Artist Studio Visit: Agus Suwage, Jogjakarta

End of November saw us traveling to this little quaint city in the island of Java. What started off as a leisurely trip with two architects friends became a virtuous packed trip to some of the most interesting galleries and artists studios the city can offer. One of our highlights was visiting the prominent Jogja-based artist Agus Suwage’s studio near the heart of the city. His house is designed by renowned Indonesian architect Andra Matin, one of PTTFAMILY’s principal architectsnwho famously built the Potato Head Beach Club. Suwage’s artist studio is filled with past works as well as present water-colour artworks that he’s currently working on, meticulously strewn across the two story building complete with equipments from his other eccentric hobby, as a enthusiast member of a local music band. Much like an Aladdin cave with interesting jewels of 3D sculptures filled with remodelled innards of a human body, his thoughts freely poured over the entire space as one can see. 
 
What was once a gigantic white walls has now been covered with plasters of watercolors works, often embodying his own portraitures, an obsession which started since the mid 90’s. His subjects, often dwelled around the concept of death is in a way a confrontation to the act of living when everything comes to a focal point and one has to surrender to the artefacts of the after-life - death. But these days Suwage seems to be a chirpier character, often drawing images of his beloved pet dogs who playfully engages themselvesto the expansive surrounds of Suwage’s sprawling garden. 

 

Imelda Widjaja, Founder & Designer of Jewel Rocks: Volume 4

Canaan gets up close and personal over breakfast at her Hawaiian lodge-inspired café, Home Mate next door to her dreamy Jewel Rocks store, that bursts with her passion and brilliant decorations surrounding her iconic bracelets and necklaces desired by women of all ages and recently popular amongst boys too.

This lady born under the Libra sign is not only a successful businesswoman but also an eye opener for the often looked over beauty and potential life surrounds us with. They call her Mel.


As a successful designer, we’re curious on knowing whether this has always been your passion? If not, what was your childhood dream?


It’s always been in art and design since I was 16 years old. Maybe back then, we don’t really know the real definition of ‘design’ but we do know the word ‘art’. I took art-studio for 3 years, which were my intensive classes during high school in Singapore; my school had an amazing art department. My family has always been crafty, my mom and my grandma always sew our clothes and were creating little things with paper, fabrics etc. During my first 2 years of collage in Seattle, I studied art but didn’t end up finishing in the art department but with political science and communications – for reasons that I’m sure every other Indonesian or anyone who wants to take art would only understand… somehow their parents wishes tend to take them off their true path.

 For many years I kept trying to come up with ways that allowed me to work with art-related careers, which lead me work in advertising. Between the two main fields within this job; the accounting and the creative side, I was in accounts and I always thought I was in the wrong place, but it was a good experience for me to understand the true meaning of the word ‘design’, such as branding and graphic design – it was a good mix over all.


Jewel Rock’s custom made indigo bracelet for Canaan is one our very precious items, what’s the inspiration behind it?


I was in Sumba with a friend who was shooting a film. There you can find really sophisticated dying techniques but very traditional, not contemporary. So I wanted to show the people over there that you can do something modern and it will be cool and something new. It’s good for me to have indigo because at that time I wanted something raw which had a tribal feel and I couldn’t go all the way to Papua. I’ve previously already been collecting indigo fabrics but never thought about turning it into a bracelet, so this mutual discovery helped me as much as it inspired them – even my friends we’re also like “Oh, you can do it that way?”

Tell us about the uniqueness of the place in Sumba where you had the threads naturally dyed for that exclusive piece.


For hundreds of years, Indigo has been a part of the tribal culture all around the world. You would see people using it in Thailand, Indonesia, and the Ainu tribe in Japan and definitely in India – It’s a common color that ties around the world.

The dying process starts with turning the blue and red leaves into powder, so those chunks are compressed and mixed with water in a clay pot. This old lady’s hand looked as if it was tattooed blue by the indigo dye, which it was really cool! In Sumba, pregnant women cannot do this; it’ll affect the pregnancy. It’s a simple process with a sophisticated outcome.


