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Master Carver

We first went to Indonesia to look for interesting sources in 2005, just before we opened Drift in Yarmouth. John had worked in various parts of SE Asia in his previous career but neither of us had been to Bali.

On the first visit we were somewhat disheartened to see that many of the “crafts” being sold were, in fact, factory-produced wood and stone carvings sold in shops all across the island. One such area is Mas which has rows of these little outlets, many with some theatrics – sanding and shoe-polish-waxing – to attract the tourists. Our usual method for hunting down the actual makers is just to catch a bus or taxi to an area and then walk .. and, in John’s case, talk.. the whole day. After seeing, and being disappointed by, dozens of shops that all seemed to be selling the same few pieces (we subsequently have learned that they often come from the same factory in Java) we happened upon a little doorway at the side of the road which led into a small room.  The walls of the room had perhaps a dozen wood carvings on shelves – many very different from the usual fare.

A young man was in the first stages of carving a Buddha out of ebony – not a common wood for the mass-produced examples.  Luckily, his English was far better than our Bahasa – between us we have Russian, schoolboy French, just-remembered classroom Latin, British sign-language (surprisingly useful) and a little English.  His name is Wayan Subur and he explained that he was, effectively, partway through a many-years-long apprenticeship under his fathe!

Wayan Subur Junior

Wayan Subur Junior

Wayan Snr, Jnr and Joh

Wayan Snr, Jnr and John We brought back the Jangger (dancer) in the centre

Who is also called Wayan Subur!

There are only 5 formal first names in Balinese culture and the first born, boy or girl, is always called Wayan.

Wayan Senior was called down from the upper floors (the studio was simply the ground floor of a rather nice family house) – a small, energetic and very smiley gentleman appeared and we chatted for some time.  It turned out that Senior was an increasing rarity in Bali, a true master carver.

[We did some asking around later and, when his name was mentioned, it was usually met with a rather respectful nod, smile and confirmation that he was recognised as such, even by other experienced, carvers. ]

He proudly brought out a scrapbook of pictures showing some of the pieces that he’d carved and some unusual commissions.  One of these was a series of person-sized, folk-tale characters for a Munich hotel and restaurant. He had the original photographs that the hotelier had provided as well as his work papers plus photographs of the finished articles.  Not to our taste but obviously superbly realised and apparently, very valued as the purchaser had flown Wayan out to Germany for the unveiling!

Our commissions were initially more modest but no less accomplished. On the first trip we brought back the ebony Buddha that Junior had carved (to dad’s design) together with a large Jangger (Balinese dancer) and two sandalwood buddhas all by Senior.

Since that date we’ve visited the two men whenever we visited Bali. Wayan Junior has now met his father’s high standards and carves his own designs.

In early 2020 we dropped by their place in Mas and brought back 5 fabulous pieces from crocodile wood and a couple of small sandalwood carvings.

Wayan Senior is still the master of his craft and it’s always a pleasure to visit the two men