making a huge “Garuda” or an eagle (both in Sanskrit and Bahasa Indonesian) with its outspread wings. When enquired, he told us that it would take him around 15 days to create such a piece.
The place was teeming with wood sculptures, some even over 10 feet high, made of single log of wood! And all of them for sale and a few costing upwards of USD 300,000 for the more complex ones!
The artists work from memory, there are no designs to guide them. Much of the sculptures were of Gods, Goddesses, animals, birds and other characters from Hindu Mythology.
3. Bone Carving
This was indeed a surprise. A member of our group noticed several bone carving workshops along the main road in Tampak Siring village. Of course we had to stop and have a look.
The intricate work on these skulls speak volumes. The most commonly used skull is of horse, then buffalo & cow. In some cases antlers of deer too.
It takes anything between a week to a month to carve out a good piece.
I guess the pictures speak for itself.
4. Silver Jewelry and Silver wares
While not strictly carving, the Silver ware and jewelry making had a lasting impact on us. Nowhere else have I seen hundreds of artisans working in one place, each having his/her workstation complete with blow torch and other tools required to make silver articles.
I spoke via my interpreter and found from one such artisan, that she creates 10 rings in a day. The work needs concentration, and I could sense that our presence was a nuisance to their highly efficient workday. 🙂 They are salaried people and don’t get paid on per piece basis.
Another level is replete with a huge collection of silver stuff for sale from small ear studs to large silver decorative pieces, all bearing stamp of traditional and distinctive Balinese art.
Unfortunately Photography was not allowed inside the showroom. That means you can not photograph a finished piece.
There are many such silver workshops in Celuk Village, which also offer classes in this art. What’s more, each participant gets his own small silver raw material to work on!
I never thought I would be observing and writing about this face of Bali. There are many more forms of art in Bali and I hope to see & share them all soon with you.
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