Local Artisans All In One Place

Show of hands, please, for who’s here from Jakarta? Any expats from Bandung? Surabaya? All law-abiding long-stay-holders are welcome here.

You are thanked for making Bali your refuge from the pandemic, for wearing your mask, washing your hands like your neighbor’s life depends on it (which it does), and for avoiding crowds. You’re shopping with delivery services, paying your rent, feeding a lost dog or two, and now can we gently ask you to also bring your custom to Bali’s hard working cultural innovators?

Not including tourism, this is an island long exempted from large-scale industry. With most of its people in service to others, Bali became utterly dependent upon large numbers of visitors. Families, faced with a driver son or cook brother suddenly out of a job, are desperate for the means to live. Those of us who are privileged to be here now, can, let’s face it, give back just a little bit more.

The pandemic interrupted growing patronage of craft creativity here in Bali. For example, two years ago, there was support for at least 30 small chocolate enterprises.  Traditional tonic bottling companies were popping up and curing hangovers and boosting immune systems. Homeware shops with innovative new styles were putting Seminyak and Denpasar on the regional design and architecture map.   Diversification from the delicately balanced tourism industry is a healthy economic strategy but right now it depends on consumers and professional buyers.

Buying directly from the craftspeople themselves is a super way to support hardworking Balinese who are innovating with traditional and earth-friendly materials, and who may be carrying on a dying art or who are poised to be the next great stars of Indonesian design. Get in early with tomorrow’s trendmakers.

Now championing these cottage industries is Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati, which oversees the monthly Ubud Artisan Market to fill in down times between the Ubud Food Festival and the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival.

Targeting the highly discerning shopper, this market is a good cut above the usual art markets and charity bazaars, and organizers note that the preservation of time-honored skills is a key purpose, making traditional craftsmen as important to the mix as the innovators.

You will not want to miss this small-scale, 3 pm – 9 pm event, now happening on the first Saturday of each month on Ubud’s upscale Jalan Raya Sanggingan, featuring a curated, rotating selection of artists, artisans, and designers of a diverse array of goods. With your free admission (temperatures are taken and masks required), there will be live entertainment, high quality food stalls and maybe a gourmet food truck, too. Look for life drawing classes becoming a fixture (might be separately ticketed).   Independent Indonesian filmmakers are slated to show films at night, something hugely popular during the writers’ festival. The next dates are May 1 and June 5. Just downhill a bit from Indus restaurant, at the nicely spread-out festival hub, with jaw-dropping views of the Campuhan ridge.   Off-street parking is available.

Follow on Instagram @Ubud.artisanmarket


The Togetherness Project has recently teamed up with Bags of Hope, Stephanie Brookes’ successful promotion of Bali’s small and highly specialized agricultural businesses. Local beekeepers, weavers, and coffee roasters are among the people she’s championed, connecting them to the expat market through her fun, bagged collections which can now be delivered, if you are especially mindful about social distancing. The carefully selected items in the bag have included a sapling you can plant, a bag of coffee beans, handwoven items, earthenware, medicinal spices and bee nectar. Bags of Hope pickups have usually been based around a meet-the-artisan type event. Do check out https://www.togethernessproject.net/ and look out for the next sale. The bags are limited to editions of 50.

Approaching a Bali recovery through micro economics could be the most easily sustained changeup. It’s great to have caring curators like Stephanie doing the legwork to identify the remote village businesses that can immediately benefit from our custom. It’s a win-win proposition, since buyers receive exceptional products.

Facebook site FindLokal is yet another fabulous resource for us.   It’s a fun way to find out about new businesses directly helping Balinese workers and entrepreneurs.


Legwork, did I say? There is still time to throw some power to the BaliCore charity project. That’s the alliance of Scholars of Sustenance, Solemen Indonesia, BAWA, Kopernik and Social ImpaKt, in a first-ever arduous 10 day trek happening this month by volunteers to bring aid to the neediest remote villages.   And, yes, the government’s CoVid19 health rules will be practiced all the way to protect those people who are seldom visited.

Its funding site (https://www.gofundme.com/f/bali-ten-day-fundraiser) is gaining ground. Breaking news: Among those scheduled to join the walk is Mathilda Dwi Lestari, a mountaineer and member of the first, all-female Indonesian team to scale the world’s Seven Summits.

Look for updates in their People of Bali ongoing documentary project in concert with the aid trek, found in social media. This fact-finding expedition projects a brighter future through sustainable agriculture, water purification, and health education. The physical journey itself, expertly developed cooperatively between idGuides and the villagers, may well become a viable income source for townspeople assisting future trekkers, once these banjars are revitalized and the virus is contained.



By Renee Melchert Thorpe

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