Hand made piece must require concentration in great details, could you share with us the perks of the process?
It’s being able to create every collection in different places. The office used to be fine for me to work in, but now prefer to go to places like Flores and Sumba where it’s quite isolated with sand and colors that would inspire me everywhere. I’m thinking of going somewhere this month to complete another one, it may not be Indonesia but I think it can be in a city somewhere, as next year’s collection won’t have so much of an island vibe.

 The mood is definitely important when you design, also the music that you listen to, the weather at that time and of course the materials that I bring a long with me to the trip – I pack with me my pendants and materials, my theme and my mood board, I usually do this with a friend. I try to communicate the process to people and the kids in Flores too.

It’s been about a decade for Jewel Rocks, any new ventures you’re currently taking on? Where do you see yourself 5 years in the future?
I still want to do Jewel Rocks and sort of already have ideas for the next 5 years! I’m thinking of ways to make the jewelry more fine, but it’s a process that I’ll have to go through step by step each year – people get bored, I get bored, but I’ve observed that after many years of sticking to what I like, there’s always ways to renew your passions. I’ll be bringing the brand to more into the music crowd too; we’ll be sponsoring one music event next April 2017 during Earth Day in Bali. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.

What do you collect besides from work-related materials?

Design books! Architectural books, design books and graphic design books. I have a few jewelry books but those are ones my friends give to me, I never buy them myself. Before jewelry design, architecture and interior is what I really self-studied – I like creative space, learning how people live and how it affects their creativity. I also collect green indigo fabrics from Japan!

For times when your career builds up tension in your life, what do you do as a form of escape?

I have so many escapes, like it’s almost like a monthly thing… (Laughs) The beach is always my escape and I like to find new beaches, but recently my go-to escape place is Jakarta, which is weird but the city always adds into my inspirations.

People find it hard to relax. It’s still hard even for people like me who enjoy their work, so we have to make it a habit to break the pattern and to start over

Who do you look up to or go to for advice?


Family for me is very comforting, I hardly go to them for advice but I used to ask my dad for business advice. I go to my one friend in Singapore who I go to for all the other advice. (Laughs) She’s like a big sister to me. For relationship advice, I go to my friend, Citra! (Laughing even harder) It’s funny because most people would go for her for creative advice, but not me…


3 places that’s been your main sources of inspiration.

Africa for the nature and the lifestyle, like Cape Town. Hawaii, they have a life that I really like – they’re very into organic living and gardening. Oh, and Japan for the craziness of creativity and original thinking.

Things you enjoy doing to keep your creative mind rejuvenated with ideas?

Resting your mind is probably number one – when you can rest your mind you can start thinking of something new. Feeling at peace. Looking at beautiful things, be it movies, Instagram, nice shops and nature.

 

What do you think of Instagram?

I think it’s good, if you can really select things. Like eating, you choose what you eat that’s good for your stomach and body. It’s the same with your eyes, you choose what you see and what you follow – how it helps with your inspiration or how it helps you look at the world in a nicer way. Sometimes for me, there are some really funny things on there and it helps me relax and laugh. The fact that people are looking for comparisons with social media, it’s just like with business competitors – the choices will always go back to you.


Take us through your daily routine.

I almost don’t have one, it changes all the time. I do have good sleep all the time though. Work always starts from 9am-5pm strangely, the office does and I do to. Whenever I’ve got extra work to do, I’ll take a dinner break and work for a bit more. I used to work a lot… It just comes naturally; it’s never measured – some days I don’t work at all. I like to break my patterns in the middle of the day, like I’ll go to Seminyak and look around and go shopping. (Laughs). I don’t watch TV but recently I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube, you cannot believe it… Like Vice, I.D, Munchies, Tedx, and Anime.


One wish that you really want to have come true?
2 houses. Oh actually, 3! 1 new house in Jakarta to change my old one, 1 in Bali and 1 in Sumba… That’s it.

