“The company started because my grandfather loved to feed people, “ said Naomi Soetarjo. She is the third-generation to help run Jenggala, a family-owned ceramics business based in Sanur. Jenggala Ceramics Bali grew from a small cottage industry to become the largest ceramic producer on the island. They now supply major hotel chains and restaurants all over the world and employ nearly 300 craftsmen.
Her grandfather, Wija Wao-Runtu, originally travelled back and forth to Bali from Jakarta in the 1970s with his English wife, Judith. They had an antiques business in Java. Wija loved the Sanur area and built a house on the beach there. Both ex-pat and Indonesian friends began to build houses around him. ‘My grandfather loved to feed people,” said Naomi. He held frequent dinner parties for his friends at his house, she said.
Naomi told me that her grandparents first used dishes from their own private antiques collection when they entertained in Sanur. However, once the hotel started, and more tourists were visiting Bali, Wija saw a possible business opportunity in making and selling ceramics inspired by Bali, both through the hotel and directly to tourists.
Travelers had begun to stay at the bungalows in Sanur and this grew eventually into a boutique hotel, the Tandjung Sari, which is still operating today. Big hotels such as the Hyatt were just opening in Bali at that time. The Tandjung Sari became popular with tourists and has stayed popular as a small luxury hotel.
When Wija met a New Zealand potter named Brent Hasslyn, the idea for Jenggala was born. (Jenggala is an old Sanskrit name.) The initial orders were made for friends and family, then for hotel guests who saw the unique plate designs in the restaurant. Then, special orders for other hotels started to come in.
Jenggala ceramics has a unique look with a very Bali focus that matched well with the large hotels, Naomi told me. Jenggala’s key core products – and most popular designs – still feature frangipani, lotus and banana leaf motifs. Jenggala’s logo is the stylized face of Dewi Sri, the Balinese goddess of rice and fertility. Jenggala grew bigger and bigger through the 1980s and 1990s.
Fast-forward to today, and Jenggala is the largest ceramic factory in Bali, with an inventory of more than 3000 designs, both past and present. The company has a flagship store in Sanur. Naomi told me that visitors come from all over Indonesia just to shop at the store and keep track of the newest designs. (Jenggala also sells their ceramics online.) Hotels and restaurants all over the world stock ceramics from Jenggala, such as The Chedi in Switzerland and Oman, Mirihi Island Resort in the Maldives and Bakemart Gourmet in Dubai. Jenggala has outlets in Japan and South Korea.
While Jenggala did have a glass blowing space for a time, and produced glassware, Naomi said that the company has decided to return to its original focus on ceramic ware. Where once they used materials local to Bali, the company now produces its own “clay body” to rigorous Indonesian legal quality standards, so materials come from all over Indonesia.
“There’s a spot between a home industry and a larger company, and we sit right in the middle,” said Naomi. Because they have a large capacity, yet can still fill small custom orders, Jenggala can make small runs of unique designs.
Being a family business and retaining control even as they grew bigger, allowed the family to have a “strong narrative with our brand” said Naomi, which is about both Indonesian and Balinese culture, and telling those stories. All photography, marketing, social media and IT are done in-house and allows the company to keep a consistent look, feel, image and communication about their products.
“We balance this with also showcasing our work as beautiful artworks,” said Naomi (the family were originally artists – her grandfather trained as a filmmaker and her mother studied Fine Arts). “We also try to tell the artists’ stories. Many of the families who started working with my grandfather in the 1970s are still with us today,” said Naomi. Highlighting the artisans who make the ceramics is something Jenggala wants to do more of in the future.
The company has won numerous awards, including the UNESCO Award of Excellence for Handicrafts and Best Design and Best Products awards from Indonesia’s International SME Exhibition and Inacraft.
Jenggala also takes their social responsibility to the Balinese community seriously: they have collaborated on projects with the Coral Triangle Center, held fundraisers for earthquake survivors in Palau and donate 10% of sales of their “sokasi” candle holder to the Pink Ribbon Foundation, which works with Balinese women with breast cancer.
You can also join a Paint a Pot class at Jenggala and design your own ceramic creation. The class is aimed at older children (10 years old and up) and adults. The price includes 1.5 kg of stoneware clay, tools and colors for your design and the hands of a master craftsman, Ricko Gabriel, to guide you.
For more information about Jenggala, to check out their designs, location and hours of their stores or to sign up for a class, visit their website, jenggala.com.
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