November 16, 2018

Natural Curiosities: A Tribute to Natural Wonders, Artisans and Designers.\

By Stella Katherine

“If you do not rest upon the good foundations of nature, you will labour with little honour and less profit. Those who take for their standard anyone but nature – the mistress of all masters – weary themselves in vain.” – Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519)

BALI – Within one of the countless nooks and crooks in Denpasar, machineries hum steadily in a busy yet low-profile compound which contains a studio, a gallery, and a workshop. In the following weeks, it will take part in one of Bali’s significant celebrations of design. Known as CushCush, the facility hosts more than fifty workers and artisans from diverse cultural and geographical backgrounds. It specialises in making custom items out of rare yet ethically sourced natural materials, and draws inspiration from refined cultures in Bali. Turning sixteen this year, the shyly located building will open its door wide for local and international audiences to celebrate the company’s milestones and through them, engage in enriching design culture by exploring contemporary design thinking with a vast array of indigenous resources, refined craftsmanship, techniques and processes.

A veteran player in the industry, CushCush has a long-standing reputation to deliver design services and products for high-profile demands, from within and beyond the country. Among its sterling portfolio of clienteles, are five-star hotels such as The InterContinental Resort, Bali; The Chedi Andermatt, Switzerland; The Palace Hotel, Tokyo; The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Kuala Lumpur; as well as educational institutions such as National University of Singapore. Constantly innovating and tailoring from scratch, CushCush maintains a steady reserve of fresh perspectives by facilitating or collaborating with local and international visionaries, bringing into life individual artistic ideas. Collaborators have included, but not limited to: Designers, architects, artists, and chefs. One of their recent projects is to design and craft the presentation tray to represent Indonesia in the prestigious Bocuse d’Or culinary contest in Guangzhou, China.

The journey of CushCush could be traced back to a fateful meeting of its founders. Coming from Indonesia, Suriawati Qiu travelled to Singapore with hopes for better education. From there, she pursued the study of Interior Design in Melbourne’s RMIT University where she met her now-partner Jindee Chua, who at that time was a fellow student from Malaysia, majoring in Architecture. Eventually, having worked at design-based companies in both Australia and Singapore after graduating, their mutual passion to arts, crafts, and natural wonders has brought them together into a lifetime of partnership as they set to live in Bali’s vibrant capital, and co-founded the design studio-workshop. Since then, both Suriawati and Jindee actively engage in arts and cultural events as well as social activities to support local communities and fledgling initiatives. They are also known as warm figures who actively form meaningful friendships with artists and creative workers on the island.

The catchy name CushCush itself initially came up as a play to the shortened form of “cushion” – being one of the early items to be produced out of excess textiles from a factory. The idea was born out of a sensibility to use materials efficiently with high quality manufacturing. Evidently, the company has fashioned many more kinds of products and designs throughout the long course of its journey – mainly influenced by Indonesia’s rich natural resources and Bali’s vivid creative scenes. Besides its expanding range of products, CushCush has developed a series of not-for-profit programs and initiatives under its family: CushCush Gallery, LagiLagi, and Charcoal For Children, which concentrate on different yet intertwined objectives. Much younger in age, they are tailored to engage local communities and provide a platform for social exchanges and learning.

Titled “Natural Curiosities”, the upcoming exhibition is a tribute to natural wonders, artisans, and designers, being the three components that initiate the journey of CushCush’s explorations sixteen years ago in Bali, and prevail until today. In a literal sense, the word “curiosity” is understood as “A strong desire to know or learn something” (Oxford Dictionary, 2018). By preserving the childlike character of being “curious”, the exhibition invites all of its guests to see, think, and imagine. It is by nature a shared quality in everyone, regardless of professional specialisations or cultural backgrounds. It connects an individual with the enormous biodiversity around them, and promote a sense of belonging and being part of an encompassing environment. Similarly, out of someone else’s curiosities, or ours, others may learn and grow as human beings and results in collective enrichments.

Thus with a curious attitude, the exhibition especially responds to the question, “How can we learn to better design as nature”? – The answer to this notion could be investigated from Da Vinci’s exclamation that working with nature should be the uncompromised priority in deciding the company’s ethics of labour. Fortunately, Indonesia is blessed with a vast array of biodiversity in abundance quantity – from the bottom of the sea to the tops of its blazing volcanoes. The archipelagic nation houses roughly fifteen percent of all found species in the world – ranging from colourful coral gardens, unique species of plants and animals, precious stones, and more. Since time immemorial, these plentiful natural resources and wonders have inspired generations of its inhabitants to cultivate their arts and culture. Yet, even today with the support of technological advancements, there is still an extensive portion on and beyond the landscapes to be discovered.

The unrelenting curiosity, and passion to cultivate indigenous nature and the corresponding arts and design, are the core characters which set CushCush apart in the industry. Set in a custom-built space, the exhibition will translate the organisation’s personality, perspectives, and projections into a tangible experience and a platform to engage, exchange, and learn from others. Such as a cabinet of curiosity, the space will showcase, among others, CushCush’s collections of raw and refined materials from Indonesia. With the intention to share knowledge as well as re-learn, unique techniques and work processes acquired from years of experiences will be disclosed, each tailored to treat certain materials and projects. Then, through design thinking and approaches, the exhibition aims to promote better understanding towards crafts and its connection to the environment, and shape an authentic personality which is different from other firms in the industry.

During the exhibition and its complementing events, the gallery space will serve as a platform for social, academic, and professional exchanges. Departing from the shared curious attitude, CushCush encourages all creative students, workers, and visionaries to engage, interact, and collaborate with each other and the company itself. Partnerships will be encouraged through regular internship and residency programs for designers, artists, architects, and craftsmen who are interested in understanding Bali through making. Along with the long records of creative explorations and endeavours, guests are invited to revisit the past, and potentially reinvent the new to enrich the creative scenes of Bali.

The exhibition, to be opened very soon in the evening of Friday, May 11th, 2018, will be complemented with an open house on the next morning – where guests could visit and observe up close the studio and workshop, and interact directly with the founders and team behind all the works. To express an interest in joining the open house, or inquiries related to the exhibition, please contact the number +6281805542430 or e-mail at info@cushcushgallery.com. Both the exhibition and the open house will be hosted in the home of CushCush, located at Gang Rajawali No. 1A, an alley off the main road Jalan Teuku Umar, Denpasar. After the first two events, the exhibition will open daily until June 9th, 2018. It will be set as a parallel event in conjunction with Seminyak Design Week, an annual festival dedicated to activating Bali’s design scene.(*)

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