Sepiring Indonesia

Sepiring Indonesia quite literally serves Indonesia on a plate. The vibrant, decorative crockery of this artistic brand brings the culture, colour and characters of the archipelago onto the dining room table.

The dining ware ware caught the attention of the judges.  The plates, bowls, and cups brought Jakarta’s festivities to life: abang none (Betawi man and woman), kembang goyang (flower-shaped snacks), roti buaya (crocodile-shaped bread), Yapong dancers, tanjidor (Betawi musical ensemble), and a variety of flora and fauna in the characteristic of cheerful colours of typical Betawi culture. The colourful collection entitled Joged Jakarta (Jakarta dancing) was competing in the 2012 Jakarta Souvenir Design Award (JSDA) and brought home the title of ‘Best Design’.

After winning the competition, creator and illustrator Eridanie Zulviana, was challenged by the chief judge and interior designer, Roland Adam, and his colleague Frank Hijmans, to expand this unique collection beyond the boundaries of Jakarta. To create a set of crockery that showcased Indonesian culture.

Accepting this challenge, Erin, as she goes by, created five more sets of this distinguished dining ware. They spanned the breadth of the archipelago through the country’s main islands, bringing Java (Jawa Semarak), Bali (Legong Bali), Minangkabau (Rancak Minang), Bugis (Bugis Makanja), and Dayak (Dayak Tatau) culture to the fore. This was the moment Sepiring Indonesia (a plate of Indonesia) was born, officially launched in 2013. 

Sepiring Indonesia
Sepiring Indonesia

“Sepiring Indonesia was born out of our love for Indonesian culture, as well as our worry about the quality of Indonesian souvenirs, which are almost entirely devoid of nuance. Jakarta is very big, there are many things we can explore that are not only ondel-ondel and Monas. For example, in Betawi culture, people like to send food to each other among their neighbours and family. This culture is called hantaran where they put the food on a set of plates consisting of large and small plates as well as bowls on the tray. That’s the idea we tried to bring capture and bring to JSDA. I sent two designs for the competition and Joged Jakarta design won Best Design. Furthermore, our work received a very good response from the market and also from arts enthusiasts. For us, it was beyond expectation. So, Sepiring Indonesia is to tell a story and raise awareness about Indonesian culture,” Erin shared with NOW! Jakarta.

The selection process for what ‘elements’ would feature on each plate was a long thought process. For Erin, plates are considered appropriate as souvenirs and objects of conversation on the dining table. The uniqueness of the plate can intrigue family members to open conversations about culture and can be a cultural ambassador by introducing Indonesia to the world. These plates have actually been in high demand by expatriates as unique mementos and as symbols of emotional ties to their time in the country.

Erin also recognises that a few years after the establishment of Sepiring Indonesia, the brand seemed to attract a market that crossed generations and socioeconomic position — in other words, everyone wanted it!

“The name of Sepiring Indonesia itself is catchy and very local. And the plates are colourful and very iconic which showcase the icon of Indonesian culture. It was what distinguished it from most souvenirs at that time. Initially, those who bought the plate just wanted a unique serving dish, now they’re bought more as gifts and souvenirs. And when they already have one collection, they want to have another series. For example, those who already have the Java collection, they are encouraged to collect the series of Minang, Dayak, Bali etc. That’s how big our opportunity is to promote Indonesian culture,” explained Jasmyne Oei, Erin’s close friend of Erin who is in charge of the marketing and branding for Sepiring Indonesia.

For illustration ideas, Erin spends much of her time on research, be it reading from cultural books, browsing and watching YouTube, hearing directly from cultural observers, and travelling directly to distant Indonesian regions.

“If I’m asked about an illustration, I would say that Indonesia is very rich so there is a lot of inspiration scattered everywhere. It looks like everything has been ‘sugarcoated’, but I really see Indonesia is that good, the gestures of the people are welcoming. My depictions of Indonesians are not sad and hunched over like depictions from the colonial era. I wish to elevate our people. So in every illustration I make, I always depict smiling Indonesians, wittiness and antics, splendour, the richness of colours and combined with elements of flora and fauna that are the source of the nation’s wealth,” Erin adds, to emphasise the illustration characteristics.

Like one of its collections, Sriwedari, this fine porcelain-made plate describes the midst of Central Java’s peacefulness in which the culture embraces people with enchanting warmth. Erin tries to show the true spirit of Central Java with the smiling faces of the Javanese that welcome people with the gamelan and also adds traditional elements, such as the majestic Joglo buildings where dance performances take place.

You also have Rancak Minang, which illustrates West Sumatra’s Minangkabau tribe, famous for its natural beauty and vibrant culture. Erin showcases the dynamic Tari Piring (plate dance) with the unique horn-like headdress for women dancers. Erin also admitted that even if she applies traditional elements she won’t make the illustration look conventional. She really considers the colour compositions that are acceptable to the tastes of overseas markets.

Sepiring Indonesia
Sepiring Indonesia

For those who love natural elements and Dayak culture, Sepiring Indonesia has a Dayak Bakena series. Through this series, Sepiring Indonesia wants to highlight Kalimantan primary rainforests, tribes, and exotic spices with a scintillating explosion of colours.

As a multi-product souvenir brand, Sepiring Indonesia also devises various items in addition to dining ware, such as trays, placemats, tote bags, laptop bags, clutches, pouches, cushions, stationeries, and many more. The collection is already available in major cities such as Malang and Bali and is also expanding to international markets such as Singapore and the United Kingdom.

This year, Sepiring Indonesia has been running for 10 years and for Erin, the journey of the company’s growth has only been enjoyable. All obstacles are considered as challenges that make her and her team work more positively.

“Sepiring Indonesia is actually already on the right track, it just needs to improve its products and spread its market in Indonesia. Because we want to be recognised in Sumatra, Sulawesi, Maluku, and others and we want to embrace more widely our crafters and partners. And, one form of reaction to the market in the near future we will also launch the illustration of the Ibu Kota Nusantara to further introduce Indonesia to the wider public,” closes Erin. 

Sari Widiati

Sari Widiati

Sari has been an arts and culture enthusiast for many years. She has written extensively on the arts, travel, and social issues as Features Writer at NOW! Jakarta.