Village Javanese Shadow Puppet Studio, Java, Indonesia


In our last blog we showed you a Javanese wayang kulit shadow puppet craftsman’s studio in the heart of Jogjakarta's sultan’s palace.  When looking for shadow puppet craftsmen, everyone hears about a couple puppet studios within the palace walls, but we also started hearing about a renowned village shadow puppet studio out in the country.

We decided to track it down.  We came to a nondescript crossroads in the countryside. 

Locals led us to a village house.  Appropriately, in the front window we found an old leather carved sign behind a cracked pane of glass.  “Mr. Sagio’s Shadow Puppet Leather Carving Studio”.

Stepping inside the studio we immediately confronted a clown figure from the shadow puppet plays in a compromising position, alongside an image of Semar (more about him in our next blog).

Further inside we find Mr. Tanto (an associate of the famed Sagio), an old Vespa—ubiquitous in Java—parked among teak carved Javanese chairs & . . . 

a coffee table covered in partly carved shadow puppet figures. 

A table nearby is covered in pen & ink designs for upcoming puppet projects.

Beyond this we find a artisan’s workspace, tools of the trade ready for puppet crafting.

A young craftsman works nearby attaching the water buffalo bone supports to a shadow puppet.

In the next room, a yet-faceless shadow puppet awaits its visage.

Mr. Tanto, approaches to rectify the need.

Working up from the shadow puppet’s shoulders, the artisan puts the details into the leather.

Eventually, after painting, this shadow puppet will have a splendorous appearance.

Even the bracelets on each shadow puppet’s wrists speak something of their role, position & character.

To the Javanese, a shadow puppet's long thin nose & refined shape of the eyes speak of good character. 

A red-faced puppet of fine character awaits her life on screen laying on top of younger siblings yet to be completed . . .

While a brute puppet with ominous round eyes & facial features awaits his painting, and his chance to viciously battle virtuous shadow puppets on the screen.

A miniature model demonstrates what the full-sized shadow puppets may look like when assembled on the stage before the screen . . . 

where their shadows will live & engage in heart-throbbing conflict.

A diverse collection of shadow puppets in another room hints at broader applications beyond Javanese culture—here for use in Chinese traditional theater shadow puppet shows.

Finally, America’s top expert & connoisseur of Javanese shadow puppetry makes a close inspection of these masterpieces.

Think you'd like to enrich your portfolio with exotic subjects from Indonesia?  There's still spots left on our 14-21 September Java-Bali Photo Tour (full intinerary here) with Matt Brandon of  

Buy your spot here at this one-time-only introductory price. And, if you've got the time, opt in for the extension tour through 25 September & you'll add Borobudur & Jogjakarta's batik artists to your collection.  Registration on the Java-Bali Photo Tour closes 15 July 2013!