Silversmithing in Bali: Chez Monique, Studio Perak, WS Art Studio & More

My experience silversmithing in Bali began in late October with my dear friend, Sadie Sapphire. Before our trip,  we planned to visit various studios in Ubud to learn different balinese silvermithing techniques & methods of craftsmanship, together. As I began the journey flying solo, I spent my first experience with Wayan Sunatra & his team of metalsmiths  at Chez Monique. A  studio set in a Balinese compound located on Jalan Sriwedari, Chez Monique holds a very unique environment where culture and craft meet hand in hand. It is not only Wayan's home but  his whole family's. Hindu decorative elements, offerings, birdcages, balinese traditional paintings & relics, and ,off course, Wayan & his family surround his outdoor studio, making one feeling the center of this cultural and artistic experience. I was greeted with open-arms and smiles from ear to ear. The energy was positive and filled with light. I sat at a jeweler's bench that came accompanied with a woven coconut leaf basket filled with frangipani & marigold flowers and incense sticks; an offering. After a warm introduction, Wayan  & I discussed my first project, Anting  Anting Coral, and listed out the P.O.O. He gave me a brief on shop etiquette and tools. For example, the saw pointing downwards as opposed to upwards giving a better grip for the hand and contact with the metal piece. Soldering is performed with the use of a mechanical foot pump and a lead line that is connected to a tank of natural gas. And, the use of a file is fashioned in and up-and-down direction as oppose to one... Something my former instructors would have a a freak out over! To manage a successful flame requires a lot of physical energy, coordination, and focus. He mentioned the importance of taking the process slowly and comfortably. Thereafter, I began my first creation, which was inspired by the coral brain I had found in Balian beach the previous week. What I drew from this inspiration was the naturally rhythmic appearance of cavities within the coral; a rather psychedelically visual experience to observe. The process included cutting the shape, sawing out the lines, preparing decorative details such as formed wire & silver balls, soldering, forming, filing, & polishing. 

I was offered help by Wayan's team, Mogi and Eco, who supervised my steps and advised when necessary. I think they found my design somewhat humorous, as they would laugh and joke while modeling the earrings on their ears. "Gede!" they said. And, yea, I agreed I like to go BIG! Our means of communication was more visual than verbal, as Mogi and Eco speak bahasa Indonesia & Balinese. Though this served as no problem as I feel I am  a visual learner. It's when there is too much verbal direction that I get confused and overwhelmed. It also gave me an opportunity to learn a little bahasa, as well! My first experience was thoroughly enjoyable and with out a moment of stress :) I was able to complete my first balinese silversmithing creation in 4 hours. It shined and sparkled fresh off the the polish, reflecting the way I felt inside. "Bagus!" Mogi said with a smile and then laughed again at the size of the earrings. 

Sadie arrived the following week, and after some magical exploration in Ubud and its surrounding areas, we went to Studio Perak for a  silver jewelry workshop. The atmosphere was different to Chez Monique in the way that it was commercially presented. The studio, located on Jl. Hanoman,  in the center of Ubud, was smaller & packed with people focused on their creations. It didn't exert a similar cultural atmosphere as Chez Monique, but more of a business-minded vibe. Ketut, the head of the studio, greeted us and show us to two benches. We explained our designs (3rd eye bracelet) and he advised on construction. He showed us tools and their proper uses similar to Wayan at Chez Monique. Ketut was very Helpful, and gave me some pointers on how to texture with dapping tools in the Indonesian  fashion of Silversmithing. My inspiration for my 3rd eye Bracelet was taken from  a Batik stamp block.  I fabricated the shapes that I found interesting in the reference, and I noticed a resemblance to the image  of the 3rd Eye: a source of protection, knowledge, lucidity, openness, & balance. On my adventures throughout Ubud up to this point, I was attracted the the guardian-like statues, known as Dwarapala, which represent both positive & negative elements. They are hindu characters that represent balance & neutrality. And, They are considered protective representations of the Hindu faith as they assure a stable and peaceful atmosphere.  In creating my 3rd eye Bracelet, I used both inspirations to influence  its final outcome. 

