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Inacraft: When creativity is put to the test

A. Kurniawan Ulung

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Wed, May 10, 2017  /  10:27 am
Inacraft: When creativity is put to the test

My idol: A visitor snaps a picture of rattan-made characters resembling Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama during the 19th International Handicraft Trade Fair, or Inacraft, in Jakarta. (JP/A. Kurniawan Ulung)

Throughout the years, Indonesia’s popular international Handicraft Trade Fair (Inacraft) has been packed with eager and curious visitors.

The recent 19th International Handicraft Trade Fair in Jakarta from April 26 to 30 was no different, showcasing the creativity of Indonesian crafts makers.

At the exhibition, visitors flocked to various booths to shop or just gaze at the eye-catching products on display.

Azizah Fitri, for example, was happy when she found a rattan-made craftwork resembling her idol — Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama. The booth also displayed other ornaments and various characters, from animals to public figures, including President Joko Widodo.

“It is cute, cuter than the real one,” laughed Azizah after taking a picture of the doll.

The artwork, priced at Rp 350,000 (US$26), was created by Novie Simon of Tangerang-based wicker workshop Doots. She was one of the exhibition’s 1,392 participants.

Novie, who has taken part in Inacraft twice, said she received orders from foreign buyers, but was not yet able to meet their request due to complicated export procedures.

She cited, as an example, the large quantities required to export her products, something she finds difficult as her products are handmade and therefore take a long time to create.

The recent 19th International Handicraft Trade Fair in Jakarta from April 26 to 30 showcased the creativity of Indonesian crafts makers.(JP/Seto Wardhana)

Another craft businessperson, Bagus Pursena, of clay-making studio Nuanza Ceramic, has exported his products, ranging from statues to tiles and tablewares, from Boyolali, Central Java, to other countries, including Singapore, India, the Netherlands and United Arab Emirates.

For Bagus, who has joined Inacraft every year since 2008, the exhibition benefits him because he can introduce his products to foreign buyers without having to spend a lot of money to travel overseas.

Read also: Local creative talents invited to utilize Jakarta Creative Hub

When it comes to quality, he said Indonesian handicrafts are not inferior compared to other countries because it is easy to get good raw materials. “Our products are not only handmade and custom-made, but also environmentally friendly,” he said.

Large-scale productions are no longer a problem for Bagus because he employs nearly 100 people at his workplace in Boyolali. He also teams up with craftspeople from other areas, such as Banjarnegara and Klaten in Central Java.

His products have impressed the government, which ordered 21 white porcelain Balinese dancer figurines as souvenirs for heads of states attending the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Leaders’ Summit in Jakarta in March.

“To make one porcelain figurine took three months and it was done by four people,” he recalled, adding that each statue for the head of state was worth Rp 15 million. 

Throughout the years, Indonesia’s popular international Handicraft Trade Fair (Inacraft) has been packed with eager and curious visitors.(JP/Seto Wardhana)

When opening Inacraft, President Joko Widodo, who had joined the exhibition in the 2000s as a furniture exporter, hoped it would encourage more local craftspeople to export their goods.

Inacraft project officer Hadi Sunarno said the organizer set the target to increase total transactions by 10 percent this year from Rp 129 billion in 2016.

Read also: The lone struggle of Malang mask artists

For trade contracts, the target was US$11.7 million in 2017, up 10 percent from $10.7 million in 2016.

Growth of transactions rose by 6 percent from Rp 121 billion in 2015 to Rp 129 billion in 2016, while the growth of trade contracts was recorded at 9 percent from $9.8 million in 2015 to $10.7 million in 2016.

The number of participants, however, has slowly decreased, despite a slight increase in visitors, from 156,987 in 2015 to 160,237 last year. This year, 1,395 participants joined the exhibition, down from 1,397 in 2016; 1,421 in 2015; 1,600 in 2013.

I Made Arsana Yasa of Tarum Bali clothing label, who took part in Inacraft, said creativity is the key to penetrating the global market.

He creatively recycles leaf matter, flowers and fruits to make natural dyes. Since 2000, he has used them to color the fabrics he manufactures at his workshop in Gianyar, Bali.

“I utilize the leaves of mango trees to make yellow dye and those of mahogany trees to make brown dye,” he said.

Made decided to protect the environment after feeling guilty for working for a clothing manufacturer that polluted rivers in Denpasar by using synthetic colors.

Tarum Bali was not the first natural dye house on the resort island, but when he started business in 2000, clothes dyed with natural ingredients were not yet worth exporting because, according to his observations, they were not heat and sweat resistant.

His products have been exported to Japan and the United States. “Carpets I produce have decorated Hyatt Hotels in many countries,” he says.

Hadi said last year around 50 participants exported their goods for the first time, attributing a lack of knowledge as one of the hurdles to increasing exports.

“Information about export procedures has not spread evenly among local craft makers, especially those outside Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Bali,” he said.

Another problem faced by budding craft makers, he said, was that they are afraid to take risks, citing some makers who only start production after receiving orders from customers.

“But, I think upper middle class businesspeople are no longer afraid [of any risks] because they have tried,” Hadi said.

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