INDONESIAN CRAFTS

INDONESIAN CRAFTS

Indonesia’s culture is indeed rich in the arts and crafts. In textiles, Sumatra produces some of the best gold and silver-thread woven sarongs, known as songket; South Sulawesi women produce colourful hand-woven silks, while Bali, Flores and Timor produce some of the best textiles from natural fibers using complicated motifs. In wood craft, Bali’s artisans produce beautiful sculptures, as do the Asmat in Papua, both traditional and modern, Central Java’s craftsmen produce finely carved furniture, while Bugis shipbuilders of South Sulawesi continue to build the majestic “phinisi” schooners that ply the Indonesian seas until today.

Handicrafts also developed from the usage of every day household items which were decorated and used for ceremonial purposes. Witness the wide variety of uses of natural woods, fibers, bamboo, rattan and grasses. Natural and chemical dyes, beads and other natural ornamentation are used to decorate these items, many of which have developed over time into distinctive art forms. Handicrafts and art objects range from every day items which are unique to Indonesia, to one-of-a-kind collector's items, with a very wide range in between. [Source: expat.or.id ]

Carving in stone and wood are particularly rich. Stone sculptures of the elaborate Hindu variety in Java or the ornate sarcophagi of Sumatra are archaeological remains of value, but only in Bali is elaborate stone carving still done (apart from that which may decorate some upscale Jakarta homes or public buildings). Wood carving is more common. Volcanic rock are carved to create statues depicting characters from ancient Indonesian myths and epics. These Stone Carvingare predominantly found in Yogyakarta and Bali where stone carving traditions date back over 900 years and were highly developed during the construction of major temples in these areas. [Source: expat.or.id ]

Bone, rubber, coconut shell, fibers, horn and other natural materials are used in many folk handicrafts from blow pipes, figurines, bags, storage items, painted umbrellas, and even ships made entirely from cloves.

Wood Carving in Indonesia

Woodcarving is the most enduring and widespread medium for artistic expression in Indonesia. Each Culture has its own style, and the diversity and sophiscation of Indonesia’s woodcarvers is remarkable. In Indonesia a house not only protects its inhabitants from the elements, but repels unwanted spirits. Example include the horned Singa (lion) heads that protect Batak Houses, the water buffalo representations on toraja houses sigifying prosperity, or the serpents and magical dog carving on Dayak houses in Kalimantan.

Objects made of wood can have spiritual, artistic and functional purposes or elements of all three. Some of the more lovely functional objects are ironwood stools from Kalimantan, carved bamboo containers from Sulawesi and doors from Timor. Perhaps the most famous artistic and spiritual carvings are masks. They are associated most with the masked dance-dramas of Java and Bali but are also used in dances and funeral rites and ceremonies on other islands.

Used in prehistoric times in burials, the use of ancient spirit masks have given way to masks used in many traditional dances. These highly stylized masks, topeng, depict the various characters in the story told by the dance. Masks enable the performers to assume new identities and depict a variety of characters from demons to animals, princes or gods. Amongst the most famous masks used in dance are the Rangda and Barong masks from Bali. In this traditional dance, performed often for tourists, the interaction of Rangda, representing evil, and the Barong, representing good, restores the harmony between the good and evil in life. While masks for sale in stores are primarily from Central Java and Bali, masks from other ethnic groups were used widely in the past to communicate with ancestors, for blessings for harvests, protection from evil spirits, to acquire new personalities or great powers.