 

She kindly invited us for a visit to her cozy-homey workshop. We caught a glimpse of her creativity put to action by her team and her preciously kept decade long memories of her accomplishments.

 

Shop the Canaan x Jewel Rocks Indigo bracelet in store and online.

 



www.jewelrocks.com

 

Eiji Matsui, Surfer and Designer: Volume 3

A lover of abstract, Japanese-Brazilian founder of the one-man show, Pretty Wise, kindly spared quite an interesting chat with Canaan. Lucky for us to catch Eiji Matsuo here in Bali during his shoot for a wine commercial, undertaking his main passion, cinematography.

Pretty Wise focuses on creating products that are down-to-earth by enhancing the nature of simplicity and causality – yet designed by a man with rich views and gratitude for the little things in life.

You are of Brazilian and Japanese heritage, tell us how did this happen?
My grandparents from my father’s side moved to Brazil and my mother’s Brazilian. I went to school in San Francisco and studied cinema, and then worked few assistant and director jobs in Japan for a TV channel for a while.  

I have another brother who’s a tattoo artist, who wanted to start a brand, so we did that together. Basically the whole design thing came from the side of how we grew up skateboarding, surfing, making t-shirts and things like that.  

How long has cinematography been your passion and what’s your favorite thing about it? 
In my early 20s I started making my own skate videos, that was how I really got started but I had already studied cinematography and I knew I wanted to do movies so I started experimenting and that went well. Like, I was one of the guys and I still pay attention to what skaters create and I still think it’s the dope-est. 

Take us behind the scenes of your black and white Instagram clips. 
This is real, I had a dream where I was in a little room that had a little window with a beautiful view and my mother came in and said, “Son, It’s time to wake up.” To me, that was really significant and I don’t know how to explain it but from that point on, a lot of things actually started changing in my life – I definitely think it was a spiritual thing, so I wanted to make little short films capturing that, I did it, and it’s called Nothing New Under The Sun. That one was done indie style and I wish I did more of a production because I had a scenario written but It turned out to be just me and the camera.

Why have you chosen to use the process of dying for Pretty Wise
I avoid synthetics, it’s not so philosophical but if it’s possible to not mess things up more than they already are, good, so that’s one. The other reason is that it’s much easier to build a business that’s based on commodities, which are easily understood by anyone – it has a global price. I find that synthetics create confusion.

 

You’ve kindly made exclusive indigo items for us, tell us about the ideas you had in mind while creating them. 
I like to keep the designs simple and just classic. I don’t really experiment with designing and not interested in it either, it’s a men’s brand as well. It’s a lifestyle brand so I’m not really going in to ‘fashion’ here,  we sell a “style “.


What would like to get from the partnership with Canaan?
It’s a great space, I think Emmelyn has a great vision that’s very ahead of time in Indonesia, but right on time for what she’s doing, and I want to be able to be a strength to support that vision by having the right products there. Products have energy, and a person like her understands and appreciates the raw materials and it’s wholesome- kind of process. I hope we can be a strength to each other, that’s the best-case scenario. 


If you could chose to live anywhere in the world, where would it be? 
Baja, California. It’s the ocean and the desert combination and I had never seen that before – with a family though, not by myself, with the wifey and kids, the whole thing. 


You described ‘luxury’ as “Like you are wearing a sweater that costs you hundreds of dollars with old jeans and sneakers eating tacos and drinking beer at a street stand.” In your interview with the goods dept. how would you describe ‘talent’? 
Effortless. Whatever’s effortless, that’s talent. 

As the main inspiration, what is it about the surf and skate culture that has a huge influence on you individually or people in general?
I grew up skateboarding, that was the first thing I picked up, a skateboard. That will forever be an influence to me. Surfing’s new but I’m getting into it more and more and I like the healthy lifestyle that comes with it. I’m not a very sunny character but that balances it out. 

