Exquisite Handicraft: Lombok Pots
Where: Banyamulek village, Lombok, Indonesia
Style: Each pot is hand decorated, original and a one off
Bag a Bargain: Buy a pot direct from one of the nearby villagers – its more ethical, benefits the community and you’ll get the best price
The island of Lombok is a well known centre for traditional crafts. A village usually specialises in the production of one kind of craft, whether it’s basket-making, weaving or pottery.
The village of Banyamulek is one of the principal pottery centres on the island. Located about 6 miles south of Mataran, Banyumulek has become known throughout the international artworld for the enormous, elaborately decorated pots which are produced here.
The pots were originally intended as utensils, with a variety of roles to play in village life including food preparation and the performance of ceremonies. In recent years, however, art critics from the west have been so impressed by the beauty and fine quality of Banyamulek workmanship that the pots have become revered as works of art.
Everyday life in Banyumulek revolves around pottery-making. It’s the main source of income in the village and pottery traditions unique to the region have been passed down from mother to daughter since the early 16th century.
Women learn how to shape and mould the pots from a very early age, using primitive tools and clay collected from the surrounding countryside. They don’t have the benefit of potters’ wheels and all the pots, vases, plates and jugs are handthrown, sometimes using a round stone and wooden paddle. The men of the village are responsible for firing the pots and they are decorated by local children.
Because of the popularity of the pots, Banyumulek has become something of a tourist trap in recent years. Nonetheless, it’s still possible to observe the craftspeople at work throughout the village.
Where to Bag a Bargain
As well as Banyumulek, the nearby villages of Masbagik Timur and Penujak are famed for the production of pottery. You can buy a pot at one of the many market stalls in the vicinity and be assured you‘re getting a better deal than you would from an international art dealer.
In 1988 the governments of Indonesia and New Zealand launched the Lombok Crafts Project in a move to put the potters in control of their own commercial fortunes and enable them to use the profits to improve living and working conditions in the villages.
How to Spot a Good Buy
Lombok Crafts Project does advise potters on various processes which improve the durability of the end product, but as the pot-producing community is relatively small and relies on age-old traditional methods there’s actually little variation in terms of quality between one pot and another.
When selecting your pot, be aware that each of the three pot-producing villages uses a slightly different kind of locally dug earthenware clay. The craftspeople don’t work to a pattern, but imprint the pots with their own stylistic whims and tastes, making each into an authentic and original work of art.
Lombok Pottery Centre
Jalan Sriwijaya No. 111 A
Tel: [+62 – 0370] 640351
Fax: [+62 – 0370] 640350
Online guide to travel and commerce in Indonesia.
By Jess Halliday