The preferred wood for carving is teak. Sandalwood, mahogany, ebony are also used. Jackfruit is a common cheap wood. Local woods are also used. Ironwood and meranti are widely used in Kalimantan Belalu, a fast-growing light wood, is used in Bali. Fragrant sandalwood from the Nusa Tenggara is available in carvings, medicine, incense, cosmetics, prayer beads and useful items such as pens and fans. It is usually stored in a special glass cabinet in stores and a stroll past the cabinet will quickly acquaint you with the exotic fragrance of this special wood. The price may often be related to the type of wood used, as harder woods are more difficult to carve. Since many are concerned by the cutting of tropical hard wood forests, many wood items are made from teak trees which are cultivated on plantations. Look for the labeling designated the item as utilizing plantation-grown teak. [Source: expat.or.id ]

Wood Carving in Different Regions of Indonesia

Woodworking is arguably the most widely practiced art form in Indonesia. It seems like most ethnic groups and regional people practice it some form. The Asmat produce their famous totem-pole-like bis poles; the Toraja decorate their houses with images of buffalos and cocks; the Dayaks produce magical dog carvings; and the Batak protect their houses with horned lion heads. The center of woodworking in Java is the town of Jepura on the north coast of Central Java. Artists here produce traditional Hindu-Buddhist styles as well as Islamic styles. Other important centers include Kudus, known for its derailed panels, and Madura.

The cottage carving industry of Bali finds a wide domestic and international market for its statues of people, deities, and animals, many of which are finely artistic, some hackneyed. Perhaps the most common carving is in the urban furniture industry, mainly in Java, where ornately carved sofas and chairs are very popular. Traditional puppet or animal carvings of the mountain Batak of Sumatra or the upriver Dayak of Kalimantan are now mainly for tourists, though they once showed rich artistry (now largely seen in museums). The Toraja homes are still elaborately carved, and small examples of these carvings are sold to tourists. Toraja carve decorations on large bamboo tubes used for carrying palm wine or rice, and people in eastern Indonesia decorate small bamboo tubes that carry lime used in betel chewing. [Source: everyculture.com]

The most famous woodcarving centers are Bali, Central Java, Madura, Sumatra and Papua. Whimsical, brightly colored modern carvings are produced primarily in Bali. And the popularity of these pieces has Modern Wood Carvings from Bali influenced the wooden carving traditions of other regions as well. Most popular with expats are Javanese and Balinese wooden image carvings, Jepara lattice-like three-dimensional reliefs and Papuan primitive carvings. Papuan tribes such as the Asmat, Dani, and Komoro have very distinctive styles of carvings of totem poles, weapons, figures and utensils. [Source: expat.or.id ]

See Bali

Wayang Puppets

Puppets fall into two major classifications - wayang kulit - the leather or shadow puppet of Central Java, and wayang golek - wooden puppets of West Java. The most famous puppets of Indonesia are the carved leather wayang kulit puppets. The intricate lace figures are cut from buffalo hide with a sharp chisel-like stylus and the painted. They are produced on Bali and Java, particularly Central Java. The leaf-shaped kayon representing the “tree” or ‘mountain of life” is used to end scenes in the wayang ans is also made of leather. There are several varieties of wooden puppets. Wayang Golek are the three dimensional wooden puppets found in Central Java, but are most popular among the Sundanese of West Java. The wayang klitik puppets are a rarer flat wooden puppet of East Java.

The “Wayang kulit” (leather puppets) of Java is performed with leather puppets held by the puppeteer, who narates the story of one of the famous episodes of the Hindu epics, the Mahabharata or the Ramayana. It is performed against a white screen while a lantern in the background casts the shadows of the characters on the screen, visible from the other side where the spectators are seated. [Source: Embassy of Indonesia]

The “Wayang Golek” (wooden puppets) of West Java is based on the same concept. The crafts of Indonesia vary in both medium and art form. As a whole the people are artistic by nature and express themselves on canvas, wood, metals, clay and stone. The batik process of waxing and dyeing originated in Java centuries ago and classic designs have been modified with modern trends in both pattern and technology. There are several centres of Batik in Java, the major ones being Yogyakarta, Surakarta, Pekalongan and Cirebon.

