On a recent trip to Ubud, I ended up collecting gold floral hairpins, the ones worn for ceremonies. They look so lovely singly or in a bunch! So I decided to go and visit some workshops where the golden head dresses, made from many gold foil flowers called Gulung Agung, are made.
I asked around and I was told they are made in Bangli, an hour's drive from Ubud. There we were directed further north towards Besakih and found a simple workshop compound near the small town of Undisan. Head craftsman Ni Nyoman Asra explained how he learned the trade from a friend, after which he managed to grow his family business to Bali's number one producer of Gulung Agung, employing 8 people.
In the shed, I watched as he rinsed a basin full of silver coloured tin foil flowers that had been cut by two apprentices in the other room. They were rinsed in and out of several basins before going into a stove top metal basin with a steaming solution of water and a tiny bit of gold. Almost at once the flowers took on the gold colour and after a few minutes were carefully scooped out into a towel by another apprentice. All this while a large pig looked on from it's pen.
The finished pieces are stored in a showroom across the compound, where I admired the handiwork of the flowers wired onto a wire or wood frame, in various different designs, which pins into the bride or dancer's updo. This would never work for me, and even Balinese women need some fake hair props to make it all stay put...
A Gulung Agung tiara will set you back upwards of Rp1500000 (around HK$1000).
Guess what I came away with? Some more floral hair pins!