Thursday, 2 January 2014

A woman’s touch to woodworking

An ACIAR initiative is helping build capacity of young professionals in the Indonesian furniture industry—Tony Bartlett, ACIAR’s Forestry research program manager, tells us more...

Ibu Ria with her coffee table
Prize-winning innovation and craftsmanship has given a young Indonesian woman a trip abroad to refine her skills in furniture design.

Ibu Geraldine Oei Ria Oktavillia is in her final year of studying furniture manufacturing at the PIKA College of Woodworking in Semarang, Java. She is one of four young Indonesians who won prizes for their innovatively designed furniture, as part of an ACIAR project on value-adding in timber processing.
The project’s competition sought coffee table designs from students, and Ibu Ria was one of 33 contestants. The students had to consider furniture that reflected the Jepara region, used plantation timbers and would be able to be mass produced by small-medium furniture enterprises. The judging panel shortlisted five students’ designs and invited them to construct their coffee tables. Prizes were awarded to students who made the three best coffee tables.

Ibu Ria received second prize, which included the opportunity to participate in a one-week furniture design course at RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) with support from ACIAR and the Crawford Fund.

She designed a beautiful coffee table inspired by a flower blossom. The table uses veneer timbers from plantation trees such as walnut, maple and zebrano. As well as being very attractive, it is a demonstration of innovation as the furniture industry in Jepara does not currently use veneer timbers (unlike similar industries in China and Vietnam).
Ibu Ria told me she really benefited from the training course in Melbourne. It gave her new knowledge of the furniture design industry in Australia and particularly the importance of considering the practicality of the design of every component in a piece of furniture. It must not only look good, but be structurally sound and chairs must be comfortable.

 “Good quality furniture should be treated as a masterpiece, including the packaging and presentation of the furniture to the potential customers.”
Ibu Ria, prize-winning furniture design student

Beautiful coffee tables designed and built by the students
Ibu Ria believes there is still a gap between furniture design and manufacturing in Indonesia. She feels the designers don’t fully understand the manufacturing processes, and the manufacturers are reluctant to test markets for acceptance of innovative designs.

At the recent annual meeting of the ACIAR project partners in Jepara, Ibu Ria and her three fellow prize winners presented their winning pieces of furniture. After explaining the basis for their particular designs and the benefits they got from the training in Australia, they answered questions from some of the Jepara furniture industry partners. We hope this exciting initiative will open up new prospects for the young furniture designers to play a greater role in enhancing the Jepara furniture industry.

The competition was an excellent initiative to build the capacity of young professionals and foster innovation in furniture design. It is especially pleasing to see a young woman like Ibu Ria achieving success and gaining recognition in this traditionally male-dominated industry.

All of this is very relevant to ACIAR’s goal of enhancing livelihoods from agricultural research. Farmers will get higher prices for the timber they grow if that timber can be used to produce high-value products like exquisite pieces of furniture.

By Tony Bartlett, ACIAR’s Forestry research program manager

More information:

ACIAR project FST/2006/117 Improving added value and small medium enterprises capacity in the utilisation of plantation timber for furniture production in Jepara region, is led by the University of Melbourne

YouTube video: Company profile of SMK PIKA Indonesia 

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