Puppets have been used for centuries in Indonesia to tell the stories of the ancient epics, the Ramayana and the Wayng KulitMahabarata, as well as ancient myths. Modern stories also utilize this ancient art form for contemporary audiences. Some expats enjoy collecting the same character by various artisans, or all the characters in a scene or story, or just characters that strike their fancy. Good guys, bad guys, gods, demons, nobles, giants, clowns, princes and princesses and monkeys ... all can be found in traditional puppet forms. [Source: expat.or.id ]

Ceramics and Pottery in Indonesia

Indonesian Pottery is usually unglazed and hand worked, although the wheel is also used. It may be painted, but is often left natural. Potters around Mojokerto, close to the original Majapahit capital, still produce terracotas, but the best-knownpottery centre on Java is just outside Yogyakarta Kasongan, where intricate, large figurines and pots are produced. Lombok pottery is very fashionable and has an earthy primitive look with subtle colourings. Balinese ceramics show a stronger western influence and are more inclined to use glazing.

Ceramics made their way to Indonesia over centuries of trade with China dating back to 205 BC. Ceramic items range from everyday common vessels and plates, to fine ceramic pieces that became heirlooms passed down from generation to generation. Modern reproductions of these antiques abound ... so take the time to learn the difference between a genuine antique and a modern reproduction. The Ceramic Museum in Jakarta, ceramic study groups at the Indonesian Heritage Society and a wealth of books on Ceramics will help introduce you to this fascinating ancient art form. [Source: expat.or.id ]

More affordable, and yet just as beautiful is jewelry made from antique ceramic shards discovered in port cities throughout the archipelago. While formerly these broken dishes served as ballast in ships from China, modern artisans have turned these broken ceramic pieces into beautiful jewelry and other useful items. Contemporary ceramic design can be found in a wide range of useful household items. Lombok pottery in particular is popular with expats. The intricate terra-cotta pottery made in the village of Kasongan near Yogyakarta is also a favorite of many.

Metalwork from Indonesia

Popular metal crafts and weapons from from Indonesia include keris (daggers) and swords and arrows and spears from Papua and bone blow pipes from Kalimantan. Batik copper stamps are used in the cap production of batik and are collected by some people. Special designs can be made at the Cap Man in Jakarta where cap are worked into drawers and furniture as well as lazy susans, coasters or trivets. [Source: expat.or.id ]

The Bronze age in Indonesia began with the metalworking introduced from the Dongson culture in present-day Vietnam. Bronze work peaked with the Hindu-Buddhist empires of Java and brasswork is now more common, but in the eastern islands ancient hourglass-shaped bronze drums are still produced. Brassware was mostly Indian and Islamic influence and fine brass vessels and ornaments are produced in Indonesia.

Some of the best workmanship is that of the Minangkabau in Sumatera, but brassware is also produced in Java, South Kalimantan and Sulawesi. The most important ironwork object are knives. As well as the famous kris, the parang of kalimantan are sacred weapons used in everything from hacking through the jungle to head-hunting. Scabbards for ceremonies parang are intricately decorated, shells and features.

Pewter items are made with tin from the island of Bangka. Favorites with expats are the angels in varying sizes, candlesticks, picture frames, and Christmas tree ornaments. Engravings of Bangka tin items are often presented by various expat groups to their members in recognition of various achievements. Shops specializing in Bangka pewter items can be found in Jakarta on Jl. Paletahan. These shops offer significant discounts. Displays of Bangka tin items can also be found in the major arts and handicrafts centers in Jakarta and in other popular tourist destinations.

Indonesian Kris (Traditional Malay Dagger)

The kris or keris is a distinctive, asymmetrical dagger from Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Both weapon and spiritual object, the kris is considered to possess magical powers. Since time immemorial no weapon has been made renowned and revered in the Malay world as the kris. With its razor-sharp blade, which is usually wavy, the kris was in former times the favourite weapons of royalty and commoner alike. In the hands of a skilful exponent of pancak silat, the Malay art of self-defence, it was, and can still be, a deadly weapon in close combat. As recent as the beginning of the century, no man felt safe and secure leaving home without one tucked in his waistband, ready for the unexpected. Such confidence in the kris was a tradition made antiquated only by the passage of time. [Source: Brunei Today, Information Department, 1994]

Clearly the kris is very unlike other daggers or knives in origin and appearance. Almost all krises have lok or waves, the total of which has always been an odd number. Another unique feature is the widening of the blade just below the hilt, and one side of this part is usually found a small ornament that may take the form of an elephant's trunk, a snake's tongue or other objects according to the preference of the kris-maker.

