Walking the fine line between heritage and modernity, Balinese jewellery brand Tulola speaks to the woman who values craft, Asian history and femininity — much like its designers Sri Luce Rusna and Happy Salma.
A creative partnership that grew organically, Rusna and Salma became good friends while Salma was working on a biography about Rusna's mother, famed jewellery designer and pioneer of Bali's silver industry, Desak Nyoman Suarti. Rusna started out designing and working for her mother's label, but eventually branched out to start Tulola, her jewellery line named after her daughter.
As one of Tulola's first loyal customers, Salma came on board as a creative partner shortly after. The partnership between the two and the wealth of Indonesia's history is what carries the brand through till today. Their expertly crafted jewellery is made using traditional techniques and priced affordably for the level of detail involved. With a loyal clientele throughout Indonesia and around the world via their online store, Singapore is one of Tulola's biggest markets after taking part in the Blueprint Tradeshow a few years ago.
Enamoured with Tulola's heritage and craftmanship, we caught up with Rusna and Salma during our #BuroinBali takeover to find out more about one of Bali's most loved jewellery brand.
Can you share Tulola's journey since it's inception?
We launched in 2007 out of my garage. I started with six silversmiths, who I met through my previous work and who I invited to be part of the project because we all had a shared interest in creating something different but committing to our handcraft tradition. In the early days, we focused on one of a kind pieces or 'Art Wear' as we like to call them — in silver and gold. Our studio made 10 pieces a month back then. I met my now co-founder, Happy Salma, around that time and she was one of my first customers. After a few years experimenting in our studio garage, Happy suggested we do an exhibition in Jakarta. That was the beginning of the working relationship between Happy and I. The pieces for that first collection, Juwita Malam, were very unusual. Happy put together the exhibition concept as well as collaborated with other artists in other fields to communicate the concept. That first exhibition was a success and we continued to develop the 'Art Wear' collection and still do yearly exhibitions in Jakarta.
In 2011 we opened our store in town and started developing our Signature Collection in sterling silver and gold dipped silver. It was here that the brand evolved organically through social media and our website that has been driving growth for us over the last two years. As our customer base has begun to expand regionally, we hope to increase our distribution to more countries in a way that authentically stays true to our story.
What are your favourite pieces from your latest collection, Bumi Manusia?
The Onotorosh choker. Taken from the last collection inspired by the written works of Indonesian author, Pramoedya Ananta Toer and his book Bumi Manusia. Nyai Ontosoroh who the piece is named after was one of the leading female characters in that book.
Tulola seems to have evolved based on your friendship and partnership with Happy. How do you split your working roles?
We are both creative. Happy provides the framework and concepts for the collections and I design and produce the pieces.
How often do you design new collections? And how do you continue to find inspiration eight years later?
We do one 'Art Wear' collection, an exhibition and launch three signature collections each year. I am always working on special pieces at the studio which go on display as they finish. Inspiration is a very tricky thing and it comes and goes. Bali is a great place to be creative. I am energised from the sense of community, the spirituality, and the chaos. My life here has inspired most of my work as well as my relationship with Happy, whose passion for Indonesian art, literature and heritage provides endless ideas.
It's obvious that Bali's heritage is your main source of inspiration, would this ever change?
Tulola's DNA is based on heritage, craftsmanship and our shared history. Right now we are in Bali, so it's naturally the source of inspiration. But as we grow with the business, I can foresee that we will be inspired by many other people, places, and cultures.
Can you share some of your expansion plans?
I think the next step is to expand our distribution and reach. We have been focusing our efforts over the past years solidifying our identity, our aesthetic, and our customer base and I think we are strong enough now to begin expanding. Our first step is investing in our new e-commerce site launching in 2016 as well as our digital campaigns. In the future, perhaps a second Tulola Store in the South East Asian region.
As Bali residents, where would you recommend visitors go?
I would say walk the streets in Petitenget and check out the local designers. Dinner at Hujan Locale and Night at Ibah Hotel on the Ravine in Ubud. Coffee and Cake at Batu Jimbar Sanur and an afternoon on the beach in front of Hyatt Sanur.
What is your favourite place on the island?
Ubud forever and always.
To view more insider tips from our #BuroInBali guide, click here.