In a little, inobtrusive gang (alley) off the main road in Celuk Village lies a small family compound surrounded by high walls, making the compound a rather easy one to miss. It is in these places invisible to the common eye where a lot of the Ananda magic happens. All the way in the back of the compound one can find an elevated bale - as the Indonesians name these elevated open huts with roofs - with three people sitting around a big wooden table each of them equipped with a welding torch and tools skillfully conjuring and performing the intricate and traditional craft of jewelry making.
Artisans are an important part of the traditional communities in Bali. A place where one can find a particular group of artisans is in Celuk Village where silversmiths have been practicing and passing on their crafts from generation to generation.
Ananda Jewlery is produced in two production sites in Bali – one site is in Denpasar for the wax making, casting and plating process. The little family compound in the village of Celuk on the other hand is where the magic – the embellishment and the assembly by hand – happens.
As we come to visit, Kebut, Juniarti and Putu sit quietly and peacefully at the table working their way through measuring chains, shaping rings, placing stones and embellishing necklace charms and earrings. We observe their doing with wide eyes – the atmosphere is calm, humble, almost mystical, for we know what is being created here has meaning and purpose - not only for the ones that will get to wear the jewelry, but also for the ones creating it.
Kebut who is now 46 and has been introduced to the delicate craft of a silversmith by his neighbour at a very young age has been working as a silversmith for all his life.
I watch him with excitement as he carefully works on the coin of a new necklace that we will launch this coming October. Kebut, who owns the little workshop, has been working exclusively for Ananda Soul for the past 4 years. His wife Juniarti joined the craft around 3 years ago. It doesn't happen very often that these skills are explicitly performed by women, which is why we are even more enraptured by the talent of the women working in the Ananda Soul production.
Kebut shares with us, that his generation is likely the last to know how to perform this craft. New, ‘more exciting’ jobs coming into play, advanced technology and mass production are just a few of the factors that make it difficult to continue an old tradition like the silver craft. His children’s dreams are different in the long run, however, they are involved in learning a few of the old skills at this stage.
Arts and crafts play a significant part of the Balinese culture. Many families in Bali can trace their silversmith roots back to the Majapahit Empire (around 13th century) and the invasion of the Javanese in the 16th century. In Bali metal smiths are known as so called Pandai, a term that translates as both smith and clever. In legends in the area, the first goldsmith clans were taught their craft by the gods that were sent to earth to teach humankind civil behavior.
A craft we mean to preserve for as long as it is possible.
To be a silversmith requires fine-motorical skills, a good eyesight, calm hands and a good portion of patience. Upon asking what they do to maintain their eyesight, Juniarti answered: ‘Always eat a lot of vegetables.’
May you carry our designs with reverence and gratitude towards the skilful art of Balinese silversmiths!