Who inspires you?
Nelson Mandela, I read his book and I thought he was amazing. I read Fidel Castro’s autobiography and he also inspired me. The Dalai Lama, I think is a great inspiration too. Akira Kurosawa, a Japanese director and Francis Ford Coppola. Look, the list goes on and on but I just mentioned people that I think that did and are doing something relevant, and I think that’s my goal, to do something relevant. I think it’s very difficult. (Laughs) 


Pop in our store and shoulder his exclusively made bag or try on indigo dyed t-shirts and feel the fine material brush against your skin and treasure these items in your closet.  

Pretty Wise has recently signed with distributors such as, SANEI International and T&A Los Angels. Look through their Instagram account @prettywiseoffical or watch on @prettywisefilms

 

www.prettywisecrafts.com

Martina Urbas, Sculpture and Jewelry Designer: Volume 2

Martina is a mother, designer, all rounder creative individual. Previously worked with the likes of Warisan, Bali Trade Centre, Oberoi Hotel, Italian Designer Gianni Francione and many more. Her experience, ability and knowledge are not the force to be reckon with. Now having her own handmade jewelry line, Maru, Read her journey and what inspires here in this interview below;

What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Stretch, get out of bed and open the doors to the garden.

Tell us what makes a good day for you.
A good day is a day where I feel connected to the magic of life, my environment and the people I interact with.

If you can change something about Bali what would it be?
A deeper respect and care for the environment and commitment to practical solutions, that the local people were more empowered by their owns system and government to actively participate in the solution.

Your favourite thing about Bali?
Only one thing. The life-force, the paradoxical nature of life here.

What is your proudest moment?
Becoming a mother and meeting my son for the first time.

If you were not doing this, what would you be doing?
Travelling, studying, building, exploring.

Your favorite city after Bali and why?
Don’t have a city, a country of inspiration would be India.

You have been in the island for some years now and have worked with many amazing artists and individuals. Tell us a few of your most enjoyable project thus far?
In the early 90's I worked with Bali Trade Center. An ambitious project with the master plan to put more established cottage industries and designers in a prestigious showroom in a centralized location In Kuta.

I had the amazing opportunity to be supported to to create a large jewelry workshop where I trained jewelry maker, designed and produced amazing jewelry which was showcased in the Bali Trade showroom. This was a crazy ride, sourcing all over Jakarta, Bali, Lombok, Yogyakarta meeting the brilliant people both local and foreign, whom had already made their mark on the island years ago as designers and artists, architects, writers and other pastimes! This was my introduction to the wild world of Baliwood!

In 1992 I was an actress in an Indonesian TV pilot series called Dibawa Matahari Bali with Gito Rolis and others, A brilliant experience as I worked with so many talented Indonesians and got an insight to the music, arts and entertainment world, another facet of life between Bali and Jakarta.

1993 joined with Oberoi Hotels as their boutique consultant, allowing me the opportunity to curate from all the amazing arts, crafts and products produced locally by Indonesians and foreigners. 

Around 1997, I worked as the assistant to Gianni Francione, an Italian architect living in Bali who wrote the book Bali Modern :The art of Tropical Living. I journeyed into the world of architecture, tribal art and interior design.

A few years with Warisan learning about interior design furniture and soft furnishing. Then joined with Greg Melvin in 2001 and opened Palanquin, an amazing store store which quickly became recognized as “the hottest shopping destination in Bali,” according to the Asian Wall Street Journal. Sadly, it closed shortly after the Bali Bomb in 2002.A brilliant venture into retail 

In 2004, I started Maru Gallery , Body-Art-Space as a response for the need for a jewelry concept gallery space to present designer jewelry on a new level. Here, I would showcase my own work and other designers and craftspeople, furthering my love affair with adornment, and continuing to explore all the Indo-asian art forms and creative lifeforce.

What is your best traits?
Open-minded, adaptable, curious, quirky and adventurous.

What have you learned recently that became your mantra for the day or something you contemplate often?
Discover the beauty and perfection in everything.

MARK INGLIS, Designer and Artist : Volume 1

Mark Inglis, designer and artisan gets close and personal in our first interview series. A freelance artist based in Italy, Mark recently did a few months stint in Bali exploring its culture and craft. 

