This is a story of a trip I made in October 2014 - I know it has been a while but better late than never! This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.
In early 2014, I impulsively wrote a message on the website of F. Widayanto, the renowned Indonesian ceramicist, asking if I could visit him to learn about Indonesian ceramics. Never could I have imagined that more than ten months later, I would be invited to his studio in Tapos, Bogor, Indonesia for two weeks of learning. I was also fortunate to gain an ArtStart grant to fund the trip.
F. Widayanto’s studio is located in an isolated valley with a river running through it. Inspired by his trip to Shoji Hamada’s studio in Japan, he purchased the land 25 years ago and gradually expanded as he built his studio and home there.
The studio is spacious and open, flowing to the natural surroundings outside. Seating areas are scattered all around the studio grounds, to allow people to enjoy the beautiful views. There is a sense of tranquillity, a fitting environment for such an artist. Everywhere, the works of F. Widayanto are visible as part of the landscape.
F. Widayanto has more than 40 people working at the studio. Since almost all of them are locally from the area, some of the workers are related to each other. All the workers were trained in house at the studio. I was told that because they are so well trained, competitors would approach the workers to entice them to work for the competition.
The studio is divided into sections: clay processing, moulding, throwing, glazing and firing, decoration, sculpture, jewellery and finishing. Each section has a team leader responsible for the work. And at the time I was there, there was a supervisor and a supervisor-in-training who runs the well-organised studio.
The workers mainly work on the regular products, replicating previous works with a degree of creative freedom as long as it achieves the required quality and in the style of F. Widayanto. The tools used in the studio are a mix of bought and handmade tools. Some of the workers are skilled in making tools from materials such as bamboo and metal bits from broken umbrellas.
The studio is very efficient with its materials, and avoids excessive wastage. All clay scraps are collected and reprocessed for use. With glazes, instead of wiping excess glaze with a wet sponge, they are scraped off with a wooden stick and the dust collected into a big bucket at the end of the day. Once they have enough, the glaze dust is mixed with water and then tested to make a one-off unique glaze.
Instead of using an airbrush gun, glaze spraying is done manually using a toothbrush and a needle tool. They have used airbrush guns before, but it often jammed and required lots of maintenance. Although it is a slower process in comparison to using an airbrush gun, it is an effective method with a better control of the spraying.
Fifteen minutes before the end of each day, everyone stops work and clean their benches, store their works, sweep and mop the floors so that they can start work afresh the next day. It was fascinating to watch the process; it was like a synchronised dance of cleaning where everyone knew what to do to complete the task within the time.
In the short two weeks at the studio of F. Widayanto, I gained knowledge and skills that would help me with my own ceramic work. But most importantly, I was presented with a different, more pragmatic perspective on how I could develop and shape ceramic as a business. It was an experience I would always cherish as I go on my ceramic journey.
I am forever grateful for F. Widayanto for allowing me the opportunity to visit his studio, and thankful to everyone at the studio and the main office for all their help. And a special thank you to Dr Andi Hudono, who welcomed me into his home to view his collection of F. Widayanto’s artworks.
For more information on F. Widayanto, visit www.fwidayanto.com.
Irine is a recipient of the Australia Council for the Arts' Artstart Grant (June 2014-2015).
This website has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts
funding and advisory body.