Sharon Lumbantobing

Research Associate

I am an avid collector of working baskets used for fishing, carrying, and storing everyday items. My extensive collection of Indonesian baskets grew during the twenty-five years I lived in Indonesia from 1990 to 2015, while I was working on forestry and marine conservation programs. I collaborated on an annual Meet the Makers event and co-founded a pop-up gallery in my home called The Artisans Table in Jakarta. These initiatives brought together master craftspeople throughout Indonesia who are working on textiles, basketry, ceramics, glass, wood, leather, and other medium, and introduced them to new markets and audiences in Jakarta and the United States.

I was awe-struck by the richness and variety of pattern, motifs, techniques, and processes of each handmade item, but quickly became aware of how fragile these art forms are. Many makers are in their seventies and eighties and are the first generation with far fewer successors willing to learn and master these crafts. With this comes the loss of both tangible and intangible cultural heritage, such as the songs people sing when they are weaving and dying, knowledge of which plants produce which dyes, and knowledge of patterns and techniques. I now live and work in Olympia, WA.

What I miss most about living in Indonesia is spending time with master craftspeople in their homes and studios, engaged in conversation about their processes, personal connection and passion to their craft–and of course, the food. Being a research associate at Tracing Patterns Foundation helps me stay connected and contribute in a small way to researching, documenting, writing, and engaging with others who are passionate about textiles and other handmade crafts.