John Hardy: Contemporary Balinese Craftsmanship

Fashion Lifestyle

By Loannie Dao

When John Hardy traveled to Bali, Indonesia in 1975, he was enchanted by the art of Balinese jewelry making. Shortly after his arrival, Hardy established the now renowned jewelry company dedicated to honoring the original techniques of artisan handcrafted pieces. Nearly half a century later, the John Hardy New York City Flagship Boutique opened its doors to the public.

The Artisan Workshop
When entering the 1,200-square-foot Flagship Boutique on the first floor of a historic SoHo district building, one is embraced with the sounds, smells, and images of Bali. The charm of Bali is woven into the space by a Ketra lighting system that changes throughout the day, mimicking the natural world and connecting observers back to where it all began. As guests shift onto the second floor of the boutique, they are greeted with an open space revealing the Artisan’s Workshop. Here, the Artisan-in-Residence Program–which occurs seldomly throughout the year–offers a rare opportunity to learn and shed light on the ancient techniques of the Balinese craft. 

The company’s intrinsic roots are fixed in its values of community, artisanship, and sustainability. The artisans guide guests through a display of tokens used during the jewelry making process, tell stories of the myths that inspire the forms, and demonstrate mastery of the craft. The Artisan-in-Residence Program breathes life into the creative narrative of each piece and the comprehensive process of fabrication. As expert craftsmen, the artisans create objects that encapsulate the beauty of John Hardy’s vision. By means of the eight-step design process, makers highlight the fine jewelry techniques derived from the goldsmiths of the Balinese Royal Courts. 

The Eight-step Design Process

1. The eight-step process begins with a sketch. Each season, the design team is led by Creative Director Hollie Bonneville Barden to develop a concept through sketches and detailed watercolor illustrations. Unlike most jewelry companies, the inception of the design does not involve modern technology – every rendering is executed by hand.

John Hardy2. Once the design is finalized, the carving step begins. The artisans hand-sculpt the designs into a three-dimensional model made with jeweler’s wax which is meant to be carved, filed, sawn and polished. This process can take several weeks to complete.

John Hardy

3. Next, the master model is created by casting the wax carving in a gypsum mold. The process involves placing the wax model into a flask and pouring a mixture of gypsum powder (soft sulfate mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate) and water over the model like plaster. Once the mixture is dry, the model is placed inside a kiln, allowing the wax to burn off, and leaving a negative space inside the model. Liquid silver is then poured inside the model to form the shapes that make the master model.

john hardy
4. While there is only one master model in the world and the original is kept at company headquarters, each model is duplicated by hand to create more pieces. The master model is set in a container and liquid silicon is poured over it to form a silicone mold.

john hardy

5. Once the silicone mold is cured, the artisans cut it in half and remove the metal model. Soft wax is injected to create the wax tree which is later removed and refined by hand.

6. The wax tree is then cast in a gypsum mold to create a silver tree. The wax tree undergoes the same process in the kiln resulting in the negative space of the mold. At this point in the process, the burned-out wax allows the makers to cast gold, silver, bronze, or other desired metals. The tree shape allows the metal to move through the branches of the model and establish the shapes.

john hardy

7. Finishing the piece, the artisans remove the branches from the mold to file, sand, and assemble the parts together by hand. They then begin to prepare the jewelry and start the process of selecting the gemstones that will later manifest in the final product. Every piece offers a uniform seat for each special stone.

john hardy
8. With a fast-growing portfolio, the company has introduced its newest line of Customizable Reversible Classic Chain bracelets. The duplex design allows customers to choose from 21 different stones and metals and personalize both faces of the clasp. Among 441 different combinations to choose from, the bracelets feature raw stones that are patterned and inlaid for their symbolic healing, grounding, and enlightening properties. As the brand brings its creative energy into the new year, John Hardy is partnering with Balinese hotel COMO Uma Ubud to bring Ubud’s renowned artisanal spirit to life. The collaboration gives guests a chance to purchase a package that includes a two-night stay at the COMO Uma Ubud hotel in conjunction with the opportunity to work alongside John Hardy’s local artisans to customize their own piece of jewelry. The exclusive experience at the John Hardy Workshop and Showroom is an intimate one that gives guests a behind-the-scenes look at the workshop and a chance to meet the design team.

john hardy
Beyond the Brand
With a fast-growing portfolio, the company has introduced its newest line of Customizable Reversible Classic Chain bracelets. The duplex design allows customers to choose from 21 different stones and metals and personalize both faces of the clasp. Among 441 different combinations to choose from, the bracelets feature raw stones that are patterned and inlaid for their symbolic healing, grounding, and enlightening properties. As the brand brings its creative energy into the new year, John Hardy is partnering with Balinese hotel COMO Uma Ubud to bring Ubud’s renowned artisanal spirit to life. The collaboration gives guests a chance to purchase a package that includes a 2-night stay at the COMO Uma Ubud hotel in conjunction with the opportunity to work alongside John Hardy’s local artisans to customize their own piece of jewelry. The exclusive experience at the John Hardy Workshop and Showroom is an intimate one that gives guests a behind-the-scenes look at the workshop and a chance to meet the design team.

By VUE NJ