When Annisa Hendrato and Cendy Mirnaz travelled to Flores Island in 2012, they did not only bring home photos and stories; they came home with an inspiration and a spirit to spread the love for Indonesia, which lead them to start a venture, Noesa. Along with Shinta Uli Pasaribu who joined the company later, Noesa kept growing and has now stepped foot in the international craft scene.
Upon Annisa and Cendy’s first visit to Sikka, a village in Maumere, Flores, they fell in love instantly with the natural colours of its ikat cloth. The handwoven cloths were naturally dyed using noni roots and indigo leaves in ikat technique. “The colours were dull but also bright. We have never seen a colour combination as pretty as that in Jakarta,” Nisa explains as we meet her at Noesa’s office in South Jakarta. Curious, they stayed in Sikka for about a month to learn the process of weaving and colouring.
At first, they only wanted to spread Indonesia’s less-known beauty to a wider public by selling the cloths in Jakarta. However, the relatively high price, which is understandable due to the time and effort put in each piece, did not get them too many buyers. Moreover, their main target market was young people of mostly in their 20s.
So they came up with a creative idea; they designed camera straps made of Sikka’s ikat cloth combined with brass hooks. That way, they didn’t need so much cloth per piece, which made it more affordable. “It is a functional and modern item, which people carry around when they travel. So they can also tell the stories about the cloth and where it comes from to people they meet on the road,” Annisa says enthusiastically.
After a year, the name Noesa was born. Noesa in Indonesian, deriving from Sanskrit, means ‘island’. The name was chosen to symbolise their aspiration to reach traditional weavers from all of Indonesia’s islands.
The design process was challenging in the beginning. The Noesa team had to learn and adapt with the way the weavers work. “For example, we wanted a three-cm wide motif. They didn’t want to do it because it meant they had to roll the thread 21 times. They have a belief that uneven numbers are bad. So we had to change it to four cm. Also, they only weave in the afternoon. We had to take that into account when making a production timeline. But we are the guests there, so we have to play by their rules,” says Annisa.
To the weavers, it was puzzling why Noesa wanted to make certain patterns and new colour recipes. But after they were flown in to Jakarta for a showcase called Plewo Doi, which means ‘to introduce’ in Sikka language, they finally understood. Since then, the cooperation became easier for both sides. Afterwards, more products were developed, like the bag straps, cushion covers and wallets.
Aside to product development, Noesa has also expanded their market. Earlier this year they became one of the participants in New York Now, a market for home, lifestyle and gift held twice a year in New York. The event got them a few buyers from American concept stores and the George Washington Museum.
Right now Noesa is looking to expand their project with weavers from other regions in Flores. They also plan to build their own noni and indigo field for a more sustainable production. Seeing the progress they have been making, it seems like there’s no stopping Noesa from spreading the love towards Indonesia in general and its craftsmanship in particular.