Where The Magic Happens – Kaula Leather Workshop
“A little magic can take you a long way.”
From: James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
“This is my revenge. To teach people. Because when I wanted to learn, no one wanted to teach me.” Abenk smiles.
We are sitting at a warung just around the corner from his home and workshop having lunch, talking about how he started as an artist and teacher working with leather. Borobudur brought me to Yogjakarta, but it is here at Kaula Leather that I have found the real magic.
Surrounded by rice paddies, it is an open space that catches all the cooling breezes, especially during the hot and humid rainy months. With the help of his nephew, who he has taken on as an apprentice, Abenk guides each workshop participant through the different steps to make the item they’ve chosen. With a long list to choose from, there is something for everyone, who is keen to engage in an experience rather different from the usual tourist offerings in Yogjakarta.
Most people choose to make a passport holder, wallet, or small handbag. Something simple. Something easy. Not me. Well, truth be told, I thought the pair of sandals were fairly simple. And they were definitely that, design wise. But what I’ve learned is that to make them took layers and layers of cutting and gluing. It was a full day of hard work. And, although I would like to say that I made them, it was Abenk who did all the tricky measuring and refining to bring my design to life. He is a perfectionist, and does not allow anyone to leave his workshop with something they cannot be proud of, yet never makes one feel inept. It was such a wonderful experience that I decided to go back.
And so, for the last two days of my time in Yogjakarta, I spent in the wonderful company of Abenk and his nephew. This time making a large tote bag. Like I’ve mentioned, I never take the simplest route. Plus I wanted to make items I would use often. Not having a particular design in mind, Abenk showed me a picture on Instagram that I quite liked, and so he did all the tricky design bits, cut the pattern, and guided me through the different steps. This time, I did most of the time consuming work myself, and as my hands and fingers are not accustomed to this kind of work, it took two full days to complete. Every single step only makes use of simple tools, and the final product is truly handmade. It is a process that is deeply satisfying, and I cannot think of anything better to take home as a souvenir, as it is embedded with a mixture of stories told by my fellow workshop participants, as well as Abenk and his wife.
As always, it was my encounters with the local people that far outweighed the architecture or history of the country. So if you want to make your trip truly memorable, add a day to your itinerary and spend it at Kaula Leather in Yogjakarta.
Visited: Oct/Nov 2018