PHOTOS BY Studio Hendro Hadinata
Studio Hendro Hadinata has joined the biggest furniture expo in the world, Salone del Mobile.Milano, as an exhibitioner in the SaloneSatellite programme for the second year in a row. The eponymous studio presents unique objects with strong Indonesian traditional values for the world to see. Indonesia Design had a chat with the designer, where he openly shared his journey and ideas in product design.
Snake-like lamps were hanging in Hendro’s booth in SaloneSatellite in 2022, a design event for young designers in Salone del Mobile.Milano. The Eve Pendant Lamp is a wearable light piece intended for children, elderly, and handicapped people as an aid for their outdoor activities in the dark. This concept explains the flexible configuration, which allows it to be used as a necklace, hung or knotted as a desk lamp, or however is convenient.
Aside from function, the lamp drew attention for its unique material. The wire mesh was created using a centenarian metal weaving technique used by craftsmen in Sumba. The weaving tradition is originally learnt by grooms-to-be to make a gift for their brides as an emblem of love and dedication. For many of the exhibition’s visitors, that was perhaps the first time they heard of Sumba, a beautiful island in the eastern part of Indonesia.
In 2023, the designer decided to join the exhibition again. “It’s important to keep showing up in the mecca of design and show the world how interesting the pattern, design and visual of Indonesia are,” Hendro starts the interview. “We are located in South East Asia, which includes the Indochina, we’re neighbours with the Polynesians, and on top of that we have 17,000 islands. This gives us an unlimited treasure that can be turned into design elements,” he adds.
This year Hendro brought more products to display. Other than the metal weaving products, he also carried newer items like the Lore Lindu Table Lamp, the Block Candle Holder made of blown glass from Bali, and Bentar Table Lamp made of recycled plastic bottle caps. He took the opportunity to also participate in the Milan Design Week as one of the designers of ICAD Collective.
The Lore Lindu Table Lamp is inspired by the megalithic sculptures found in Lore Lindu National Park, Central Sulawesi. Due to a lack of artisans in the area, Hendro has the lamps produced by the stone crafters in Sumba using paras rock from Yogyakarta. The inspiration was the 4-metre high Palindo sculpture, from the megalithic era. “I intentionally made it into a small object, so that it’s more affordable for more people and can reach more homes. The aim is to get the story of the relic widespread. If a buyer puts it in his living room, he could tell the story to his guests and so on,” he explains.
In the western world, the appreciation towards handcrafted objects is growing. However, there is a more noble reason why Hendro uses traditional crafts
in his products, it’s not merely to boost sales. “I think design can achieve some things that other fields can’t. For example, a product design can connect people in rural areas, like the metal- weaving village, to the people in Milan, where European designers can touch this object and feel that it is handmade. I mean, the emotions of the makers can be seen and felt from the object and no two are identical. Then I will go back home and tell this story to my crafter friends in Sumba. Who knows, it might develop into a world culture if it was later used by other designers or anyone all over the world,” he states excitedly.
Indonesia has a myriad of traditional crafts, but Hendro did not choose these techniques in isolation. “I think the craft chooses us,” he says. One of his other works involved jumputan, which combines tie-dye with batik wax-resist dyeing. The government of Musi Banyuasin (Muba) district, South Sumatra, approached and challenged him to come up with a product design that’s relevant to their culture.
“I decided to create a material that’s usable by many professionals like architects, interior designers and contractors because that means it will reach a wider audience rather than making a product to put in one place,” he continues. He created a jumputan motif of seven dots, which symbolise the seven clans in Muba. The cloths are then pressed and made into HPL with the jumputan motif, which can be made into furniture, like sofas, tables and room dividers.
When a designer is friends with the artisans, it is much easier for them to create good products. “My approach is not strictly business. Instead, I become their friend and I discuss with them about what we can develop together. I can give inputs about how to develop the crafts to have more commercial values while keeping its cultural core,” he says.
Other than developing product designs imbued with cultural significance, Studio Hendro Hadinata also produces furniture, predominantly chairs, collaborating with brands such as Juno Home and Dio Living. “I can say that none of my chair designs flops in the market. Every one of them hits sales targets,” he claims with a happy smile. He thinks that it is important to design something simple with a newness. And specifically for furniture, the simple ones blend well in the interior because it’s not about the ego of wanting to be seen. The aim is to serve the needs of the users. “Because after all, product design is about problem solving. And a good design is something that’s relevant to the lives of many people. The users are the ultimate jury of what a good design is,” he concludes.