In July 2023, I made my first visit back to Indonesia since Covid closed the borders. With so many of our Indonesian furniture suppliers being small, family-operated businesses, I wondered how they had fared during the pandemic.
Thankfully, it wasn’t long before I discovered that not even a global pandemic can slow the Indonesian homeware industry. It was a huge relief to reunite with my suppliers and return to one of my favourite places to visit. During my two-week furniture and homeware buying trip to Bali, I reconnected with all our suppliers and placed enough orders to fill a shipping container.
Arriving in Denpasar, it was, of course, the heat and humidity that hit me first. I immediately felt excited to be back. I had a full schedule ahead of me, visiting suppliers throughout Bali, Java and Lombok Islands and scouting for new products. I source a large amount of Brown & Co.’s baskets, placemats, pots & planters, mirrors and individual unique homeware pieces from this region, and meeting directly with the producers and suppliers of these beautiful items is a highlight.
Each meeting proceeded in much the same way. Firstly, it was a relief to see that they were still operating and doing well, and they the same for me. Then there was a mutual feeling of excitement to meet after such a long break and do business face-to-face again.
In Bali, I visited Made who produces our White Rabbit range. My relationship with Made goes back many years, in fact, decades. My mother started importing the Rabbits range twenty years ago.
Made doesn’t speak English, and I don’t speak Indonesian, so our negotiations are always interesting. We get by using sign language, a pen and paper, and a calculator. We managed to get there in the end, and I can’t wait until the next shipment of rabbits arrives in September.
Discovering Hidden Gems in Bali
After a few more meetings, I head back to the hotel at the end of the day. I love trying new boutique hotels when I visit Bali - the more interesting and off-the-beaten-track, the better. Seminyk Boutique House was certainly a real find.
The next day, after a breakfast of amazingly fresh fruit and strong black coffee, my driver arrives and we head out for a day of visiting suppliers and placing orders. As we weave through the back streets, I keep a keen eye out for interesting shops or suppliers, and when something catches my eye, I make a note to return later. Often the best way to do this is on foot. I can walk in and rummage amongst the piles of bowls, marble statues, wooden decorations, baskets or whatever I discover. Many of these little outlets are no more than 10 x 5m, but they are laden with treasures, including cobwebs and mosquitos. Sunblock and insect repellent are a must for these trips.
A Family Affair: Indonesian Mirrors
Later in the week, I visit Wayan and his family who produce a beautiful range of timber mirrors. Wayan lives 20km inland from Denpasar, close to the volcano. The drive here is spectacular – windy roads, steep, vegetated gullies, and many rice paddies.
Wayan sources durian wood (garden wood) that is dried using fire to remove as much moisture as possible. The wood is then cut to size and crafted into mirror frames. The timber is carved depending on the style of frame, and family members colour the frames to produce finishes in blackwash, whitewash and antique silver. Fitting the glass in the frame is the last step in the production. The family produces these incredible pieces in an open-air workshop high in the mountains. It is a stunning setting, complete with a menagerie of roaming dogs and chickens.
From Bali to Wānaka
The rest of my time in Indonesia continues in much the same way. I search for new and interesting pieces, considering what would work for Brown & Co. and deciding on the right quantities. My pile of invoices grows as I travel around Bali, and I keep a mental note of how full the container is getting.
My meetings take me into outlying areas and down quiet, back streets. There are none of the tourist-style cafes or ‘European’ bathrooms. Each day is long and tiring, and I normally finish up around 5pm so I can get back to the hotel in time to prepare for the next day’s locations or islands.
However long or tiring the days may be, it is always worth it. The experience of working directly with the producers is what I love most about the imported furniture and homeware business. Each item or piece of furniture that arrives in Wānaka arrives with a story – the travel, the people, the food, and the whole Bali experience. Now that I’m back home, I can’t wait for the container to arrive.
Do you want to be notified when the next container arrives? Sign up for our newsletter here.