The blade is normally covered by a damascened pattern called pamur or kuran depending on the composition of the metal used to fabricate the patterns. The ris maker believes that the pattern stengthens the blade and make it more lethal. Some krises like Kris Sula, which was used in the old royal courts to execute wrongdoers, or Kris Palembang are without the lok. The hilt of such a kris, however, is more often than not still resembles a bird's head.

Kris were worn everyday and at special ceremonies, and heirloom blades are handed down through successive generations. Both men and women wear them. A rich spirituality and mythology developed around this dagger. Kris are used for display, as talismans with magical powers, weapons, sanctified heirlooms, auxiliary equipment for court soldiers, accessories for ceremonial dress, an indicator of social status, a symbol of heroism, etc.

History of the Kris

Although mystic stories emanating from the Indonesian archipelago - where the original kris was believed to have been created - suggest that it has been in existence since time unrecorded, the kris became especially prominent both as a weapon and symbol during the Majapahit Empire in the thirteenth century and later at the Malaysian royal court through the exploits of its legendary warriors, such as Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat and their companions. The krises were also the weapons of the famous Bruneian warrior Bendahara Sakam and his men when they drove off the Spanish invaders from the country in 1578. ▪ The earliest known kris go back to the tenth century and most probably spread from the island of Java throughout South-East Asia. Kris blades are usually narrow with a wide, asymmetrical base. The sheath is often made from wood, though examples from ivory, even gold, abound. A kris’ aesthetic value covers the dhapur (the form and design of the blade, with some 40 variants), the pamor (the pattern of metal alloy decoration on the blade, with approximately 120 variants), and tangguh referring to the age and origin of a kris. A bladesmith, or empu, makes the blade in layers of different iron ores and meteorite nickel. In high quality kris blades, the metal is folded dozens or hundreds of times and handled with the utmost precision. Empus are highly respected craftsmen with additional knowledge in literature, history and occult sciences. [Source: UNESCO]

The Indonesian kris was inscribed in 2008 on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Over the past three decades, kris have lost some of their prominent social and spiritual meaning in society. Although active and honoured empus who produce high-quality kris in the traditional way can still be found on many islands, their number is dramatically decreasing, and it is more difficult for them to find people to whom they can transmit their skills. [Ibid]

Kris Myths

To this day no one is sure when exactly the first kris came into being. There are many tales, virtually all preternatural, relating to the genesis and exploits of the kris. One story concerned two brothers who went on a journey. One had a bamboo staff and the other a crude blade. Both these weapons, given to them by their father, possessed supernatural powers and could turn into anything the brother wished. [Source: Brunei Today, Information Department, 1994]

One day they came upon a palace where they saw a beautiful girl weaving a piece of cloth on a bamboo loom. The first brother, desirous of knowing more about the girl, commanded his staff to turn into a bird. The second brother willed his blade to change into a tiny venomous snake that entered the loom and shortly after bit the girl, who immediately fell into a deep coma. It turned out that the girl was the daughter of the King who owned the palace. The King tried everything in his power to revive her but without success. After severl efforts failed he became desperate and proclaimed that he would give his daughter in marriage to any man who could bring her back to life.

The brother who owned the blade-truned-snake being the only one with the antidote, which he obtained from the magical blade, succeeded in saving the princess, who subsequently became his wife. According to a belief, craftsmen of that period drew inspiration from the story and so created a weapon with the deadly blade sinous like the snake in motion, the hilt taking the form of the bird's head and the sheath representing the loom into which the snake slithered before it delivered its coma-inducing bite. Thus the kris was born.

