Bayat Klaten , located at Pagerjurang Hamlet, Melikan Village, Wedi Subdistrict, 30 km South-East of the densely populated city of Yogyakarta on the island of Java, where 6,500 people were killed and over 1 million people lost their homes after the May 2006 earthquake which measured 6.2 on the Richter scale, has the image of a bustling pottery centre. About eighty percent families especially mothers in this hamlet involved in the ceramics making to earn a living.
Based on history, earthenware in Melikan (Bayat) has developed for about 600 years old ago. In the grave of Sunan Padang Aran, there is “Gentong Sinaga” in the gate complex of Prabuyeksa, the last gate of Sunan Padang Aran’s Grave. Gentong Sinaga functioned as the container of wudlu water for Sunan Padang Aran and his companions when the time for prayers comes.
Sunan Padang Aran’s (Bayat) Grave was built in 1955 Saka. It was found in the Panemut gate on which there was writing or ancient inscriptions written: “Wisaya hanata wisiking ratu” (in the north). The Sangkakala shows the construction year which means: Wisaya : 5, Hanata : 5 ,Wisik : 5, Ratu : 1. This means that the grave was built in 1555 saka. In the south of the gate, it was written: “I ta 1555 masa 4” meaning that it was also saka year. (M. Dwi,2005 : 8).
According to local community, word “Bayat” is derived from Javanese (tembayatan) which means a mutual assistance. Therefore, all big problems will be solved as long as all citizen work together to solve the problems.
Melikan community states that in the beginning of the earthenware craft, the first earthenware created was a jug, a container for water usually carried by Sunan Padang Aran Bayat as supply in his journey disseminating Islam as far as Melikan (Bayat) Klaten village. Besides, Melikan jug was also used as the means of death ceremony/ritual, where it is put on the grave. Based on the local belief, the water in the jug can be used as supply by the dead person if he is thirsty in the tomb.
Unlike the ordinary ceramics making using flat potter’s wheel, the Pagerjurang craftswomen use a unique device with special technique. They use a slanted potter’s wheel called perbot in local languages with sideway twisting technique. The device is made of wood or thin stones as talenan (thin and flat wood on which vegetables are cut) having 40 cm diameter and 6 cm thickness. Talenan is put at an angle of 45 degree from the center of the turning axle. Then, the axle is tied with a strong silk-cotton tree rope connected to a bamboo as the support. Then, the rope is moved by legs in the forward kick direction. It rotates three times faster than ordinary pottery wheels because of the earth gravity. The downside is the unique wheel cannot be used to create large objects. The product has maximum height of 30 centimeters.
According to local belief, the technique arrived in Pagerjurang because the influence of Moslem cleric Sunan Bayat who spread Islamic teachings in the area in the 17th century. He, Sunan Bayat requested local villagers to develop a device which enabled craftswomen to sit in a modest way while creating ceramics, without having to sit with their legs spread apart. Since then, the technique is just like an inheritance which has been passed on from generation to generation.
The uniqueness of this Bayat earthenware is worth to be proud of because the slanting turning art is only found in Indonesia. In Bayat, this art has already been around since 400 years ago (counted from this century). It was created slantingly in order to facilitate the craftswomen while working since at that time they wears sarong. Earthenware making were mostly dominated by craftswomen while men assisted in the processing of clay and burned the earthenware.
This uniqueness makes these earthenwares superior compared to earthenware in other parts of Indonesia. There are about 30 regions in Indonesia that employ the slanting turning technique. However, nowadays there are only 6 regions keeping this technique in West Java, such as Plered, Cirebon, Parung Jaya, Garut, and two places in Cangkuang where there are only 3 people having this skill in Cangkuang.
In Bayat, the clay used as the materials is gathered from Jabalkat Mountain which is mixed with kaolin and quartz to make it stronger. Then it is battered until it is ready for process. Jabalkat Mountain itself consists of two words, Jabal (mountain) and kat (high); therefore, Jabalkat means the high mountain.
