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By Arwa Lodhi
Bali is a beautiful Indonesian island, covered with trees and bushes generous with flowers, which fall gracefully to the ground only for locals to pick them up again to use in the mandala offerings to the gods, and on altars. Creating a mandala focuses one’s attention and establishes sacred space, and is also a way to leave beauty wherever you go. Each mandala offering is infused with prayer and intention to show gratitude for the new day.
It’s this culture that infuses the jewellery designs of Irma Wy. The designer takes her inspiration from Bali’s natural beauty and spiritual culture, and bases her ethical principles on sourcing all materials in the country, upcycling discarded silk and other fabrics to give them new life as lushly petaled chokers, earrings, bracelets and other forms of jewellery.
All crystals, stones and metals are either derived from upcycling old pieces of jewellery, or are sourced locally from small Indonesian mines, whose traceability and ethics are vetted by Irma before she selects the materials. Balinese artisans are employed for to use handcrafting techniques such as embroidery, painting, silver metal shaping and stone carving to shape local healing stones like black jade, agate and jasper into wearable art that offers protective qualities, too.
Despite these ethical credentials, Irma still believes there’s much room for to increase her brand’s eco-friendliness: “We still have a lot to improve but I believe that any authentic business needs time to reach achieve the highest sustainability possible. It’s a learning process, and one that I am going through all the time,” she said.
Irma’s pieces are reflective of the style of Balinese women with their nod to textile production, since vegetable based fabric dyeing and weaving are such important traditions on the island. Balinese traditional jewellery is highly ornamental, even Baroque, with its intricate filigree, jawan and granulation techniques that result in detailed patterns and complex designs. But whilst Irma Wy retains the spirit of Bali in her work, it’s far more pared down and minimalistic. More modern, if you will.
Irma may have Indonesian blood, but she grew up in Switzerland and studied in Paris, so she always tries to embrace contrasting cultures through her work. “There is a saying in Indonesia: Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, which means ‘unity in diversity.’ This saying runs through the heart of my work,” she says.
Whilst diversity is usually a great thing, the influx of tourism to Bali is putting pressure on the local culture there. The tourism boom means that many locals who would previously have trained as craftsmen are now turning to work in the hospitality industry instead. Fortunately, Irma has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign that will help her employ more Balinese artisans to maintain their artisanal heritage.
To support her and her brand, please click here, or see the video below for more information.