The following day, we went to Chez Monique to take a jewelry Workshop with Wayan. I was very glad to return to the studio because it offered me so much in terms of Inspiration, Encouragement, and Knowledge in my previous experience. And, I was so excited to get to share it with Sadie since i had been raving about it since the day she arrived :) 

Wayan was very pleased to see us, and after  Sadie's introduction to the team, we began our pieces. My idea was inspired by the Pumubug, a hindu motif that sits atop every temple & balinese home. It is represented in a couple variations. The one that inspired my Buncun Barong ( Ring) contains a central piece with decorative elements and in the center is an enshrined swastika (not Nazi, but Hindu). It is flanked by what resembles to be wings, decorated with spiraling details and dots. Having drawn the piece, I separated the central piece from the wings and focused on its shape. The result resembled a mask. After cutting the shape & filing the sharp edges, Mogi & Eco taught me how to make wire filigree and solder the pieces to the base. I added silver balls, and then formed, or domed, the shape to sit in balance with the ring band. After polishing & cleaning, the final outcome took on a Barong look-a-like. In the Balinese pre-Hindu/Animist faith, the Barong represents a lion, with a  good spirit & a symbol of protection. It is commonly used in Balinese ceremonies for traditional purposes, reflecting the Animist belief of the supernatural power of animals. The construction of my Buncun Barong is somewhat unusual, and probably not for an everyday occasion but I believe it holds a protective quality in both its physical appearance and spiritual influence. 

The next week, Sadie & I headed out for WS Art Studio located in Lobtunduh, a village about 20 minutes on a motorbike from the center of Ubud. The studio provided several artistic avenues to explore like silversmithing, traditional balinese painting, and batiking. The environment was very scenic. The studio was outdoor and  overlooked padi fields. We were greeted with a welcoming plate of fried banana, which was a yummy way to start off the experience. The atmosphere was light-filled and peaceful. Wayan, the owner of WS Art Studio, overlooked our designs and gave us input. My design was too big, so I had to go back to the drawing table, and change my idea. I decided on a matching ring to my Anting Anting Coral, which I had previously made at Chez Monique. The studio was not all too equipped  with the proper tools, and although the bamboo jeweler's benches looked really cool, they didn't serve a stable function for hammering. Sadie and I had several laughs about it in the end, but during the experience we found it a little frustrating when I would hammer and her pieces would fly, and vice-versa. Unfortunately, we didn't learn all that much from Wayan but we were able to explore some techniques on our own. I formed my Buncun Coral differently to its matching earrings. Instead of hammering, I tweaked and formed the edges with pliers, which resulted in a ripple effect. Overall, I enjoyed making my ring and was thankful to figure out a different forming technique at the dispense of a limited workspace. At the end of this experience, we both agreed that Chez Monique offered the ideal experience of silversmithng. We decided, then and there, to stick with Chez Monique for our upcoming creations and place of learning! 

In the following weeks, we became the usuals at Chez Monique. Wayan, his team, and family were always welcoming and willing to teach us new techniques such as stone-settings, engraving,and finishings. My aesthetic gravitated towards cultural, spiritual, and traditional references inspired by the Balinese culture. After more than six weeks of silversmithing in Bali, and, now, continuing on, I have developed a series of work that represents stories from this incredibly rich and inspiring culture. With the help of some wonderful new friends, I’ve developed this concept of ‘Living Jewelry,’ where the stories and legends of the balinese culture inspire each piece but also live on through them. And, to be shared with their future owners, so that the cycle to continues and the stories live on:) 

I am so thankful of this experience and I send my love and warm vibes to those who have supported me through this life dream endeavor. Without anyone of you, none of this experience  nor  my new series of work would've come to life. Sending my biggest gratitude to everyone for helping me birth this next chapter, and enabling me to open my eyes and explore this magical world in Indonesia. Thank you & Namaste! 

Chez Monique  Jewelry studio &Wayan's Family Compound

Family temples on the compound: Offerings are blessed and placed inside to appease &placate the gods 3X per day 

Anting Anting & Bunkun Coral: Inspiration, Process, Final Piece

Anting Anting Coral 

Bunkun Coral

Our jeweler benches at Chez Monique : Making a mess ;) Sadie's fancy sunglasses, yummy white Luwack Koffee, and how about that Silver wire...

Chez Monique: Soldering station with foot pump and all :)

Bunkun Barong & Galang Kalelawar: Pumubug Inspiration, Process, Final Piece

Bunkun Barong:  Good spirit  & Protector.  