Jabalkat Mountain stretches from south to north; at the northern part of lies Gede Mountain. It has several names; in the east, it is called Cokrokembang Mountain where the grave of Sunan Padang Aran Bayat is located; while in the west, it is called Cakaran Mountain on which there is a grave of Syeh Domba; whereas, in the north, there is the grave of Pangeran Wuragil in Malang Mountain.
There are 2 ways of burning the earthenware. To produce red colored earthenware, it is burned for about 3 hours and should touch the flame directly. On the other hand, to produce shining black colored earthenware (it is more favored due to its attractive color), the burning process takes longer time. The burning uses munggur leaf (trembesi leaf usually used as goat’s foods). To get brown color, the burning process uses straw.
In the burning process, fire should be kept on certain degree in order that there is no flame that will change earthenware’ color into red. It will get the finest color, if the leaves are moist. Ashes from burning process is then collected and applied on the surface of earthenware which are going to be burned (diungkep/closed tightly). The purpose is to produce durable and non fragile product during the cooling process and also to keep the heat.
The arrangement of earthenware which is ready for burning process is by piling them one above another. The shrinkage of the burned product could reach 2.5 cm. Each craftsman is able to produce 50 items having 20 cm height and 25 cm diameter per days. The coloring process is very natural by applying red soil-bath which is filtered into fine particles used as the natural soil paint. For the final process, the outer part of earthenware (or any shape) is polished and then burned again.
Nowadays, ceramics is still produced by Pagerjurang’s villagers. The move towards modern, they use not only sideway twisting technique but also develop the common one to shape bigger ceramics. Water jugs and other traditional household appliances is still produced to serve local markets; and the result of ceramics development so-called terracotta ceramics is produced as decorative objects like teapots, bowls, plates, vases and other interior decorations.
The symbolic values of Bayat earthenware/ceramics is the cultural products which cannot be separated from the life influence of the Javanese people. Purwadi suggests that in the context of Javanese life, there is an old saying: “wong Jawa nggone semu, papaning rasa, tansah sinamung samudana” meaning that in doing all their activities, Javanese people often uses their feeling and disguise their activities.
Those symbols are the illustrations of their abstract, complicated, and wingit attitudes, colloquialisms, and behaviors… These cultural symbols are used to reflect transcendental idea, emotion, and thought (Purwadi, 2004 : 81).
The number of people living in Melikan village based on the village’s monograph up to October 2005 were 3,512, consisting of 1,695 males and 1,817 females, and 691 patriarchs.
The occupations of community inhabiting Melikan Village which consist of 7 hamlets are various. However, most of them work as earthenware craftsmen. The rests are farmers, merchant, and public employees.
One of specific characteristics of social community of Melikan Village is prioritizing the kinship interaction which is reflected in the pattern of community’s relationship, such as mutual assistance, working together, and visiting one each other.
Small industries which are developed in Melikan Village are water-channel, digging well, brick, ceramic, earthenware, wood and bamboo furniture, and tofu and tempe. Earthenware, terracotta, and glazed porcelain industry is well known among common people that also makes Melikan Village, Wedi Subdistrict, Klaten Regency becomes famous. Moreover, it is able to penetrate foreign markets, namely Holland, Canada, and Australia.
Nowadays, there are 211 business units employing 741 employees. Among those villages, Pager Jurang Hamlet has the highest number of ceramic/earthenware industries in Wedi Subdistrict.
Types of Bayat Earthenware
Based on the usage, Melikan ceramic arts can be categorized into two types as follow:
• Traditional household utensils, such as piggy bank, jug, vase, wok (sangon), and anglo (keren). The traditional products are still maintained, especially by the existing craftsmen.
• Ornamental ceramic/earthenware, either for indoor or outdoor ornaments. There are hundred types of items belong to this type; however, they can be classified as souvenir, flower vase, vase (water container), gucci (porcelain earthenware), and garden bench and table.