The Rise of Sole-Proprietor Makers in Urban Cities in Indonesia


Nowadays the notion of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) is not merely about hobby and leisure time. For the past few years it has shifted into a profitable microbusiness with sole-proprietor maker as the main initiator. Therefore contemporary craft or craft-design started emerging in Indonesia. This essay is based on the writer’s personal experience as a maker and entrepreneur. The writer also observed other makers in order to explore about what distinguish them from traditional craft or design alongside with other supporting elements such as business model and consumer type. Combined with desk research from literature reviews, this paper explains about the growth potential of contemporary craft and gives recommendations so that craft-design sector in Indonesia could thrive.

Do-It-Youself (DIY) is currently an emerging movement in Indonesia, which mostly conducted by the urban people. These people began to create things for themselves as an embodiment of self-expression and as well as a leisure activity.  Regardless imposed by the ideology to create than to buy, some makers decided to fathom their hobby by establishing microbusiness which is known as sole-proprietor maker.

On the other hand Indonesia is prominent for its traditional craft that mostly produced by craftsmen from the rural areas. These rural people have ancient traditional techniques and cultures that passed down through generations. Albeit the term craft that they both use, there are some differences between traditional craft and contemporary craft.

This paper observes 12 sole-proprietor makers, their characteristics, business model, and their relation to consumer alongside with literature review about contemporary craft or craft-design. Observation was accomplished through their website, social media, and media coverage.

The purpose of this paper is to raise awareness about the potential growth of contemporary craft makers and provide recommendations for makers and stakeholders in order to thrive this burgeoning sector.


Scope of Indonesian craft

The Indonesian Government divides creative economy into 18 sub-sectors and one of them is craft. Craft is defined as an artefact which is made by hand. The scope of craft can be classified by its final product and production scale as above. To some extent, craft-design perfectly describes the circumstances of contemporary craft makers in Indonesia.

Craft-design combines characteristics of both craft and design in a single product. For instance a craft-design product may be produced by hand in limited edition (craft characteristic) but use composite material and functional (design characteristic). In general the highest distinction is craft or craft-art represents hereditary cultural tradition while craft-design adapts with the latest trend.

Characteristics of Craft and Design

Cokorda Istri Dewi (2014) from Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy stated that the main problem of Indonesia’s craft industry is the lack of creative resources (creative people involved in this industry). It has the smallest figure (scale 1 to 10) among other seven indicators. Empowering craft-design makers is a feasible solution to reinforce this indicator.

Mapping of competitiveness for Indonesian craft

Research by Meg Mateo Ilasco (2011) proved that self-employed makers tend to be happier and more satisfied with their jobs. Most of them work at a studio, whether it is home-based or a separate office location. The income might not be munificent, but they can afford a self-actualization. This self-fulfillment makes some of the makers decide not to be a part time crafter anymore and be a full time crafter, as Dewi Kucu from Cutteristic did. She left her job as an interior designer and prioritized Cutteristic.

As sole-proprietor makers, there is no boundary between the business and the owner. It can be seen from their social media branding which often use soft-selling method. Martha Puri Natasande, the owner and crafter of Ideku Handmade not only posts product-related photos to her Instagram, but also exposes her daily life. She has #puwisweekendstories or #becausepuwilovesmural hashtags in order to engage with her followers.

List of brands by makers, cities, products, and materials or techniques

Because of its authenticity, craft-design products are easy to differentiate from mass-produced products. Mainly because they are produced in small-batch or limited edition which enhance exclusivity. Most of the makers use pre order or made by order system. This system is also advantageous to the customer since they can order custom made products based on their desire and need. As an example, if you want to order a memory jar at Omoi as a gift, Andintya Anissa, the owner of Omoi, will request photos and details such as your beloved ones favourites and profile to create a personalized memory jar. Indeed the result is a remarkably personal present.

Hand building pottery workshop by Ayu Larasati at Indoestri Makerspace

Furthermore skill-sharing is another engagement for the makers’ brands. Some makers obtain additional income from workshop teaching or open studio. The cost may vary and depends on the organizer. There is also a free workshop but it is mostly a simple and mere lecture workshop without live practice. To illustrate Ayu Larasati hosts a hand building pottery workshop which costs Rp 1 million at Indoestri Makerspace but she also has a short lecture class with which is free. After all it is a way for them to connect with other makers and craft enthusiasts. Other prominent workshop organizers are Living Loving Class, Mau Belajar Apa, and Tobucil.

Sole-proprietorship is the simplest business structure for makers. Its definition is that the business and the person starting the business are one entity (Malinak, 2012), thus it starts with self-employment. It can be solo or with few employees but the owner must be in charge with every production process. Usually the employees are personally trained by the owner in order to learn specific skills.