Read through our interview below to learn more about his passion, journeys and what he thhinks of our island of the Gods. 

What is the first thing that you do when you wake up?
I am really a morning person. So, I like to get up, have breakfast, start the day as soon as I can. 

Where do you live now? and tell us about your current studio, how it is set up, and why it is set up in such a way? 
At the moment I’m in Italy, I share a studio space with a friend who is a footwear designer. I have a work table, sewing machines and all the tools needed to work with leather and fabric.

You seem to be a nomadic designer and we are so intrigued about this. Tell us a bit about how you started and where you are now?
I believe in investing in travel and learning, it feeds into my work on a personal and professional level. When I quit my job 6 years ago, friends of mine with a boutique hotel in Brazil asked me to go there and hand-carve all the menus. I spent a month there, set up a little studio and worked on site. Then in 2014 I went to Japan to do an Indigo-dying and textile course. I spent 2 months there and made a small collection of customised 'east meets west' clothing . Now I spent 4 months in Bali doing a course in Silver Smithing, and making one-off carvings and leather bags with local artisans. 

Are you happy with what you’ve achieved? (no - why not?)
Being in Bali was about learning, not only about the craft, but also about the island and it’s culture. If I think about what I learned and experienced i am very happy. In terms of producing work and getting things done i found it’s takes more time in Bali than I am used to in Europe. I had to slow down and adjust my working habits.

What else that you haven’t done and it’s on your list of dreams/future achievements?
In the future I would like to have a studio/gallery space where I can present my work and host workshops, a co-working space for makers. There is a network of people who give workshops and accommodation, and I think It would be fantastic to connect to these people, to combine travel with learning and making. Now we are in the age of the knowledge economy.

Where are you off to next?
I’m going to Brazil next month to work on leather accessories and textile based home-wear.

Describe your style. 
I like to clash old with new, antique with futuristic. 

What is the perfect day for you?
The perfect day for me would be to wake up in a new place and go out exploring.

Who inspires you?
I get inspired by people who make things with conviction and focus.

Tell us about your experience in Bali, meeting the locals, working with them, what were the most challenging part? and most liberating? In early March this year, on my first trip to Bali, I met a carver named Made. He has a shop in Ubud and I asked him to make some things for me. I went back to Europe, we kept in touch, and we exchanged some messages and photos. He is one of the reasons i came back to Bali, so we could continue to work together. In my mind I thought that I could offer him something but in reality I have learned so much more from him. I wanted to make some things that I had in the back of my mind for a while, one-off experimental things of no commercial potential. He said to me, ‘why don’t you make something more simple, cheaper and quicker to make, something people want to buy and can afford’. I was a little surprised, because what i wanted to do was art, but you know what, he was right. I often forget the about commercial aspect of the things that I make. More about the Bali trip. http://draw-hide.tumblr.com

Your advice for designers/ nomads/ creatives who are thinking of working in Bali.
Bali is a complex and multi faceted place, if you go there with an open heart and open mind and show gratitude and respect to the people and the island that host you, you will be rewarded with an incredibly rich and unique experience.

 

EVA NATASA

As Naoto Fukasawa said, “Great design is a multi-layered relationship between human life and it’s environment’, Eva Natasa has mastered exactly that idea. Her approach is a slow design that resulted in a long lasting products that respects the earth and its inhabitants. All her products is the resemblance of her deep understanding of design, composition, materials, artisanal skills and technology.

 

LULA, Eva’s first furniture collection features home goods made from certified teak wood obtained from government owned forestry company. Not only does it helps sustain the environment, teak wood is durable, has good dimensional stability and contains natural oils that makes it resistant to timber, termite and pests. Her Lula range is created with the intention to experience a deeper understanding and connection for furniture and design within the personal environment, it thrives to blend within the environment. 

 

Find Eva Natasa’s beautifully made furniture at Canaan Bali. 

 

www.enatasa.com/