Ceramic Industry survive the test of time

Pejaten in Tabanan conjures up the image of a sleepy village. Only a few public bus drivers are willing to serve this route, leaving the road deserted except for the motorcycle riders who visit the nearby foods stalls. But the piles of firewood and coconut husk, stacked in front of people’s modest houses, are hard to miss. Venturing deeper into the residential compounds will explain the calm that hangs over the area. It seems that everyone here, men and women alike, occupy themselves in a lucrative cottage industry that produces clay roof tiles, which are neatly set out in the sun to dry. With Bali’s unpredictable weather, particularly during the wet season, all hands must be available to rush the tiles back into the sheds or the rain will damage the half-finished products. Despite the backbreaking work, no one is complaining, as the cottage industry is doing well. Some 600 households in this area earn a living from producing tiles. A woman worker said her household produces some 400 tiles a day.After the tiles are taken out of the molds and placed in the sun for three days, they are ready for firing. Coconut husk and firewood are used to heat the traditional kilns. From the many production units scattered in kampongs and hamlets, tile production skills have obviously been passed down through family lines. From a very young age, children are taught to work in their parents’ kilns or to help with the molding and varnishing of tiles. In the 1980s those involved in the ceramic industry saw the dawn of a more modernized era for the industry.

Today, modern companies, such as CV Tanteri, no longer cater to the demand for roof tiles, but instead churn out teapots, cups, saucers, vases, salt shakers and a host of other more refined products. These attractively designed products are sold in big cities such as Jakarta, Surabaya or Bandung. A group of artisans sitting behind electric rotating wheels give shape to lumps of ceramic clay, while another group does the trimming and polishing. They no longer work in dark and humid sheds. The workplace is airy and roomy enough for the 50-odd workers. The firing is done in a more modern kiln run on electricity. The unpolished products from the kiln are sorted out and graded according to quality. They are aired in racks, placed in a sunny part of the workplace, before getting a layer of varnish followed by a second firing. It is astonishing to see the progress made in the ceramic industry in Pejaten. It is also wonderful to see both traditional and modern techniques operating side by side, for different markets.”Improving quality is an ongoing effort. With keen competition in the market, particularly posed by ceramic products from China, Japan and Korea, it is hard to deny that our technology is still very modest,” said the company’s spokesman. “But Pejaten ceramics have a foothold in the market. Our exquisite handmade products have their own appeal to our customers.” Orders for tableware and office accessories come from hotels, restaurants, offices and art shops. Pejaten ceramics also appeal to foreign tourists, who love the vases and bowls decorated with flowers and animals that reflect Bali’s culture.With a production capacity of 600 to 700 pieces a day, exports go as far as Japan, the United States, France and Germany.

Retno K. Djojo, Contributor, Tabanan | Life |


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