In fact most of the people prefer industrialised products, so craft-design products targets niche market. It does not mean that the market is narrow yet it is more specific. Essentially perfect niche can leads to loyal customer and peer-to-peer endorsement. Business model for niche is often called longtail. Longtail focuses on large number of products with low volume. In craft-design case it is shown by personalized products or commissioned works.

Craft-design marketplace can be divided in to online and offline. Etsy is the biggest online craft marketplace around the world with 36 million active buyers and sellers (Dellot, 2014). Many of Etsy sellers earn their living cost merely by selling in Etsy.

Craftline website

Judging from the number of Indonesian sellers on Etsy, Indonesians are still unfamiliar with this platform type. Presumably it is because most Indonesian people do not understand export policies or international payment. Hence, local online marketplaces such as Craftline and Kreasik are existed. However the number of users and sales in these platforms do not develop rapidly thus it is clear that direct business to consumer relationship is still the most profitable in Indonesia’s industry.

Most of offline marketplaces for craft-design products are craft fairs such as Inacraft, Pasar Seni ITB, Crafty Days Tobucil, SMART Dia.lo.gue, and Indoestri Day. In addition there are only few offline stores that focus on craft-design products.

Even though makers target niche market, the evolution of consumer is getting more promising for craft-design business. Yuswohady (2012) explained about the “Consumer 3000” phenomenon which asserts the surge of middle class.

Currently the amount of middle class citizen in Indonesia is higher than upper and lower class. From a psychographic perspective, middle class consumer is value-minded consumer and the values are divided into 3 categories: (1) reasonable value; (2) critical value; and (3) functional value. Reasonable consumer derives from brand-minded consumer who becomes more rational and knowledgeable while functional consumer is derived from price-minded consumer who possesses higher buying capability.

Consumer 3000 Segmentation

The connection with craft-design development can be considered as 3 stages of awareness: (1) consumer understands the beauty of handmade products (DIY movement); (2) consumer chooses local brand (local value awareness); and (3) consumer becomes more specific on choosing valuable local handmade products (craftsmanship value awareness).

Handmade products can be considered as highly valuable since consumer feels involved and enjoys the production process. They also experience the ease and comfort of custom-made service and does not mind paying slightly higher price or waiting for the production process. With handmade products consumer will also get one-of-a-kind products which bear more personal value than mass products. Furthermore makers always prioritize quality, not quantity of their products, for they are driven by the passion to create and not solely to gain profit.

In conclusion contemporary craft have different characteristics from traditional craft. Therefore action and approach that has to be taken must also be different. Apparently both the government and society are not fully aware of this fact yet.

With this paper the writer hopes to promote contemporary craft or craft-design as a rapidly growing sector. The demand is getting higher, even more so if we can penetrate global market. The writer hopes that more Indonesian will decide to work as makers and create their own job opportunity. It is unconventional in Indonesia to be self-employed but it has been proven to be successful in advanced economics countries. Besides currently Indonesia is encouraging its creative economy development.

Apart from that if it was traced back to the root, Indonesian culture is genuinely creative and productive. The writer believes that creativity runs in Indonesian blood. Indonesians are makers, whether traditional or contemporary, and they can change the economic condition to a better way.

To achive that the writer proposes some recommendations. Recommendations are sorted as internal (makers) and external (stakeholder, government, industry) recommendations.

Internal Recommendations
  • Combine contemporary products with traditional material or pattern to embrace Indonesian culture. Adhi Nugraha (2010) invented the TSCUM method to help simplify the process.
  • Increase the quality of brand image and presentation with an array of well-executed photoshoot, catalogue, and lookbook.
  • Initiate national craft community to engage and collaborate with other makers.
External Recommendations

UK Craft Council’s Makers Directory
  • Create certifications for online shop so that consumer can choose a reliable online shop. It can also be integrated with an online makers directory as publication support.
  • Make offline marketplace or shop for local craft products. It must be curated professionally to maintain quality.
  • Socialize export policies, international payment, and how to ship products overseas. Makers should be able to expand their market conveniently. To do so would also popularize Indonesia as a country of makers, not merely consumptive users.
  • Raise the entrepreneurial spirit of young people. Online craft-design business is easy to start and considerably cheap. It simply requires skill and passion.
  • Give awards and commendations for the best craft and other creative industry practitioners in appreciation of their contribution to creative economy. 

For full essay please download it here. Do not forget to use citation if you use my works.
Wiradarmo, Aulia Ardista. (2015). The Rise of Sole-Proprietor Makers in Urban Cites in Indonesia. In E. Zulaikha, O. D. Wahyuni, & Sayatman (Eds.), Proceedings of the 3rd ICCI 2015. Surabaya: ITS Press.

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