Like the magic blade-turned-snake, the earlier krises were usually endowed with mysterious powers by their makers who were not only exceptional craftsmen but were some kind of occultists as well. The powers could be either good or evil, depending on the propensities of the persons who had them forged. Hence there are numerous stories about what such krises could do for their owners, like making them invincible; warning them of approaching dangers; saving them from sudden attacks; flying out at night to seek and destroy their enemies and other equally fascinating tales. Stories like this add to the mystique surrounding the kris, which to the Malays is not only an ancient and unique weapon but also a treasured ornament and heirloom.

Kris Making

Making a superb kris requires great skills that come from years of learning and practise. The knowledge of making this covetous weapon was once hard to come by as it was a closely guarded secret passed on from one generation to another and was taught only to a few selected family members. A person who was expert making kris and other weapons was known as Pandai Besi. There is a village in Brunei's centuries-old Kampong Ayer called Kampong Pandai Besi, where obviously the country's ironsmiths once lived. [Source: Brunei Today, Information Department, 1994]

Quite often the blade, hilt and sheath are nowadays made by three separate craftsmen. The experts who can fashion all three as in the old days number a mere handful in the Malay world today. The procedure of making the kris is basically the same as in the past, the only difference being the availability of modern tools. A peice of metal is repeatedly heated and hammered until it is flat. The next steps involve shaping, sharpening, filing and polishing. At some points along the process, the puting kris or shankdpin, onto which the hilt is to be fitted, is drawn out, and traces of impurities are removed from the blade.

The finished blade is then immersed in home made vinegar for at least twenty four hours to bring out the panmur or kurau. The hilt and sheath are usually made of hard fine grained wood that is both durable and attractive. In Brunei Darussalam, the two types of wood popularly used are obtained from the kulimpapa and hasana trees. In the old days horn and ivory were rarely employed. but lately as the kris is becoming more of a decorative object than a weapon, the use of horn or ivory for the hilt and sheath has been more common.

Basketwork and Beadwork

Some of the finest basketwork in Indonesia comes from Lombok. the spiral woven using this method, while smaller receptacles topped with wooden carvings are also popular. On Java, Tasikmalaya is a major cane-weaving centre, often adapting baskets and vessels to modern uses with the introduction of zips and plastic lining. The Minangkabau, centred around Bukit Tinggi, also produce interesting palm leaf bags and purses, well the lontar palm is used extensively in weaving on Timor, Roti and other outer eastern islands.

The Dayak of Kalimantan produce some superbs woven basket and string bags, and they also produce some fine beadwork which can be seen on their baby carriers. Some of the most colourful and attrative beadwork is produced by the Toraja of Sulawesi, and beadwork can be found throughout Nusa Tenggara from Lombok to Timor. Small, highly prized cowrie shells are used like beads and are found on Dayak and Lombok artefacts, though the best application of these shells is in the Sumbanese tapestries intricately beaded with shells.

A wide range of items, both useful and decorative are made from natural fibers such as pandanus, rattan, bamboo and grasses. Rice spoons, bowls, containers, woven mats, baskets, lamp shades, boxes, natural paper products and a multitude of other items are made from natural fibers in Indonesia. [Source: expat.or.id ]

Bamboo, while exotic in the west, is one of the most practical natural plants. The uses of bamboo in Indonesia are Natural Fiber Productsnumerous and Indonesians utilize bamboo extensively for a variety of items including baskets, winnows, cups, buckets, furniture and woven walls in traditional homes. The fine strands used for fans, purses, bags, hats, baskets and other items. Larger, thick strips are used for flower baskets, walls and other items. While bamboo was originally used for practical items around the house, these have been further developed into new items which sell well as souvenirs.

