Rumah Tanah Baru: Wisata Keramik in Depok, Java of Indonesia
One day I was browsing at the Asian Collection of my university library, I came across a book called Narcissus Narcissus. This exhibition catalogue features the ceramic artworks from the kiln of F. Widayanto, the leading Indonesian ceramic artist graduated from Bandung’s Institute of Technology and exhibited in the National Museum of Jakarta. The male figurative artworks are fantastic and realistic with exquisite beauty and refinement. As I researched more, I found his website, www.fwidayanto.com and contacted for more details concerning a studio visit at the workshop. Mr. Widayanto has a gallery showroom in the centre of Jakarta exhibiting his latest collection. I visited his weekend residence called Rumah Tanah Baru which was created in the concept of a 1 hectare tropical garden where its natural surroundings are in harmony with the ceramic pieces created by Widayanto. Although previously made appointment and several confirmations for this visit, the staff was very surprise to see me coming off the taxi alone.
At 11:30AM, the place was already teaming with activities. The parking area was full of tourist vans and large coach buses. In the Javanese assembly hall, several tourists were resting from the mid-day sun after their tour. I explained the purpose of my visit and was told that I was lucky as an English speaking guide was available that day as a large group tour was finishing up for the day. Normally, there would only be Indonesian speaking staff. My guide accompanied me going up the stairs of the main wooden building. Wall was decorated with ceramic paintings of female portraits, Widayanto’s bedroom upstairs was airy and shaded. In front of a four-poster bed, there are two graceful ceramic statues from the Narcissus Narcissus Collection. The glazing is exquisite and unusual with extraordinary rich colours of peacock blue, olive green, yellow and brown. Downstairs, the guest bedroom is available for rent as homestay during weekdays (I was told, it called for 1 million Rp. a night). It has original Javanese wood frames for doorways, a javanese vanity and a nice bed under a canopy. The room has numerous narrow windows opened to the outdoor terrace catching the breeze. Afternoon tea could be had on the open terrace with the landscape of the garden in front. Another comfortable Javanese-styled bed is situated before exiting the main building to the garden. Stone stairs led downwards. Both sides of the pathway were decorated with big ceramic animals such as rabbits, frogs, chickens and horses.
Several buildings artfully decorated the tropical lush garden. Jineng Kerbau is cattle shed. A Balinese rice barn is at another corner. A traditional pendopo pavilion is onto one side and then a couple of gateways decorated with Chinese lion statues and ceramic mosaics of peacock. I love the coconut trees, variegated bananas, fire-red gingers, rainbow coloured heliconia and draping Solandra maxima. Beside the pool filled with unusual waterplants such as taro and shade loving anthurium. The ceramic gift shop was filled with treasures from the kiln of Widayanto which was just across on the mount. Tourists can have a go operating the spinning wheel or if time was limited, use the pre-set molds to help form decent ceramic pieces such as tiles, tea cups and plates. Various colour glazes can further enhance the beauty of the handmade pieces later to be fired.
Rumah Tanah Baru is open daily 9AM to 3PM. Best come and go with your own vehicle. While the entrance fee is only Rp. 10000, various attractive packages are available, such as culinary tour (with healthy menu of: mixed vegetables, tuna sweet corn, steamed chicken, Indonesian tofu, papaya flower mixed with salty fish, mixed vegetable soup, red rice and plain rice, Borneo’s fried banana and cassava, lovely ginger tea and mango sherbet) and ceramic course. I think it would be best to book in Indonesian. The kiln of Widayanto also is capable of doing custom art pieces for clients but conversation is best conducted in their native language.