Finding Authenticity and the Arts in Bali
Balinese Hindu spirit masks.
Edited by Own Villa
Over the last 5 years Bali has seen an unprecedented increase in international tourism, which understandably has had an effect on the island. Despite the kindness and integrity of the Balinese people, on occasion it can be hard to see beyond the falsities in a place where social media is so prevalent. At Own Villa we want to celebrate the unique, and hope to create a sense of authenticity and inspiration.
Examples of local sculpting and weaving
We often get asked where to find similar decorative items on the island, therefore we have put together our ‘Own recommendations’ to discover exciting local creations and the vast capabilities of Balinese handicraft.
“ Whether you are looking for colourful glasswork, vintage furniture, religious artefacts or tribal swords, we suggest heading North from the villa on a pleasant scooter ride beyond expansive rice fields, to Ubud, the “creative capital” of the island.”
Beginning with a place like the Tonyraka Art Lounge allows you to see traditional items alongside contemporary art in an open-plan gallery setting. Established over 50 years ago solely known for wood carving, the gallery now houses a vast collection of historical, sculptural and decorative objects. Curators ensure the contemporary artists featured have a deep connection to Indonesia, and specifically Bali, therefore in this cool contemporary setting you still feel the history of the island and the importance of arts and crafts to the local people.
Examples of glasswork, painting, carving
After witnessing the harmonious integration of traditional and modern at Tonyraka, with your best creative company we recommend exploring the area of Jalan Raya Mas, which is home to many local artisans and crafts people who are happy to share their practice with an international audience.
Tonyraka Gallery, Ubud
In the ‘Mas’ area, it is not unusual to find the Balinese Hindu spirit masks, which still signify important religious objects during ceremonies, or can describe characters during Balinese dance and theatre. The masks were originally intended to house ancestral spirits wishing to dwell in the physical world, however nowadays carvers create these beautiful masks by hand for home decoration. You will find no better gift full of culture, history and intrigue to return home with.
Handcrafted masks shop, Ubud
In the same area, you will find many indistinguishable glassware studios, however certain factors will always differentiate them. Many have small-scale production close by in their family homes, therefore venture down a narrow Gang (side street) and you could feel the heat of a nearby glass-blowing furnace. We recommend walking the pavement and stopping into every showroom: despite their similarities, they will all offer something completely unique. Otherwise potters are notoriously more difficult to find, but some create beautifully distinct glazes with volcanic rock, shells, or metal that will add the earthy authenticity of the island to your kitchen.
Pottery workshop, Ubud
If you find yourself stuck passing the same objects in every showroom, try to persist with a diligent eye and you could discover a true artist at work. Perhaps a sculptor using scrap metal to create surreal metal manifestations of warriors, monsters, robots, and animals in his chaotic studio space: a vintage typewriter forms an uneven smile, rusted suspension coils curl into arms, and iron eyes bring the robot to life. Although far less transportable, seeing a Balinese artist’s resourceful creativity is sure to elevate your love for this fascinating island.
Examples of painting and iron handcraft
Full of vibrant people and places waiting to be discovered, we hope we have inspired your artistic adventure in Bali. Wishing you safe travels and creative finds!