It Takes a Village to Make a Handcrafted Rattan Bag.
You may have heard of that proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” That’s very true here in Bali. It means that your community helps to take care of, look out for, and ultimately contribute to the welfare of your children as they grow up.
What you may not have known is that it also takes a village, figuratively speaking but sometimes literally to create one of our rattan bags. Each bag is made, not by just one immensely talented individual, but many specialised in specific parts of the process.
First things first: While our bags are popularly referred to as “rattan bags” instead of ata grass bags, that is actually a misnomer as most of the time they are not made of the plant known as the rattan palm. In Bali, the plant material used to make our bags is a type of vine, known around these parts as “ata” (Ah-tah), or sometimes hata depending on where you’re from. It’s a type of climbing plant that is somewhat related to the fern family, found at the volcanic foothills in East Bali. This type of grass is known for being extremely durable and water resistant.
Regardless of what they’re called, they all share one thing in common:
The Balinese people have long used the leaf ribs and stalk of the ata plant as a source for making ropes, but since the development of synthetic materials, they now primarily use the material to weave baskets and other wares. Demand for the resource in fact has been so high that other regions in Indonesia such as parts of Java have been able to export ata vines to Bali so that the skilled artisans here have a steady supply of raw material for them to ply their craft.
The process of making the bags is very time-consuming. The ata vines have to be properly conditioned, and then they are woven into shape, a process that could take one skilled artisan a month to make just one bag.
People in their homes would help wind young, flexible, thinner ata fibers around sturdier ata strands to form the basic long, ropelike building material for the baskets.
Other people may then weave these materials into various shapes. Each person may be skilled in making specific pieces. For example, some people may specialize in making rectangular sheets, some others may excel at making ovals and end pieces, yet others are really good at making buttons and ribbon fasteners, and so forth.
Component parts assembly into the final ata bag
These component pieces are eventually assembled together to make a handbag. But we’re not done yet! The bags still have to go through several more steps before they’re ready for you.
Assembled ata baskets are sanitized and disinfected
The bags are boiled in water, an essential process in making sure they are properly disinfected of any mold or fungus that may have been on the plant material. They are dried in the sun for a few days.
Ata baskets are smoked and cured in an oven for 24 hours
After the bags have dried, they are then cured and smoked in an oven to condition and strengthen them, as well as imparting that lovely brown patina finish. This is also why the bags may have some of that lingering smoky aroma that I happen to find very pleasant. (It’s okay if you don’t, just leave the bag to air out for a few days. The scent will eventually fade.)
For the finishing touch, the cloth lining is sewn and attached to the bag. We like to showcase Indonesian materials and traditional batik patterns, though I think mixing and matching other textiles such as Ikat or just simple cotton works exceptionally well too.
The finished product, with batik lining and leather strap attached
The whole process from start to finish takes a very long time, we’re talking weeks or maybe even months for some shapes.
In the end, the fruits of their efforts are very well worth the long, arduous process. Each bag is unique, beautiful, stylish, fun and is very sturdy and well made.
We hope that this information has given you some more insight into our products, and also convey to you the extreme pride we have in bringing them to you.
Matur suksma, Terima kasih, Thank you!