Fajar Afrianto, nicknamed Apri, has been with me from the very start of Gardens of the Sun. He turns my ideas and sketches into reality. He’s a business partner who’s very dear to me, and at the very core and soul of Gardens of the Sun.
A fifth generation silversmith, Apri was born 41 years ago in the Indonesian capital of silver craft: Kotagede. One of Yogyakarta’s artisan neighborhoods, Kotagede is filled with families who specialize in crafting leather, copper and silver for many generations.
“My great grandfather was a silversmith, my grandfather was a silversmith, my father was too. It’s in my blood. Although I’m the first to also be a goldsmith as well as a silversmith” Apri said as we walked down his workshop just outside of Yogyakarta. This is where a group of artisans work together to create the jewelry you love.
The workshop, established in 2015, now gathers 8 silver and goldsmiths. It's an organized mess with the constant sound of hammers softly pounding, torches being lit, and roosters crowing over the rice field that surrounds this area.
Some of our smiths started with no previous experience working with metals. One has a physical disability. Regardless of their background, they're gathered here with a willingness to learn.
Under Apri’s guidance, they work to turn designs into instant heirlooms that you can wear day in day out.
I first met Apri 5 years ago, learning how to make a ring myself. He was the master goldsmith in a workshop with his former business partner. The story didn’t end well for them.
Apri disagreed with the business ethics of his partner, and he decided to leave. Believing in his work and skills, I convinced him to set up his own workshop and supported him with the investments needed.
From a simple idea, we turned it into not just a workshop, but a place for disadvantaged people to learn and grow.
“This place feels like a second home to us and we treat each other like family. We care for each other. Sometimes we kick each other out from the workshop if my friends stay working here too late at night.”
Although being his second home was not his main intention when creating this workshop.
“I first set up the workshop in a space above my house to save on initial expenses. But I needed to separate work and personal life, and started looking to rent a standalone workshop.”
Little did he know that 4 years later, he’s created a platform for the youth in his surroundings to create something that they can be proud of.
“Many of my friends and young men in the area didn’t have the space to work or they simply needed an income. It became a place to gather and learn from each other.”
Remember your first piece from Gardens of the Sun? Yep, they made it.
“My father used to take me see him work everyday when I was little," Apri said when asked about his first exposure to jewelry making. “When I started crafting jewelry myself,'' he added, “it made it easier for me. Because I’ve observed the process my entire life.”
He makes it sound so easy, but Apri spent a lifetime perfecting his craft. This vocation needs a deep sense of artistry and patience. On top of that, it takes an agility to transform rocks and metals into a piece of jewelry that speaks to people.
“Please take good care of your jewelry. We work hard to make it come true,” Apri is asking you. “It makes me sad to see jewelry that's abandoned or not taken care of, because I know the time and skill it takes to make”.
How difficult you ask?
"It easily takes 2 days to finish a simple gold ring. It's a complicated process of melting the metal and mixing it with other metals to create a strong alloy. Then we forge it, heat it more, size it, polish it… Well it's a long story!"
How does someone choose to become a silversmith or goldsmith?
“I wanted to be a lawyer as a kid. Then growing up I worked for various private companies doing various things. But being a smith is my passion, it’s what I love doing. There’s a joy it brings me. So I’m going back to my roots.”
I asked Apri the favorite pieces that he's made so far. Here are his picks:
Apri loves working with gold. In fact, he's the only goldsmith in his family. He's currently in the process of passing down this knowledge to his team members, although he said that it would take some time for him to let others deal with something so precious. The elevated open bezel setting of this ring is also one of the reasons why he loves working on this piece.