Jewelry from Indonesia

One of the richest art forms in Indonesia reflects the Indonesian woman's desire to ornament her traditional dress, which wouldn't be complete without various items of traditional jewelry. Ornamentation used with traditional dress is rich in symbolism and design. From modern designs in 22 karat gold, to intricate filigree silver jewelry from Yogyakarta, using precious and semi-precious stones, or modern plastic, wood or ceramic ... there are many designs, materials and price ranges to choose from. Many expats indulge their love of a particular type of jewelry ... buying opals or silver jewelry until they've built up quite impressive collections. Antique jewelry (both authentic and reproductions) is a favorite of expats. Antique trade beads, or their reproductions, are very popular.[Source: expat.or.id ]

Mabe pearls are a favorite with expats in Jakarta. You can purchase the loose pearls and have them set in your own gold or silver design at your favorite jewelers. Pearl farms harvest huge quantities of mabe and fresh water pearls in Lampung, Maluku and Sulawesi. A trip to the gem markets of Jakarta or Kalimantan is a fun adventure and provides an introduction to the variety of gemstones available in Indonesia. These include diamonds, South Sea pearls, opal, sapphire, amethyst and banded agates. Beware that many stones are actually manufactured ... what is termed masakan in Indonesia. The karat content of gold can often misrepresented and gemstones could be fake. Depend on a trusted jeweler or shop with knowledgeable friends.

Gold and silver work have long been practised in Indonesia. Some of the best gold jewelry comes from Aceh in the very north of Sumatera where fine filigree work is produced and chunky bracelets and earings are produced in the Batak lands. Gold jewelry can be found all over Indonesia and, while some interesting traditional work can be found throughout the islands, the ubiquitous toko mas (gold shop) found in every Indonesian City is mostly an investment house selling gold jewelry by weight, while design and workmanship take a back seat. The best-known jewelry is the silver of both bali and the ancient city of Kota Gede within the city boundaries of Yogyakarta. Balinese work is nearly always hands constructed and rarely involves traditional casting technique. Balinese jewelry is very innovative, employing, traditional designs but, more often than not, adapting designs or copying from other jewelry presented by western buyers.

Shells are used by Indonesian artisans to create a wide variety of useful items, wind chimes and jewelry. The waters surrounding the over 17,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago have given forth an abundance of aquatic splendor. Exotic shells can be purchased for small sums of money. However, be cautious in your purchases as many species are over-harvested and their extinction is only a matter of time. In particular, avoid purchasing the Nautilus and giant clam, protected species which are already endangered. [Source: expat.or.id ]

Traditional Furniture, Toys and Games

Beautiful Dutch colonial and other antique furniture from the 18th and 19th centuries is popular with expats, Wooden Carved rocking chairincluding Balinese opium beds, rice storage units, old cupboards, Javanese carved wall panels, doors and unique tables. These pieces may need restoration or may have already be refinished or reconditioned by the shops. [Source: expat.or.id ]

Many shops cater to the expats love of antiques and sell authentic antiques or reproductions. Widely available too are new designs of furniture, utilizing old wood. The advantage of old wood is that it is less likely to split when you bring it back to a dry climate, as the wood has been seasoned for decades. Much 'antique' furniture available is actually new furniture that has been left in the sun and rain for months to . age. the furniture. Be careful to purchase from a trustworthy dealer if you want to be sure you are getting authentic antiques.

The congklak, or dakon board game was brought to Indonesia by Indian or Arab traders centuries ago. Made Congklak Boardfrom plastic or wood, or highly carved by court artisans, this game has been played in Indonesia for centuries. Examples of early congklak board can be found in the National Museum. Traditional toys can be found throughout the archipelago and forays into the provinces will undoubtedly turn up many simple toys made by villagers for their children. These can be purchased at local pasar, roadside stands or near popular tourist destinations. [Source: expat.or.id ]

Ming Porcelain in Indonesia

Because this vast archipelago straddled the ancient trade routes between west and east, traders from Europe, China, India and the Arab world passed through these waters to trade for valuable cloves, nutmeg and ginger and pepper and to transport goods between the East and West. Over the centuries of trade between China and the west, millions of porcelain articles were shipped to customers around the world. As fate would have it, many of these ships never made it to their goal. Storms, typhoons, collisions with coral or rocks, piracy and even intentional sinking by competitors caused the valuable cargoes to find an early watery grave. [Source: expat.or.id

Many of these ancient shipwrecks can be found along the shipping lanes that run between present day Malaysia and Indonesia. Throughout the over 17,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago, treasure hunters still dive today to shipwrecks to recover valuable cargo. The ancient cargoes of spices and silks may have rotted after centuries in the sea, but many of the ceramics are discovered in perfect condition in the hold of the sunken ships.

