Pejaten village: home of beautiful pottery
by Bram Setiawan on 2014-04-23
Sunshine: Terra-cotta roof shingles are dried under the sun before being fired in the kiln.
Making earthenware is one of the oldest crafts in the world and is still widely practiced in Bali, which is famous for its beautiful pottery.
Pejaten village in Tabanan regency, around 25 kilometers west of Denpasar, is Bali’s most prominent pottery center, producing a large variety of earthenware goods ranging from terracotta roof tiles, to household utensils, interior and exterior ornaments and other items.
Entering the village is like visiting an art center filled with lines of workshops offering diverse forms of pottery.
Made Suparta is one of the craftsmen and producers of earthenware goods in Banjar Pangkung hamlet, Pejaten village. Suparta took the business over from his forefathers, who had been creating art products from clay for decades.
“In the past, our ancestors resided in Pejaten, which has no fertile rice fields, unlike other villages in Tabanan,” Suparta said.
Tabanan is Bali’s most plentiful rice basket, with hectares of green and fertile terraced rice fields, including those in Jatiluwih, now a UNESCO world heritage site.
“Our village is surrounded by rivers and our forefathers earned their living by producing household utensils from clay taken from the riverbeds,” Suparta recalled.
The oldest and simplest forms of earthenware items were terra-cotta roof tiles, locally known as Genteng Pejaten, which the village is still famous for. Other products were vases, statues, ashtrays, plates, ritual containers and decorative arts.
The techniques and processing methods to make pottery underwent gradual changes in line with the introduction of machinery.
Technology: A soft clay block is placed in the stamping machine.
Delicate: The freshly stamped roof shingles are dried indoors for 24 hours before being taken outside and placed under the direct sunlight.
Furnace: Made Suparta shows the simple kiln used in the last stage of producing the roof tiles.
“In the past, craftsmen only created by hand, producing plain, undecorated surfaces. Now, we can produce a vast array of pottery products from natural terracotta to more sophisticated glazed vases and containers to meet with local and international market demand,” said Suparta.
Suparta, who took over the family business in 1995, ships his products to the Netherlands, Germany and other European countries.
“My Dutch clients usually order terracotta statues, vases and plates, while clients from Germany buy terracotta bricks to build their villas here or to ship them to their own country,” Suparta said.
Despite the flourishing pottery business, Pejaten village is facing critical problems. “Regeneration has not been working well here. Only a group of old artisans are still committed to preserving this centuries-old skill. Young people prefer to leave the village to find work in the city,” Suparta said.
The majority of workers and artisans in Pejaten come from Java and Lombok. “All of my employees are Lombok natives,” Suparta said.
The pottery business has obviously improved the living condition of Pejaten’s residents. “Our two neighboring villages, Bengkel and Nyitdah, are now following our tradition,” Suparta said.
Unfortunately, he remains concerned that young people in these three villages would not have any interest in preserving the artistic creations that had made the villages so prosperous and well known.
— Photos by Bram Setiawan