The dog lies lazily in the entrance, smiling happily beneath the growling tiger. Ten metres further on a carved figure of a man clutching a chicken stands beside another entrance. At a street corner in a village a stone deer peers out from the undergrowth beneath a temple.
We are on a buying and information gathering trip in the most art and craft rich country I have ever visited. We are in Bali.
The word ‘art’ refers to a wide range of activities involving human imagination and creativity to create objects, performances or events that shape or change or reinforce the way humans view the world. In many countries the vast majority of people are consumers of art rather than producers. But not in Bali. Travel miles along Bali’s roads and you find that every second shop is packed with arts and crafts. Everywhere you look people are making things.
This art is not just for tourists; paintings, sculpture, carvings, hangings, music, fabrics, are valued by the local population. Every other front door is guarded by statues and shrines. Art is everywhere.
Shared Earth is privileged to pass through these front doors to meet the artisans in their workshops. We meet woodcarvers and glass blowers, painters and dreamcatcher makers. We witness how arts and crafts are integrated into the fabric of family and community life.
Today we are visiting the bird maker. We have been buying parrots and flamingos from the Wayan Dirga for a couple of years and are keen to see what new things he might produce. He shows us a new range of British Birds: sandpipers, owls, woodpeckers, robins, sparrows and blue tits, all carved and painted with the same eye for detail and the same exquisite brushstrokes.
Watching him paint the robin’s head I am surprised the bird doesn’t wriggle out and fly away. Wayan has been painting since primary school and it shows in the easy deftness of his strokes. Even his wife looks on admiringly.
Nearby another artisan is creating the birds’ feet, turning and painting the wires prior to nailing them to blocks of wood. The craft skills are impressive.
We think that the wren is a little too large and maybe a little bright. I show him a photo of a British wren. Wayan takes notes. ‘Yes, I can do that’ he smiles, and you know that in no time he will be cradling a tiny British wren in the palm of his hand.
Do these skills matter in a world where a machine can be programme to mould a bird and paint it automatically? I know what I think.