Sasak Pottery Collection About Tembikar Sasak
Pottery Video & Book Floor Jars (over 20" high)
Large Shelf or Pedestal Jars (13" to 20" high)
Tabletop (12" or less), Floral, Bath, Candle & Small Gift
Cookware, Serve-ware, Dinnerware, Kitchen
Planter Pots, Garden, Patio Antique
Sasak craftswomen on the island of Lombok (near Bali, Indonesia) make hand-coiled, pit-fired earthenware pottery in a tradition handed down from mother to daughter. For generations these skilled potters have provided beautifully shaped vessels for everyday use in Lombok households. A rich variety of forms are still made today. You can visit their Indonesian villages and watch the women making pots in their homes.
Clay is carried in baskets from hills near the villages. The women shape their pots with the help of simple tools of wood, bamboo, and stone. Once formed, the damp pots are burnished to a soft shine with obsidian pebbles and left to dry. Traditional geometric designs are burnished or etched onto the surface of some of the pots. On firing day the potters stack up the pots in simple outdoor kilns fired with wood straw and rice husks. The finished pots emerge at the end of the firing colored red and black, ready to be carried to market.
The Pottery Centres produce both traditional and newly designed earthenware including magnificent giant jars, incense boxes, cooking pots, tableware, garden lanterns, lamp bases and kendi (traditional drinking vessels.) Sasak motifs taken from early carved wood and etched bamboo household objects are used to decorate many of the pots.
The Lombok Pottery Project has worked with the potters to improve the quality, design and durability of their products. Staff in each village have been trained in exacting selection procedures so that each pot available in the Pottery Centres is of the highest possible standard.
The Lombok Pottery Project (Back to Top)
The island of Lombok in Indonesia is well known for its handicrafts and traditional craft work, in particular pottery, basket-making, and weaving. The three villages of Banyumulek, Masbagik Timur, and Penujak represent the island's major pottery-producing areas. Here, where pottery making is their main source of income, the village women have been producing pottery since the decline of the East Javanese Hindu Kingdom of Majapahit in the early part of the 16th century.
Even today, the women potters of these three villages pass down their unique skills from mother to daughter in a tradition called "turun temurun." The high level of skill of the Sasak potters is remarkable. With very simple tools, and materials gathered from the local countryside, the women potters of all three villages work in their homes to create earthenware pots of great beauty and utility, with skills passed down from generation to generation. They begin learning the process from a very early age.
Since 1988 the Lombok Crafts Project has been assisting the women potters of Lombok to improve their standard of living through technical and marketing assistance. This bilateral development project between the Governments of the Republic of Indonesia and New Zealand is supported by the Indonesian Department of Industry. In each of the three villages, the Project has funded the building of work shelters and showrooms. Technical, quality and design skills have been improved through input by New Zealand advisers, together with administrative, marketing, financial and logistic training.
The objective of the Lombok Crafts Project is to develop a potter-controlled cooperative commercial venture that will create adequate income opportunities for potters in the three villages, and also provide funding to improve social conditions in the villages for both project and non-project potters. Through this bilateral assistance program, quality, durability and marketability of the product has improved significantly. The project has helped to substantially increase the income of the potter, and all surplus profits from sales are used by the potters to improve living and working conditions in the villages.
The project has assisted the potters to process their clays in ways which produce a stronger product. The finished pots are coated with a slip made from the same clay, sieved to produce a fine surface which is later burnished with a stone. The earthenware clay that the women use is dug locally and has different qualities in each village. The potters never have to travel more than three kilometers from their houses to find sufficient clay for their needs. Greyish brown, the indigenous clay becomes a beautiful rich red brown color when fired.
The potters work the clay by hand, sometimes using a round stone and wooden paddle. This is one of the oldest ways of making pottery, and Lombok is one of the few places in the world where it has survived. The large water storage jars are formed by the potter building up and scraping the walls of the pot as she walks around it. Firing takes place as soon as the pots are dry. After half a day in the sun to finish drying, the pots are stacked in a pile with a variety of fuel including firewood and coconut husks. Once the fire is going well, the stack is covered with rice straw and rice husks which burn out to leave a thick ash cover, holding in the heat for the final stages of firing.
The project has taught potters to use more fuel and a longer firing time so that pots are well fired and strong. The clay used to produce Sasak pottery pots has been approved for food safety by the appropriate testing authorities in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and is considered food safe by the US FDA. Certificate numbers available upon request. Earthenware products from the Lombok Pottery Center include food storage items as well as cooking vessels. While handmade earthenware is intrinsically fragile, if handled with care it will last for many years.
The Three Lombok Pottery Centres (Back to Top)
Vast rice fields surround the village of Banyumulek. Here, the potters produce an incredible variety of earthenware traditionally used for many purposes, including preparation and serving food and ceremonies connected with village life. Three styles of planter pots in a range of sizes are also made in Banyumulek.
The village of Masbagik Timur is the most isolated of the three villages. Here, the earthenware designs are characterized by the use of geometric burnished decoration on simple forms. Some potters also produce striking designs with triangles of bone inlay. The classic "tall jars" of Masbagik make great pieces for home decor. Serving bowls and the "jambangan" casserole are also very popular with Westerners.
In Penujak village in Central Lombok, the potters are using simple kilns to fire their pottery which often has carved designs of applied decoration such as lizards and frogs. Potters from this village make jars up to 33 inches high by 30 inches diameter, as well as a large variety of tabletop pieces. Penujak platters with incised or stamped decoration make great fruit bowls or serving pieces and the smaller size is perfect for a pasta or curry plate.
Technically, there are very few differences in the processes used in each of the three villages. What really makes a difference however, is the characters of the potters themselves, and this is highlighted in the designs of the pots from each village.
Photos by Sinar Bahagia.
Want to learn more about Tembikar Sasak? (Back to Top)
If you would like further details of the Lombok Pottery Center and the traditional Sasak earthenware products. Please contact us at Sasak Gallery. firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional excellent informational products available from Sasak Gallery
Video: The Lombok Pottery Project, $10.00 + postage
Book: Vessels of Life by Jean McKinnon, $40.00 + postage
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