Friday, August 29, 2014

Silvery Bali

High School Band
If you are a scuba diver or a jeweler, Bali means a chance to do something exciting. This tropical paradise has undergone a huge growth spurt since Julia Roberts made it better known in the movie ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Bali was and wasn’t what I expected. Yes, it was tropical and the people were wonderful; the food was fantastic and the flora was gorgeous. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, big business has arrived in this garden spot.

Bali is an island of artists and artisans. These people are quite well known for their painting and carving. We visited several places to see these artists at work. The paintings ranged from
Polishing silver, silver charm,
painting, wood carver, lion
postcard to wall sized and were generally focused on Asian and/or island subjects. The carvers were also quite amazing. The size of their carvings depended on the size and type of wood. Owls carved from alligator oak were small; dolphins made out of substantially softer wood were almost life sized. The lion sitting outside of the wood shop was made from a single tree trunk. Making beaded jewelry is one of my creative outlets. The weaving together of tiny glass beads to produce wearable art incorporates an artistic vision and a crafting expertise. Rather than just using glass beads, you can incorporate all sorts of other materials. One of my favorites is silver and Bali silver is known worldwide. We were going to find those silver bead artisans and see just how many pounds of beads we could buy. But we didn’t. The people who make silver
L to R:
Cynthia, UC Owner, Barb
beads are very well hidden from the general public; in fact not one single silver bead did we see on the entire island. That doesn’t mean we didn’t find Bali silver. We got to visit UC Silver and Gold. Their slogan is ‘i am unique’ and their jewelry is just that. The craftspeople each play a part in turning out the finished jewelry. There are people working with small gas torches, others who are incising out portions of the metal, and still others who are polishing pieces that will be assembled into earrings, necklaces or bracelets. The owner of this establishment took time to explain to us his vision for the business. He is building a huge museum that will display pieces of jewelry, sculptures and other materials that have been collected by his family through many generations. So, along with creating lovely, wearable art, he plans to share a bit of Bali’s history with visitors. He was also nice enough to tell us where to find ‘antique’ batik fabrics.

Batik fabric is one of the cornerstones of the Bali economic system. Paintings on fabric are intricate and can be exceedingly expensive. Once the fabric is woven, the artist traces out a
Batik thread, fabric, shop owner
design using a small pitcher of hot wax. The fabric is dyed within these outlines; the wax is removed and outlines are reapplied with the dyed portions covered, then the fabric is dyed again. This process creates dramatic landscapes, flowers, or geometric patterns. The painting is then framed. Woven batik fabrics are used to make all sorts of clothing, along with purses, shawls, home furnishings, and so forth. We found several stores that sold the actual fabric rather than finished pieces. In the smaller shops, the owner and the family make the finished articles but buy fabric from a weaver. I watched one lady sewing together a man’s shirt using an old fashioned Singer treadle sewing machine; her legs were getting a great work-out. It was a lot of fun digging through all of the pieces of cloth, selecting a few that had to come home with us, and then tracking down clothing that was to be gifts for the people back in the States. If my suitcase had been larger, more of this great fabric would have made its way to Texas. 

Family and religion play a huge role in the Bali culture. We asked our driver where he would go if he took a vacation. He told us he would be at home with his family taking part in one of the many religious celebrations that typify Hindu life. He also said that he has many days off to spend with his family since his community conducts many festivals associated with their religion. When he was not working he spent his time building a new kitchen so that his wife and his mother could cook without being together; it was easier that building a completely new house. He was also raising a pig to mark his daughter’s marriage; with it he could feed his community.  All homes and communities and most businesses have shrines to the Hindu gods. These worship places always have fresh flowers and fruit. None of the public shrines have graffiti, nor are they unkempt.  The people seem happy and content, willing to do any service without expecting a gratuity; in fact they are completely surprised when you offer them a tip. I hope this does not change as the world comes to island more and more frequently.

Diving was not in the cards this trip. The bus ride to the dive boats would have taken more time than the actual dive trip. Instead a friend and I contented ourselves with lounging on the beach
Macaque and baby, beach scenes
and occasionally snorkeling out a few hundred yards to see the brightly colored fish. Along the rocky shores are sites of large temple complexes. On our last day we drove to one of these more secluded spots only to find an entire fleet of motorcyclists had arrived before us. They were at the temple to clean up the grounds and do other bits of maintenance. Although warned against them, I was delighted to find Balinese long-tailed macaque troops at the Beji Temple. These monkeys were well known from snatching hats, glasses, cameras, and whatever else struck their fancy. Our hike was without incident until we came to the end of the trail and started back. With no natives in the area, the macaques felt free to stand in the middle of the trail and to perch on the wall that kept hikers from plunging down over a hundred feet into the ocean below. As we scooted past, one large male jumped onto the back of one of our party. Amidst screams and yells, we got it off, but it remained steadfastly guarding our escape. Finally one of the workers came along and with a deft hand movement and small noise shooed the entire troop out of our way. What no one told us was that if you hissed like a snake the macaques would head for the trees. The next time we visit a temple with these monkeys, we’ll be prepared! 

Hand-made kites
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