Galang Kalelawar: Inspired by the wing-like shapes that flank the central motif in the Pumubug. Kalelawar/ Lawah , or bats,  are  sacred animals in the Animist Faith, as they are considered to be the the protectors of the Snake God, Naga Basuki.  This piece was completed by with very thick gauge silver flat, Wire filigree, silver balls. Once soldered,  The piece was polished, and then formed around a wooden mandrel. After Round #2 of polishing, The final piece came to Life. 

Mogi: The man, and from time-to-time my male model! Playing around in my  woven chain, which is an Indonesian silversmithing weaving technique. We call this creation, "The Saw Chain," styled by Mogi :) 

Process: Peeking over sadie's shoulder as she sets her moonstone 

Galang 3rd Eye: Inspiration, Process, Final Piece. (Studio Perak)

Galang 3rd-eye 

Family time at Chez Monique: Suci, Baby Junah, & Sadie 

Ikan Ear Cuff:  The inspiration for this piece is the Animist belief in water spirits. Ikan,  or fish, is a sacred in pre-hindu/ Animist faith as it represents not only  fish, but also mermaids. The queen of the Sea, Is an indonesian legend known to control the seas of Java and surrounding Islands, including Bali. The process  of making this piece was more difficult than it would appear. Though I really enjoyed making it because of the absence of a methodology; more like going with the flow of creating. Mogi definitely got a kick out of this one :) I believe it to be an offering to the Queen of the Sea. 

Ikan Ear Cuff: Finished piece 

Sadie & I took a day off from jewelry to explore a different avenue of Balinese Art form: Batiking! I  used the Brain coral that i found in Balian for textile inspiration. The process of Batiking is pretty labor intensive and very hands on. The process starts with drawing out the design in free hand form with a marker on cotton cloth. The next step is applying hot beeswax with a canting, or bamboo needle that funnels the liquid wax to the tip of the needle. Then, you apply the needle to the fabric with little pressure and go over the drawn lines in the wax. The wax needs to dry before paint can be applied, and once it does, this is where the real fun begins :) I decided to take the expressionist route and mix tertiary colors to achieve a tie-dye effect. I applied salt to enhance the effect. the drying process took about 24 hours, and once Dry, the fabric piece was boiled to remove the  beeswax, leaving the drawn lines in white. The experience was incredible, and fun to find something new in me. Ketut, our instructor was very helpful and informative about the history of the balinese craft. And, He fixed my mistakes :) 

Batik Brain Coral: finished piece

Kalung Pumubug: The inspiration for this necklace is a decorative and symbolic motif of the Balinese Hindu culture, known as the Pumubug. Unlike the Pumubug that inspired by Buncun Barong & Galang Kalelawar, This version is a 3-dimesional  representation and signifies good luck. And, it is a decorative essential atop every Balinese temple, home, and business. As a child, my father always told me to use my eyes to look up, and my ears to listen to whats around me. I feel that this piece reflects his wise sentiment, as it has enabled me to be curious in symbolic and deeper meanings over the years. Kalung Pumubug took 2 workshops in order to complete. The construction involved making the form, beginning with 2 crossing silver wires that were soldered at a 90 degree angle. In order to mimic the shape of the Pumubug, I used pliers to form it. The top was completed with a domed shape soldered to a jump-ring. And, then I soldered silver balls for decorative purposes (see below photo). The following workshop, I made a thick bezel for the for the stone, a marquis faceted garnet. This took 4 hours... but I was glad that I took it slow and patiently. Eco taught me how to shape & form the bezel, and place an inner wall & solder it to the bezel wall, so that the stone can be viewed from both sides. 

 Kalung Pumubug: Good Luck. Finshed Piece

Anting Anting Surya: These earrings were inspired by the combination of the sun and the ornamented balinese headpieces worn during Legong dance performances and ceremonies. In the Balinese Hindu faith, the sun is regarded as the great witness for the universe, and during prayer, or Upasana, a white flower is held between the hands to call into being the God of Existence to become a pure & divine ray.  The Balinese headpiece is worn as traditional costume for ceremonial purpose, which I found really inspiring because of its shape, use of materials and overall allure. The process of making the earrings involved engraving, doming, soldering, and stone setting. The stones, sunstones, were tricky to set on a domed formed. And, I accidentally cracked one in the process! I tried to glue, but seeing as the inspiration was centered around purity, I felt that It was a duty to take a couple steps back and reset a new stone.  