According to Indonesian maritime law, all goods found in these shipwrecks are archeological treasures and the Indonesian government is entitled to half of the proceeds from any auction of the goods. After a spectacular find by treasure hunters, Jakartans are treated to a display of recovered ceramics before they are shipped off to an international auction house.

Porcelain has been made in China since the 8th century AD, during the Tang Dynasty. In the 13th century, during the Yuan Dynasty, Chinese porcelain artisans were exposed to Persian hand-painted ceramic wares, which utilized bright blue colors. When cobalt blue (sometimes referred to as Mohammed blue) was obtained by the Chinese in the 14th and 15th centuries from Persian sources, Chinese potters perfected a method of painting with the cobalt blue under a transparent glaze. The art form further developed and reached its pinnacle during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The town of Jingde Zhen (Ching-te-chen), in Jiangxi province, became the center for imperial Ming kilns and still is known for its excellent porcelain production. By comparison, the English did not 'discover' the secret of making hard-paste porcelain until the mid-18th century.

During the 16th century, traders transported tens of millions of pieces of Ming - and later, Qing porcelain to the West. Chinese porcelain techniques and designs greatly influenced future developments in European and Near Eastern ceramic wares. The Ming blue and white porcelain was highly prized by wealthy Chinese, Europeans, Arabs and Asians - which led to an explosion in the trade of the porcelain wares.

The blue cobalt pigment is applied through decorative brush painting by highly skilled artisans directly on the biscuit (pre-kiln baked clay which has been molded into various items) before glazing. After firing in the kiln, the pigment melts in between the biscuit and glaze creating a crystalline glaze and the bluish designs. Ming artists also excelled in painting over the glaze, using brilliant enamel colors. Porcelain from the various Chinese dynasties can be identified by looking at their glaze, motifs, forms, craftsmanship and firing techniques.

Jewelry Made From Shards of Ming Porcelain in Indonesia

Amongst the intact, priceless porcelain treasures from the Ming and Qing Dynasty, divers find broken ceramics Orginal Shards shards as well. While the broken shards may be of no value to the Indonesian government or collectors of ancient china, their artistic value has been recognized by jewelers who turn these small pieces of history into something quite beautiful. In Indonesia, ceramic shards can be found buried in the ground near ports that were frequented by foreign traders. In Banten, the former center of the pepper trade, shards can be dug up in the areas surrounding the old port, where they had been offloaded from ships sailing from China which used broken ceramic items as ballast. In Ambon, I am told, ceramic shards are clearly visible in the sand along the beaches, having been discarded by traders after breaking on the journey centuries ago.[Source: expat.or.id

The challenge for a silversmith is to find distinctive high quality designs amongst broken ceramic shards. Hundreds of pieces are rejected to find that one perfect piece. A specific Chinese symbol often becomes the focal point of the design. Master Silversmiths cut the ceramic shards, then handcraft each piece into a one-of-a-kind pendant, locket or ring.

The ceramic shards used by Iwan Silver of Kemang were taken from the flooring of a centuries-old Chinese home in the Senen area of Central Jakarta. Over the centuries, Jakarta has attracted many Chinese immigrants to Indonesia, many of whom came to establish trade between China and Indonesia. Of course, they brought their love of china with them.

As dishes, vases and other ceramic wares imported from China broke during normal usage, the broken shards were pressed down into the dirt flooring of this old Chinese house to create a kind of tile flooring. When the home was torn down in the early 90s to make way for the Senen Atrium shopping center, the historic and artistic value of these old ceramic shards was recognized and they were saved.

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Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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