Bali may be best known for its crystal-clear waters, lush green hills and Hindu temples, but it’s also home to a rich artistic tradition with deep cultural roots. Bali’s many artisans are renowned for their craft, and Kiva’s Field Partner NOVICA is working to help them preserve their culture and share it with new audiences around the world.
The organization’s regional director for Bali and Java, Regina Bimadona, is an artisan herself and helps her fellow artisans grow their businesses by teaching them more about quality control, efficiency and best practices.
One of the most common challenges she sees is that many of the artisans come from traditional arts, and don’t necessarily have the business background to properly manage their inventory and materials. The result is that artists often aren’t able to take advantage of the busiest seasons of the year, or they end up wasting materials.
So how do these artisans grow and thrive in an international marketplace? Read on to hear from 4 artisans and how they’re realizing their dreams.
Buana is a gracious and hard-working silversmith, who crafts handmade jewelry in the cultural center of Bali. Though he now has a robust and growing workshop with 20 workers, it’s also been a long journey to get here.
Regina commented, “in the beginning, his life was very difficult and very poor. He’d been struggling for a lot of his life.” Buana echoed these sentiments and said, “maybe if I told you more in depth, you might cry at how poor I was — very poor.” Yet he immediately added, “but I’ve been blessed.”
After graduating and working from home, he met Regina and began their partnership. He had to immerse himself in his work for 4 months before his items were ready to sell online.
Buana credits Regina with his success today, saying, “very truly, without her, I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today. She’s might be the person that’s been most involved in my education since my youth.”
Like many parents, Buana also seems undeniably driven to help make a better future for his kids and family. For Balinese families that can afford it, it’s a tremendous honor to build a formal place of worship. And fortunately, his business has grown enough to support his family in this way, and he recently held an opening ceremony for his family’s temple.
Every month, Buana sees the sales of his business increase, and it’s a testament to his resolve and progress that he so clearly feels in control of his future success now.
“If I want to continue to progress dramatically, that’s actually up to me. I can only work hard and be grateful.”
Wayan Sukerni is a bead maker, and gets to works alongside her extended family of 10 in a covered workshop. To illustrate how they work together, she described, “I’ll put on the beads, my husband and father do the finishing, and my firstborn son can take them to NOVICA.”
It’s a desirable job for her, because she’s able to do it at home with her family. It also means she doesn’t have to work in the heat.
“Working on beads allows me to be at home and take care of my kids and family at the same time.”
In Bali, there are numerous religious ceremonies; some of which are public, and some of which are private and more family-oriented. It’s Wayan’s duty to prepare offerings and tend to these ceremonies, and working at home gives her the freedom to balance these important family commitments.
Wayan feels like her business is positioned well, because unlike before, she’s now able to sell goods at 2 outlets: her personal store and online. Her Kiva loan has also given her the ability to stock up on materials and plan for busy seasons.
“Before, I was at a deficit, but now there’s progress due to the loan,” she says, “As I see my business progress day by day, I feel calm and happy.”
By Balinese tradition, each child is given one of 4 names based on their birth order, and “Wayan” is a name given to the first born. The following profile happens to be about another firstborn with the “Wayan” name.
Wayan Rendeh is a master carver, and a man who clearly pours himself into the beautiful statues that he creates. To him, it’s a form of self-expression.
“In wooden sculptures, I like abstract forms the most, because abstract art grows from within myself,” he says. And while his craft is deeply personal in many ways, he also seeks to weave his culture’s traditions into the designs.
“When doing abstract sculptures, I don’t shy away from traditional culture. Indeed, I can’t escape from it because I’m a son of a culture-rich land—I can’t forget that.”
Since beginning work with NOVICA and Regina, Wayan has grown from being a small vendor on the side of the street, to leading a workshop with over a dozen carvers. He’s saving money and is building a house for his family. He says that the Kiva loans made him feel “more light, and less burdened to increase stock for the busiest times of year.”
He’s also learned to scale up his business, recruit workers, monitor his progress year to year, and use technology. “By working together with NOVICA, I’m doing things I never used to do like hold a laptop or surf the internet… I’m trained to be able to keep up with the times so that I’m not left behind.”
One of the biggest transformations in how he works is that he makes statues that he and his team are personally proud of — Wayan now views his sculptures not simply as objects to sell, but as works of art.
To see the master carver in action, check out this short video of his workshop:
Desak Nyoman first learned the traditional art of batik when she was 16 years old, working in a factory in Ubud — the cultural heart of Bali. She worked there for 10 years, starting as a novice and getting promoted to a manager along the way. But after she got married, she was interested in starting her own business.
Inevitably, running a business can involve a lot of stress and unknowns. Desak recalls, “When I started my business, I didn’t know who would be my customer. I was worried about the future of my business.” But in time, she began learning how to run her store and workshop, step by step. She also started meeting clients, and got connected with Regina.
Desak uses the Kiva loans to buy more stock for her business. She said, “it’s very helpful… it gives me power!”
Through NOVICA, she also learned about how to make batik with excellent quality, meaning an attention to detail and quality control. “It’s the number 1 thing that I learned from them. I try to teach my customers that too — it’s important.”
When you hear Desak talk about customers buying clothing and paintings that she’s made, it’s immediately apparent how much joy she takes in her craft. “I feel so happy I want to cry, you know? When people give me support and they feel good wearing my clothing. I’m so happy.”
Watch the video below to see how her beautiful batik pieces are made:
To view and purchase goods from these artisans, check out their respective profiles on NOVICA: Buana (silversmith); Wayan Sukerni (bead maker); Wayan Rendeh (master carver); and Desak Nyoman (batik painter).