the Art of the Soul
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”
Karya Tangan Indah (KTI) jewelry manufacture in Bali, which is also a sustainable farm, was the setting for a compelling opportunity with John Hardy Jewelry. I was recruited to lead the global Brand product strategy and oversee the Bali design center and jewelry manufacturing operation. I sold my home in San Francisco to move into an antique wood joglo set in the midst of a rice paddy featuring limited electricity, occasional wireless, several animated geckos, and outdoor plumbing.
With the promise of adventure and an opportunity to experience a fascinating culture rich with ceremonial and artisanal tradition, this was a captivating next step. It was a pivotal decision, and one of my most inspired career moves. Overnight, I became responsible for 550 employees and their families, their welfare consistently at the forefront of my decision-making. Bali became my home for three years.
Bali is a study in contrasts and balances as epitomized by the black and white checkered cloths that dot the landscape. Numerous temples spoke of the deep-rooted ceremonial traditions of the Balinese, whose religious origins are based in Hindu and Buddhist practices. Amid the tranquility of tropical-island living was a vibrant, staccato urban energy, all blending perfectly. These were constant reminders for me to balance everything I have learned so far with everything I was quickly learning.
The KTI organization is predominantly Hindu and Muslim. This was my first opportunity to lead an organization with a diversity of religious preference, and there was a beauty in the diversity, a tolerance for everyone’s differences. People came together with a similar interest in the “Art of the hands” to create beautiful handmade jewelry. I appreciated how everything just worked.
Creating jewelry is an art. I am a firm believer that the art of the process determines the outcome. When skilled artisans come together to craft an object, you can feel it. At John Hardy, we referred to it as the “soul” of the jewelry. The silversmith tradition in Bali has been handed down over generations. Weaving palm fronds into daily offerings, designing penjar, carving wood, embroidering kebaya, amongst the many examples of artisanal tradition in Bali are skills many start to develop as a child and some become masters of their craft at a very young age.
Being surrounded by a community of incredibly talented artisans is a privilege to witness first hand. My role was to create an environment where everyone was inspired to create, and also challenged to enhance expertise. We created momentum – staff from the kitchen to production to design filled with an appreciation and pride of what we were achieving, while becoming even better at achieving it.
Bali inspired my journey into the “Art of the soul.” When you experience the “Art of the soul” captured expertly in children, and throughout the fabric of an entire community, you understand the importance of sustaining and protecting it. Taking pride in the “Art of the soul” helps generate interest among youth, and engaging youth promotes sustainable resources for our business. Sustainable growth for our business protects traditions. The success of our mission at John Hardy rested in the creation of handmade jewelry and at the same time helped reinforce and nurture the soul of the community.
Bali was a window into a diverse community. How the diversity of language, culture, religious preference, can be condensed into one community. We are all part of a community. We have an opportunity to broaden the scope of what we consider our community to be.