From Bali to Bloomie’s

Two years ago, WAG had the pleasure of interviewing Guy Bedarida — then creative director/head designer of John Hardy — at an event at Bloomingdale’s White Plains that featured raspberry Champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries and fashion illustrator Jennifer Lilya sketching customers with their Hardy jewelry purchases. In memory, the day bubbles like that Champagne.

So when Bloomie’s announced another Hardy trunk show to showcase the exquisite new Modern Chain collection, among others, WAG was front and center. While the charming Bedarida has retired — and was certainly missed — this event featured artisans from the Hardy complex just outside Ubud, Bali, dressed in ceremonial attire as they demonstrated the painstaking process that goes into each of the company’s sculpted designs.

How did the Canadian Hardy wind up establishing a jewelry company in Bali in 1975? 

“He wanted to be a sculptor and he traveled the world looking at art,” said Shaun Rowan, the jeweler’s director of education and events. When Hardy arrived in Bali, the sensuous isle that is home to much of Indonesia’s Hindu population, he knew he had found what he was searching for. He fell in love, Rowan said, not just with the wood and stone animal carvings and the voluptuous Hindu figures but with the graceful, gracious Balinese people. 

Today, some 700 artisans are employed at the workshop outside Ubud, while another 250 to 300 work at home, said Sang Ayu Pt Sri Utami, the company’s senior public relations manager. About 400 work in John Hardy’s Bangkok location. At Bloomingdale’s, four were on hand to demonstrate the intricate processes involved in Hardy creations. First, artisans like Daniel Irawan sketch the designs — in pencil and then in watercolor. I Made Wisada is among those who make wax carvings of the designs. These are placed on a jewelry tree and fired in a gypsum mold. The wax melts and liquid sterling silver is poured in, leaving silver designs that are broken off and polished. These can be painted or embellished with stones by gem setters like I Wayan Suarsa. 

This process has been known throughout art history as lost wax casting. But there is another time-honored artistic tradition that is also used, Rowan said — that of hammered metal, or palu. This is done by a husband-and-wife team with the wife wearing special gloves to make the metal malleable under high heat and the husband hammering the designs. Another technique is hand-weaving chains, which Sulis Irawati demonstrated. (The company uses 100 percent reclaimed silver and gold, Rowan said.)

The results are at once artistic and natural, concrete and spiritual, playing out in different collections. The Bamboo Collection represents an essential Balinese building material. For every bamboo-style piece purchased, the company plants bamboo seedlings. The Dot Collection references the circle of life, infinite love and possibility. The Legends Collection features four animals — the scaly Naga (Dragon), symbol of protection; the fiery Macan Tiger, perseverance; the sinuous Cobra, rebirth; and the Eagle (exclusive to the men’s line), representing victory and freedom.

But there is another line, Cinta or Love, a couture collection inspired by Hardy’s relationship with his wife. These are one-of-a-kind pieces, Rowan said, including a hinged cuff with a central square amethyst flanked by blue topazes. 

Artisans actually break the mold after each of these creations. But we think they broke the mold when they made the John Hardy company itself. And we can’t wait to see what Bloomingdale’s offers when the first collection by new Hardy creative director Hollie Bonneville Barden bows in the fall of next year.

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