THE ARTISAN JEWELER & HER BALINESE CRYSTAL JOURNEY
In April of last year, my boyfriend and I found ourselves on a long, hot road in what we heard was a silversmith village just outside Ubud on the Indonesian island of Bali. It was barely 9am and we felt late already, as the bustling markets and villages of Bali had risen hours before the sun. My goal was clear – I wanted to find a silversmith and design a collection for my jewelry brand, Zaleska. However, based on the mere uncertainty of the situation and the newness of these weaving, artisan-filled alleys, this seemed unattainable. I had no expectations as we walked along the main jalan, jumping gutters, weaving through home studios, and ultimately hoping for a sign that I wasn't sure I'd find. It was a serendipitous moment when I met a smiling young man named Made, who invited us in after being greeted by his rooster, koi fish, and barking (but decidedly friendly)
I WAS LIVING IN A DREAM STATE, WATCHING MY SKETCHBOOK COME TO LIFE RIGHT BEFORE MY EYES. [ day in the life]
dogs. His studio, located inside his family compound, was lined with heavy wood and glass cases NICHE columnist, jewelry designer and unapologetic fashionista, Sylvia Tennant is creating her newest crystal jewelry collection, and NICHE has the exclusive story that begins with an inspirational journey to the Indonesian island of Bali, and concludes with the fulfillment of a dream... brimming with intricate designs. He told us that the giant turquoise and silver rings (which I instantly set aside for myself) could be sized in 30 minutes, and that he would drive us to find breakfast at a local warung while we waited. The energy of this experience shifted the course of my business and set off a whirlwind chain of events.
When we returned from lunch, I designed a collection within 2 hours, and it was handmade by his wonderful team of artisans in 7 days.
My Return to Bali
I went back to the village a few months ago to begin this process once again. This time, I was armed with a plan, over a thousand gemstones, and my lovely mother, Mercedes, who guided me through the overwhelming moments and important decisions with grace, patience, and (sometimes) tequila. I was living in a dream state, watching my sketchbook come to life right before my eyes. Once I approved the samples, production was underway.
We took this time to retreat to the beautiful Chapung Se Bali Resort, which was surprisingly close to Ubud, considering how exclusively remote it felt.
I sensed a mental shift within seconds of witnessing the incredible jungle views blanketed in thick tropical foliage. Nestled on the edge of the Osh Valley, this luxury resort sits with modern grandeur. We stayed in a private
plunge pool suite, which was generously spacious and recently built to accommodate a growing demand. The custom furniture was designed by the owner, who had each piece handmade on the island from reclaimed iron, wood, black marble, and brick. We soaked in the luxuriousness of the spa where ponds, unparalleled views, and uniquely designed treatment rooms are the backdrop to an inspired menu of offerings for mind and body. During the day, we read in daybeds next to the infinity pool at Junglefish Bali, the “no-beach beach club” conveniently located steps from our suite. Bali has long attracted
visitors seduced by its varied landscape and cultural opulence, and Chapung Se caters to the vast majority of luxury travelers.
In addition to this experience, we had the pleasure of staying at my favorite local refuge, an Ubud bungalow called Merthayasa 2. The first thing one notices upon entering the hand-carved doorway is that it's magically immune to the bustle of the surrounding chaos that is tourist season. Orchids hang from flowering trees and property staff harvest jackfruit and papayas from the family garden. The pool is private, the complimentary breakfast is delicious, and the price is right: $35 per night for a simple but immaculate suite with strong Wi-fi. Alit and Wayan were wonderful hosts and offered transport, delicious homemade corn fritters, and even lent my mother a kebaya (a traditional Balinese lace top worn with a sarong) throughout our multiweek stay. This familial warmth is the essence of the Balinese and the reason I return each year to build my business with them.