In 2006, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake hit just south of Yogyakarta, a densely populated city on the Indonesian island of Java. The devastation was incredible. Thousands perished and many more were left homeless.
For Sumijan, the catastrophe was life-changing.
Sumijan is a silversmith from Kotagede, a historic neighbourhood in Yogyakarta. In the earthquake’s aftermath, he was left with a decimated small business and no way to support himself. That was until he connected with Pekerti Foundation, which was able to help him get back on his feet through an economic recovery program offered, in collaboration with GTZ Germany.
With financial support, he was able to set up shop again and provide his services to Pekerti. Pekerti is a Ten Thousand Villages partner that offers training in domestic marketing and services for export marketing. Sumijan is still a silversmith and supplier to Pekerti, crafting his intricate filigree jewellery, and he says the relationship has been so beneficial. Orders can take him up to 10 months to complete, giving his business enough work and income to last all year.
“The training from Pekerti is very useful. I learn how to develop products and new designs. And if there is no order, we will still create a sample product,” he says, “so we are never really idle.”
Today Sumijan employs two staff members and subcontracts work out to 20 more local makers. The team designs and creates dazzling filigree jewellery like these earrings. The jewellery pieces have a lacey, tracework appearance, often with a floral motif. Each piece is handcrafted by twisting and coiling tiny pieces of wire, joining the pieces with solder, and then sanding, washing and finishing it. There are no shortcuts.
Sumijan says he hopes his business is a success and more orders will flood in. He’s worried about silversmith unemployment in neighbouring Wonosari as other businesses go under. He hopes to give these families work.
But Sumijan is looking even further into the future. Someday he wants his own children to learn his craft and take over the business. But, that will likely have to wait.
“It’s still very far away,” he says. “My two children are just 4 and 1½ years old now!”
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