Bali & Soul
by Lynn Olson, Cooperative Services Manager
If you’re an eco-conscious gift giver struggling to find Fair Trade gifts for the giving season, Bali & Soul is offering some of their exquisite and whimsically crafted art and functional pieces at the Willy Street Co-op. Bali & Soul is a local company that offers quality handmade gifts made by the owners’ family and friends in Bali, Indonesia.
Janice and Made describe the entire island of Bali as a deeply religious, social and artistic community where nearly 93 percent of those there practice Balinese Hinduism and, for many, their ceremonies, meditations and daily prayer rituals constitute a large portion of their daily focus and time. Made, a woodcarver since the age of six, learned the meditative art form from his father, uncles and cousins in their village of Ubud, in the Gianyar region, which is known for its skilled artisans and high culture. “They have really fantastic ceremonies all the time,” Janice says of living in Bali with Made’s family. “They make offerings, and the offerings are like a piece of art work. I’ve helped, but I’m not too good at it. His mother taught me. But [the offerings] are made out of all natural things like leaves and flowers,” she says.
Buying the goods
Also an agricultural community, many artisans in the region enjoy the flexibility of creating art for sale in their homes and at their leisure. Janice and Made encourage them to make whatever they like, however they like it. During Made’s regular visits, the artisans commonly bring their work to him or he visits them in order to purchase items for shipping back to Madison. “People will come once they know he’s there, to the house, with a table they’ve carved in the shape of dolphins or elephants or whatever, and we never say no; we always buy it.” Janice says. Restrictions on price are never set as Janice explains, “We let them set the price. We don’t say no; we can’t. They tell us what they need, and we pay for it.” Made spends roughly six months each winter on the island arranging to buy items from the artists, but he says he has to be careful not to ask for too much from one person. Instead, he says he spreads it out among the family and friends to give everyone a chance to make money. When Made is not busy working with the artists while in Bali, he enjoys ocean fishing and has also been working on building his own house there with the help of his friends.
A surprise every time
Because of the flexibility in design given to the artisans, some of Bali & Soul’s inventory changes with the whims of the creators and with the dwindling availability of raw materials. For example, Made’s uncle, who is also a rice farmer, has perfected the art of creating lifelike wooden sculptures of chimpanzees, orangutans and komodo dragons, but the lack of dry wood on the island makes it expensive to source a supply. Janice and Made frequently pre-pay those who need quality materials but cannot afford to purchase them without assistance.
Some of the items bought and sold by Bali & Soul are also created by smaller cooperatives or other family businesses from Budu or nearby villages. Made and Janice find it critical to personally know and trust their sources before ever purporting something as being Fair Trade. The pottery cooperative in the Tabanan region is a short drive on the tiny island, and Made has worked with them for nearly 16 years to supply Bali & Soul with their unique pottery. A group living in Budu produces their incense Supa Dupa (Dupa is the word for incense in Indonesia), and the two varieties are produced similarly to their ceremonial incense using only 100 percent essential oils and ingredients. No synthetics or perfumes are used in these hand-rolled sticks, which are then packaged in paper made from recycled products.
Janice and Made live and work in Madison’s Marquette neighborhood with their young son Krishna, and they enjoy the convenience of their office on East Main Street. Having lived in the neighborhood since the mid-1980s, Janice recently completed a term on the Marquette Neighborhood Association’s board. She is committed to remaining a resident as well as business owner in this community because of the large number of our neighbors who are committed to being involved in the neighborhood.
To see more
While only a fraction of the Bali & Soul product line is available for sale at the Willy Street Co-op, pottery, small carvings and wind chimes, as well as an extensive selection of much larger, handmade furniture, authentic musical instruments and carvings fills over 3,000 square feet of their Madison office and showrooms. An opportunity to see a larger sampling of their inventory will be on December 2nd at the MATC Fair Trade holiday show and during the weekend of December 8th and 9th in their showroom at 931 E. Main Street in Madison. Or you can make an appointment with them by calling (608) 257-9399.
Bali & Soul exists to provide a sustainable income for many families in Bali in addition to Janice and Made’s small family here in Madison. As Janice says, “We like staying small. We just want to earn enough money to take care of our family. That’s about it.”