MADIUN, KOMPAS.com – The wayang puppets looked at the viewer with wooden eyes in artisan Joko Suwiono’s workshop in Madiun, East Java.
Known as wayang klitik or wood wayang, this arts and crafts from East Java resembles the better known wayang kulit or leather wayang of Yogyakarta and Central Java.
Made to a high standard of craftsmanship, the puppets show an intricate attention to detail and vivid colors that would not be out of place exhibited in the Wayang Museum in Jakarta’s Old Town district. They also belie their simple origins.
Making something out of nothing
“The [wood wayang] is made of excess wood, which holds no value except as firewood. I decided to make wooden handicrafts in 2018, as they are in plentiful supply,” Joko said to Kompas.com.
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“I have had experience in making handicrafts, so I wanted to turn the wood into a lucrative commodity. It was then that I had the idea of making wood wayang.”
Joko made his first wayang klitik out of discarded wooden fruit boxes. Much to his surprise, he found a steady market in the community.
“I decided to make the wayang from the excess wood with the help of family. I also made wayang themed souvenirs like keyrings, wall clocks and home decorations,” he recalled.
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“The wayang sells for Rp. 10,000 [$0.70] for a wayang keyring to Rp. 3 million [$211.04] for a larger scale wayang figure. We sell them on social media like Facebook and Instagram under the account name Omah Craft Kinarya.”
Expanding the business
Joko’s deft touch with wood wayang and his social media marketing strategy opened new markets. “Since its founding, [Omah Craft Kinarya] has exported wood wayang to Singapore, Brunei, Australia and the Netherlands,” he noted.
“We also exhibited our wares in China, Japan, Taiwan and Thailand.” While Joko said the Covid-19 pandemic ground business to a halt, his skills ensured that the slump did not last long as his puppets caught the eye of wayang buffs near and far.
“I buy [Omah Craft Kinarya’s wayang] because they are high quality, handmade products,” said Bagoes Wibisono, a wayang aficionado from Jakarta. “I ordered quantities [of the wayang] as souvenirs, so I can give them away to my colleagues.”
But whether through word of mouth or social media marketing, there is little doubt that Joko’s wayang will not run out of customers any time soon.
(Writer: Muhlis Al Alawi | Editor: David Oliver Purba)
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