- By Victoria Gray, Designer
It’s 2 a.m. and I have slept for roughly one hour after my second day in Ubud, Bali. I’m trying to will myself awake; it’s never worked before, but maybe this time? Whose idea was this? How had I found myself signed up to summit an active volcano to watch the sunrise? Maybe I should start at the beginning…
I had spent my first day in Ubud adjusting to and exploring the city, with a good chunk of time focused on visiting the Sacred Monkey Forest; and as a result, I’m now the proud owner of a hundred pictures of monkeys. I have also learned that monkeys will take any loose or not-so-loose object off your if you’re not careful.
Later that evening over Nasi Goreng (fried rice but better), my dinner companion regaled me with his story of hiking up Mt. Batur with his friends. “It was an amazing experience” and “you cannot leave Bali without doing this,” he said. Had I happened to pack hiking shoes? I had not.
After some very strong 3 a.m. coffee (Balinese coffee = rocket fuel), the other tourists and I perked up in our van and finally met one another before being handed flashlights, and were led up the volcano by our guide in pitch, pre-dawn darkness. My group consisted of two gentlemen from France and three ladies from Belgium. We all got to know each other on the hike, and would end up hanging out later at the hot springs at the base of the Mt. Batur. There was a surreal moment a little less than halfway up where I could see a never-ending line of flashlight beams ahead, winding up the side of the volcano. The hike up wasn’t so bad, with the “trail” made up mostly of volcanic ash, and rocks jutting up every now and then. For the rougher patches at the end, I did an odd combination of rock climbing and hiking. About two hours and 5,633′ later, we reached the summit and were served more coffee and eggs that had been cooked in a volcanic steam vent. Admittedly, sleep sounded pretty good right about then.
We all took some photos and remarked how beautiful the view was, and I turned around to enjoy my well-earned other egg, only to find it was already being enjoyed by a monkey! I want to point out that our little monkey friends were not there a moment ago. The monkeys and a few very cute stray dogs know that this hike happens daily had followed us up, and had been waiting for the free meal that follows. Since my egg was gone, I gave my bread to one of the dogs before heading back down the the mountain.
I spent two and a half weeks in Bali and Lombok, and did so many things I cannot capture them all in a single blog post. Here are a few highlights though:
I took a class in Balinese wood carving.
Bali is woodworker nerd heaven. There’s teak, mahogany, sandalwood, satinwood, and grey hibiscus that all lend themselves to carving. Bali is known for its wood carving artisans and villages. At the Mas Village, I checked out the woodcarving center and a few artist studios. While in Ubud, I took a woodcarving class at the Pondok Pekak Library. My teacher was an amazing carver and came from a family of carvers. He creates beautiful wooden masks that are shown in the area, and has been commissioned to do work on many regional temples and homes.
The carving tools used are a little different than those in The States. They don’t have a wooden handle, and are thin, long pieces of metal. Instead of using one tool in different ways to get a shape, each set has a chisel for a specific radius, line, and removal of wood chips for creating negative space. The sets are large, intense, and I desperately want one! There are very specific carving motifs that have been perfected and passed down in a journeyman approach to training apprentice carvers, dating back hundreds of years. Once one masters those, they can carve anything with accuracy and speed. The key word being speed. You can’t believe how fast a professional carver can carve a piece! This class was so cool and informative; I was seriously considering canceling the rest on my plans and just staying in Ubud to come back to the carving class each day.
Visiting the Green School with a tour of the IBUKU homes, bamboo mill, and a modeling making class.
The tour was the main reason I had chosen to use my PGAV GO! fund to visit Bali. I had seen a TED Talk about the school and slowly became obsessed with it. In my daily work, I primarily use physical models as a design tool at PGAV, as does IBUKU. About half of our models are used to work through a design problem, while the other half go into the field as construction documents. Sometimes the best way to understand how a material works, and leverage its natural qualities to enhance a design, can only be discovered through what is essentially prototyping and experimentation.
Green School homes are constructed primarily of bamboo, which is a renewable natural source that is incredibly strong. The joinery is curved and held together with pins, similar to Japanese joinery. The bamboo structural columns can’t interact with the ground, and are therefore filled with concrete and a fake rock creates the base on which the columns (basically a footing that looks like a rock).
IBUKU designers start with sketches and a physical model to design the look of the home, but also use this model for structural studies. The bamboo model serves as the main documentation of the project and acts as a construction document.
I was able to see the sites.
And spend time at the beautiful beaches.
This trip was amazing. I was able to experience another culture, eat delicious food, and lay out on the beach. It was the furthest I have ever traveled, and the highest I have ever hiked vertically. To be able to view and participate in the process of another culture when designing and crafting an object was eye-opening. I have a new appreciation for understanding what a natural material can do and how I can design to its strengths.
So, where are you going to GO!?