Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 15 September 2014 • Destination
D.I. Yogyakarta is a special region with endless list of activities and things to see. As touristy as people might say about Yogyakarta, I love it because I can always do something different there. In one of my visits, I decided to learn making pottery in Yogyakarta from a local that I found on Withlocals.
I booked the pottery session with Erna, who turned out to be a connector between Bu Giyanti the pottery maker and me. Norman, who was on the furniture-hunting trip with me, and wasn’t usually involved in much artistic activities except underwater photography, decided to come along. We were then picked up at Via Via guesthouse by Erna and her friend Safira with their motorbikes.
The ‘pottery barn’ was located in Kasongan area, at the space on the side of Bu Giyanti’s house. This part of the house, which to most houses would usually be a garage, turned into a workshop that was messed with half-made potteries and all kinds of tools for making pottery. A brown wooden door on the lime green wall connected the workshop to the rest of the house.
While waiting for the workshop to start, I noticed the big oven across the house. Potteries in various sizes were displayed beside it. The brick oven and the clay potteries were gray, if not grayish, because the volcanic ash from Kelud Mountain was still covering almost all of Yogyakarta. It was a bit of rough time for the people of Yogyakarta when we came in that Valentine’s weekend but most activities still went on.
We weren’t the first guests to Bu Giyanti’s workshops. If I’m not mistaken, she’s used to having groups of tourists or school kids visiting to her workshop and learning the basics of making pottery. Even so, the neighbor kids were staring at Norman and me with curiosity in their eyes. As soon as I realized that we were sort of a ‘show’ when I was taking pictures of the surrounding, Bu Giyanti came back out from the house and started the workshop, assisted by her husband, Pak Kliwon.
She told us to each grab a chunk of clay from a bucket then showed us how to make it into a ball shape. Then she helped me shape the clay ball into a bowl. At this stage Norman, assisted by Pak Kliwon, did a better job than me. His bowl had a smoother surface than mine. Bu Giyanti didn’t look happy with my bowl, so I finally redid it from the beginning. I actually didn’t mind it being rugged, but I guess she had a reputation to uphold. Either that, or maybe it would crack badly when being heated in the oven if it was too choppy.
She let us improvise with the final design of the pottery. Norman the smoker made a big deep ashtray and I, a vase with curvy opening. I think my vase looks cute!
Then Bu Giyanti taught us the second technique, which utilized a mold. She had several colorful piggy banks in the shapes of Angry Bird characters, Doraemon and some other weird creatures. Being so trendy, we had to pick Angry Birds!
Molding pottery was a lot easier than building one from scratch. The mold consisted of the back part and front part. We then put the two parts together, and filling the gap between them became the most challenging step.
The most fun part was improvising! I didn’t want my Angry Bird to be just another Angry Bird knock-off. It had to have a personality that stood out. Hence, the punk spikes!
If we were to stay in Yogyakarta for one more day, Bu Giyanti would ‘bake’ the potteries for us so we could take them back to Jakarta. Unfortunately, we were taking the train to Jakarta that night. So we just left our creations at the workshop.
Playing with clay and pottery is actually not something totally new to me as I had done it for some school assignments and little workshops. That, and knowing that making potteries requires a lot of practice and patience, I knew that I wasn’t going to make perfect ones. But creating things manually had always been my favorite thing to do, so I signed up for it anyway. And I had fun!
Would I recommend this service to you? Why not?! Erna was a good host. She was friendly and she patiently waited for us to finish the workshop. The workshop being located in a village gives you more chance to observe the lives of Yogyakarta’s people as well as interact with them, like the curious children that couldn’t take their eyes off of strangers.
Aside to that, Kasongan is a pottery village. Making pottery has become one of the people’s main livelihoods. It’s so easy for you to find any kinds of pottery at the shops of Kasongan area, from the main street to the small alleys, with furniture shops pop up in between them.
Moreover, you’re paying the hosts the amount that they set themselves, cutting out the middle man (or woman), via Withlocals. The booking process was simple. I just had a minor problem and the online customer service came to my rescue, he was very helpful.