Anting Anting Surya : Purity & Divine. Finished piece 

Kalung Chakra: On Sadie's final day in Ubud, we walked around visiting various shops that she wanted to make some final purchases at. One of them, Stargate 22, was a sacred geometry store selling silver, gold-plated, and brass wire formations and ornaments that referenced sacred geometry. She was dying to get one, and although its container box proved to have a spirit of its own (lol), she committed  to bring it along with her for the rest of her trip. Leaving the store, I was left inspired by the concentric shapes, and the shapes created within shapes. When we went to Amed (Bali's NE beach town), I drew one at the beach one day. I started with a central shape, and continued to draw it smaller and smaller until there was no space. I connected the lines, and once that shaped was finished I started another shape from one of the intersecting points and balanced it around the primary shape. The effect was rather trippy, especially after connecting the lines. A Balinese fisherman saw what I was drawing and said, "Chakra." I referred back to the handout on sacred shapes that I was given at Stargate 22. The one I drew was similar to the Hyper Cube,which is defined as a "portal for the awakening of the Galactic Human, lying dormant in its dream of separation. And it enhances telepathic communication and remote viewing..." I'm still not very sure what that means, but the process of drawing it was very therapeutic and served as a point of discovery. After doing some research on the Galactic Human, I found that it meant the next evolution in consciousness. And, learning to become more of your true and total self that spans space & time. All being said, I decided to use it as an inspiration for this necklace, Kalung Chakra. The process involved engraving, sawing out the central shapes, forming, and stone setting. The stone, fossil coral, has this rhythmic vibration about it and I thought that it complemented my design and inspiration. After I finished the piece, someone mentioned that it reminded them of "Malla," a symbol of light. 

Kalung Chakra: Finished Piece

 Christmas present for a Balinese brother: Sacred geometry ring with a jasper stone, which I made for my homestay family's son, Made. The process involved engraving & prong/ stone-setting. Mogi and Eco taught me how to make the prongs and shape the curved bezel using the grinder.

The King's Cremation Ceremony: Procession of the Lembu 

Kalung Lembu: This necklace was inspired by the sacred black cow, known as the Lembu. Ubud's King recently passed in November, and his cremation ceremony took place last month. It was one of the most exciting experiences I have witnessed in my lifetime. Death is embraced very differently in the Balinese culture. Instead of mournful occurrence, It is a jubilant celebration of one's life and the whole community participates in the event. The procession involved giant structures of black cows (lembu) , a 9-tiered tower carrying the king's body, princesses on bamboo carriages, piled high offerings, a marching band of 300 +, and the entire banjar community of Ubud and surrounding villages. The experience was surreal and dreamlike! Everyone followed the procession and structures, which were being carried by man muscle of 1000 men. The sounds of drums and gamelans could be heard from miles away, or so it felt! The commencement started at the palace and continued down Jalan Raya Ubud, all the way to the cemetery, where the King and the structures were burnt to ash. Of all the captivating sites, what caught my attention the most was the adornments around the Lembus' neck, which I used as material for the inspiration for Kalung Lembu. The process involved cutting the shapes, soldering wirework & silver balls, setting marquis faceted garnet stones, finishings. On my trip to Celuk, a silver and gold town, I bought sterling silver pre-made chain, and used it to link the 3 medallion-like shapes. The process was difficult, but I'm glad to think of it as my offering to the celebrated King and his life... Long Live the Ubudian King! 

Sketches & Process

 Chain Game: Kalung Lembu, Kalung Chakra, Kalung Pumubog

Galang Kupu Kupu: This bracelet was inspired by traditional basket weaving techniques that have been practiced and mastered in Bali for centuries. The wicker and bamboo chair influenced the bars of the bracelet, by which I engraved a bamboo-like texture on. Kupu Kupu, or butterfly, is a sacred inspect species in the animist belief, influenced the rhythmic wire-work of varying gauges. The process was labor intensive, and took me several days to complete. But, now she's ready to fly! 

Galang Kupu Kupu: Outtake from Living Jewelry's Dewi Bali 2015 photoshoot

Bapak painting the Balinese scenes in Wayan's family compound at Chez Monique