Canaan, A Dwelling Place for Sustainable Living
A woman who has always appreciated fine craftsmanship, Emmelyn Gunawan’s creative journey began in Melbourne where she first studied Fashion Design over ten years ago. Since then, she has been a fashion intern in Paris, managed retail outlets in Jakarta, designed uniforms for the first Potato Head, and sold macarons in Melbourne.
After opening her second outlet of Escalier, a boutique stocking an unusual range of international fashion brands, located in the Katamama retail space, Emmelyn decided to make Bali her home three years ago. Then just last year, after heading the search for locally made amenities for Katamama, her natural progression was to open Canaan, with many of the boutique’s wares being sourced from the same craft villages as the hotel.
In anticipation for her upcoming craft exhibition, she recounts her creative journey so far, talks about the pieces she particularly loves at Canaan, and tells us more about the artisan crafts of Bali that she seeks to reveal to the world.
How did Canaan come about?
When Ron (Ronald Akili, PTT Family’s CEO) offered me a space for Escalier I found I was coming to Bali every month to check on the shop. So I moved here and spent a year just enjoying the craft scene on the island. I was making samples from natural indigo dye and other textiles and every time Ronald came to Bali I would show him things and say, “Hey Ron, how about this shirt for you?” or “Maybe you would like this kimono for the hotel, it’s natural dye”.
When I started doing the amenities for the hotel I met so many craftspeople and the urge to go back to designing lit up again. Originally, Canaan was going to be in a different location but Ron suggested this space and actually it’s perfect for Katamama because it’s still relevant and helps to tell the story of the artisans who essentially built the hotel.
What is the concept of the store?
Basically, Canaan is a platform to showcase the work of Indonesia’s craftspeople in a modern context and to a global audience. Whenever I forget what I’m trying to do, I go back to my vision for Canaan as a “dwelling place for sustainable life”. I love retail but my main strengths are curation and connecting people. Right now, I’m doing something that I want to do forever.
What does “Canaan” mean?
It was the land that God promised Abraham; Canaan is the old name for Israel and the land of milk and honey. The word came up when I was reading the Bible and I liked the concept and ideas of fruitfulness, sustainability and the coming together of people that are connected with the word.
How, and from where, do you source the products for Canaan?
A lot of the really traditional stuff in the store is from going to the villages and meeting the craftspeople in their workshops. They sit on the floor and sew or dye things. Of course they don’t have products per se, but as a designer you can see what you can make from their textiles. I also work with Threads of Life a lot, and my friend is a supplier with links to products from many of the small islands of Indonesia. Through my network, I’m exposed to around 500 women making things throughout Indonesia.
I also have a lot of designer friends and often one will recommend another of their designer friend’s products so I source a lot of my stuff through that network.
Which product from Canaan do you love the most?
It has to be the retaW product! (bespoke fragrance by Japanese fragrance brand retaW, complete with reed diffusers and especially designed ceramic bottle by Gaya).
The whole collaboration took us six months to a year and was so enjoyable from start to finish. Together, we created a product that combines Bali and Japan.
Was there a lot of back and forth with retaW regarding the fragrance?
retaW have some crazy fragrances and they all have fun names, like “Barney”. We totally trusted them in the fragrance department.
First, they asked us for some keywords in creating the fragrance. We thought it would be nice if it was a reminder of the smell of Bali’s temples so we suggested frangipani and tuberose notes but with a unisex aroma. We didn’t want to be obvious and go for the smell of waves or anything! They said the first sample wasn’t right, so being a Japanese company and perfectionists, they didn’t send it to us. Then we got the second sample and as soon as we smelled it, we loved it.
For those looking for a bespoke Bali souvenir, what would you suggest?
I would go with candles because Bali makes amazing beeswax candles. We stock handmade Casa Mayor candles. The designer always depicts Balinese stories on her candles like women carrying rice on their heads, coconut trees, temples and so on. The candles have a light cempaka scent and are not too expensive or grand, just a nice little reminder of Bali.
Canaan Craft Exhibition
From 5 November until 5 December, Canaan is hosting two small exhibitions to showcase the crafts of Tenganan village and the natural-dye products of Tarum.
Tenganan, which is one of the oldest and most sacred villages in Bali, is located in East Bali in Karangasem. Here, the men of the village are known to make beautiful, intricate Ata baskets, handcrafted from orchid vines. Tenganan is also the home of the famous double ikat weaving, a skill at which the women of the village have been adept for hundreds of years.
This month, Canaan is teaming up with one of Tenganan’s key craftswomen, Kadek Ari, to showcase the beauty of their basketry and textiles. Most of the products will be for sale and guests can also view the beautiful photos taken by Nadine Maulida, shot as part of a village visit a couple of months ago.
Canaan has collaborated with Tarum for many of its projects, including the amenities for Katamama. Here, we explore again their natural dye production with a series of photographs by Nadine Maulida exclusively for Canaan. We will be showcasing Tarum’s soft natural-dye scarves and textiles which will be for sale during the exhibition. Besides scarves and textiles we will also be showing carpets and other products made by Tarum.
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