Despite being Indonesia’s traditional hub of woodcarving, Ubud, in the uplands of Bali, is now home to very few masters of the trade. While there are countless shops churning out replicas of old designs, only a tiny handful of carvers are creating original art.

One of these is I Wayan Mudana, known as one of the best, and last, master woodcarvers in Bali. In this original video feature by Coconuts TV, we see inside the artist’s workshop while he tells of his concerns about the craft dying out.

Mudana’s work is very much connected to his spirituality, with most of his pieces taking their inspiration from local culture and Hindu religion. He also usually prays and meditates before starting each piece, asking God to help his vision come to fruition.

Mudana – who was born in Mas Village, about six kilometers south of Ubud, in 1953 – also likes to start his carvings on auspicious days, and says he seeks inspiration from the wood itself, simply bringing out the story that is already there. His pieces can take anywhere from four months to a year to compete, and are known for their grace, length and height.

Mas Village has always been a carving community, with Mudana’s father and grandfathers taking it as their profession and often making sacred offerings for temples, gifts that were for merit as opposed to commercial gain.

Just like those before him, Mudana’s mastery has come from years of practice. He would steal fire wood as a boy just so he could carve, honing his craft throughout his childhood. He decided to make it his livelihood when he sold his first piece for just one ringit.

Now, Mudana’s work is well-known locally and has even been sold to international collectors. One fan in Germany, for example, has six pieces displayed in a private collection.

For Mudana, a father of three, woodcarving is something he feels compelled to do. He is determined to continue the tradition that he loves and find new ways to innovate within the craft. He only hopes he can install the same love in his children and grandchildren in order to keep original woodcarving alive and thriving in Ubud.

Janna Graber
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