Hi Carina! So happy we’re finally doing this as I’ve been a huge fan of your work. First, can you share a little about yourself?
Me too! It feels so good to connect with creators in Indonesia whose values are aligned with mine.
I am a woman who cares deeply about starting conversations with women about bodies to break down layers of discomfort and social taboos. I was raised in Bali and New York City - I bridge cultures and languages, speak Indonesian and Balinese and want to challenge the patriarchy through creating beauty.
Whenever I see your pieces, I feel there’s an embedded femininity - yet there’s also something brave. What inspired you to create Elppin?
As humans, we are so much a product of the place we live. I feel endlessly lucky to have been raised on the magical island of Bali. Growing up, I caught the tail end of an era where it was completely normal for women to go about their business in the village topless.
Now topless women are limited to grandmothers in more remote, rural areas. Balinese life is rich in duality. So while sexuality is something that isn’t flaunted in public, it’s certainly acknowledged and woven into rituals, customs and private life. Eroticism is depicted in Balinese art in a real, raw and often beautiful way. Sexuality is a fact of life in Bali, integrated, worshiped and abhorred all at once.
Elppin was born from conversations with women about our bodies. My best friend, Gika, who is Balinese, has defiantly perky nipples, she dislikes bras but loathes the gaze her braless breasts are endlessly subjected to. So we armored her nipples with a protective evil eye to reflect the gaze and empower her. That was when we were in University, and since then, I can’t help but see the world through the breast, women, and beauty.
It started with the nipple, the pinnacle of the physical and metaphorical breast, the epicenter of sensitivity, intrigue and stigma. I wanted to play with this tension and challenge nipple censorship, so I started to make jewellery that both adorns the breast and armors against the patriarchal gaze. And it does so by calling attention to a part of the body which is otherwise covered and obscured!
No two breasts are the same, so it follows that no two Elppins can be the exact same either.
Can you share the process behind your nipple-inspired jewelry? What motivated you to choose these traditional techniques?
Haha, to be honest, I can’t imagine what would motivate one to mass produce jewelry in a factory. No two breasts are the same, so it follows that no two Elppins can be the exact same either. Not just that, but as an artist - maybe specifically influenced by the fact that I am a woman artist - the creative process is fundamentally a collaborative one, with memories, feelings, people, histories, concepts etc.
Komang and Ketut are the last of a dying breed. Prioritizing preserving culture through the support of natural craft is not just a good aesthetic choice, it’s a moral imperative. Komang and Ketut channel the creative spirit into each Elppin, leaving the precious metal with distinctive character, and making each piece completely unique.
What is the change you wish for in the world?
How cool would it be if in 10 years time, I am traveling somewhere in the world, and pass a young girl on the street, or maybe an older woman who is wearing Elppin.
Elppin is more than a jewelry line, I want it to be a movement that uplifts and empowers women and inspires a space where we can create and affirm positive relationships with our bodies and ourselves.
Prioritizing preserving culture through the support of natural craft is not just a good aesthetic choice, it’s a moral imperative.
Why do you think it’s important for customers to know what goes on behind what they buy?
I am not naive; I don’t think conscious consumerism is a panacea, but I do think that it is very valuable and can play a powerful role as part of a multipronged attack on the status quo, in terms of how we treat ourselves, the people around us, the human species, and the planet itself.
The concept of “voting with your dollar” can have incredible results in terms of shifting industry standards. When people act agentically in the world, they change the world, and in turn, form themselves. There is a reciprocal dynamic relationship between us and our environment, and frankly, money is a symbolic, yet very real, extension of our personal choices about the type of human we are and strive to be.
What is feminism to you? How can anyone embody these values in our modern, busy life?
Sitting in complexity is something generally hard for humans to do.
One feminist I particularly admire these days is Camille Paglia, she’s a unpopular anti-feminist feminist. She speaks about embracing the cthonic and I really feel like a way of practicing feminism is through reading, learning and exploring ideas. I am not sure if I see any inherent contradiction between embodying and living feminist values and the busyness of our modern day life.
What would you tell a 10-year old you, knowing all that you know now?
Read more books, create more art and spend more time getting lost in nature.