Stephanie Mee joins jewellery artisans to learn from the masters.
For those in search of bling in Bali, John Hardy is often the first and last stop. After all, what lover of luxury could resist an exquisite handcrafted piece inspired by nature and made with authentic techniques passed down from Balinese royal courts? John Hardy has always upped the ante when it comes to one-of-a-kind jewellery, and now they’re taking bespoke luxury to a new level with their workshop tours and artisan masterclasses where you can make your own custom piece of John Hardy jewellery.
First a little bit of background about Bali’s most widely recognized jewellery brand. The story begins when Canadian designer John Hardy visited Bali in the 1970s and became enamoured with the time-honoured jewellery-making traditions. In 1975, he established an artisan collective and began fusing new design concepts with traditional Balinese techniques. What started with just a few artists working out of John’s home quickly grew into a thriving business, and in 1996, John built the unique Mambal workshop where all the action happens today.
The John Hardy Artisan in Residence Workshop Masterclasses take place at this beautiful workshop and design headquarters, which is spread out over 400 acres in the lush jungles and rice paddies of Mambal. From the minute you step on the property, you can see that this is no ordinary jewellery-making workshop. Stone paths and wooden bridges lead you through tropical greenery, thatched roofs peek through the banyan trees, and a soaring bamboo structure houses the Kapal Bambu shop. There is even an organic garden on the premises.
Your day starts with an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour to learn about John Hardy’s unique eight-step jewellery-making process, parts of which have been passed down from the jewellers of Bali’s ancient courts. Each step is done entirely by hand, from the sketching and watercolour painting of the designs to the wax carving, master casting, assembly and stone setting. While touring the studio and workshop, you can see the designers and artisans working on new designs, weaving chains link by link and polishing finished pieces.
During the tour, you will also learn about John Hardy’s commitment to community and the preservation of Balinese heritage. Of the 750 artisans at the workshop, many come from long lineages of jewellery makers, and they are encouraged to pass on their jewellery-making traditions to future generations. The company also takes on interns from the Jodie O’Shea orphanage and mentors them in a technique of their choice such as designing or wax carving. At the end of the internship, many students take on positions in the company.
Sustainability is also an integral component of the John Hardy ethos. As your stroll through the grounds, you will see that the impressive architecture is made with locally sourced, sustainable materials. The company’s commitment to preserving Bali’s landscape extends further with bamboo-planting initiatives aimed to offset the company’s carbon emissions. In addition, each piece of jewellery is made with recycled silver, reclaimed gold, and ethically sourced gemstones.
Now comes the really fun part – the chance to sit with the master artisans and create your own piece of John Hardy jewellery. This hands-on experience includes designing a back grill, rendering the design, carving the design in wax, and trying your hand at weaving a classic John Hardy chain. Your can also opt to design special pieces to take home such as a Bamboo Cuff, Men’s Pendant or Classic Chain Reversible Bracelet. These pieces will be finished and shipped to you within two weeks of the workshop.
The masterclass ends with an authentic Balinese lunch prepared by John Hardy’s five-star chef and shared with the design team and artisans. If you can believe it, this is an everyday occurrence at the workshop, as the company treats each employee to a healthy, nutritious lunch. As you dine on local dishes made with fresh produce from the organic garden and cooked in a traditional Balinese wood-burning oven, you can chat with the John Hardy team and truly immerse yourself in this inspirational place and community.