How One Balinese Artisan Pours Heart Into Every Hand-carved Wood Sculpture She Creates

Balinese artisan Made Mulyani
Balinese artisan Made Mulyani

Balinese sculptor Made Mulyani finds inspiration in the ancient Sanskrit epic the Ramayana. In a story of undying love and loyalty, Prince Rama rescues his beloved Sita from the clutches of a cruel king, Ravana, who has abducted her from the forest where she and Rama lived in exile.

She says, “Sita’s loyalty to keep her love pure only for Rama is an inspiration for me to always accompany my husband in joy or sorrow. Because of all that we have been through in life, love always wins.”

And Made Mulyani knows firsthand what it feels like for love to triumph over difficulty. Born in 1975 to a family of wood carvers, she grew up with few economic means in her rural community, but with a deep sense of peace, love, and respect for her native island.

But in 2002, when she was just setting up her small shop with a loan form the bank, a bomb exploded in Bali’s primary tourist area, and it sent shockwaves through the tourism industry — with profound effects on customers who no longer felt safe traveling to the region. “I think this was the toughest time in my whole life,” she says.

Love itself seems to have carried her through. It infuses her art in so many ways. “I believe love can radiate from a work of art,” she says.

For Made Mulyani, it is not only figurative, but literal, as she and her husband, Sarwaedi — another incredible NOVICA artisan — engage in long discussions, even debates, about their work. “These circumstances make us closer. I feel there is an empty space if my husband is not involved in the work I do. Likewise, my husband always wants to hear my input.”

Hand-carved sculpture, 'Balinese Couple'
Hand-carved sculpture, ‘Balinese Couple’

One of her hand-carved wood sculptures, “Balinese Couple,” was inspired by their own romance. She says, “It is a statue of traditional Balinese men and women with beautiful carving details that radiate the love we pour into our work. I hope people can feel it in every curve and detail.”

This Valentine’s Day, we take Made Mulyani’s own wise words to heart when she says, “If a work is produced with love, the result will never disappoint.”



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