Seminyak’s Fascini gallery will help you cultivate that laid-back Bali vibe at home, says founder/owner Marcus Scharzenberger.
In addition to catching a legendary break, daydreaming on the beach and checking out Bali’s increasingly mouthwatering dining scene, another must-do when you’re visiting the Indonesian isle is a spot of retail therapy.
There are plenty of cool boutiques and galleries offering hand-crafted pieces to decorate your home in Bali, like Fascini Gallery, where you’ll find everything from monochrome paintings of Hindu Gods and mystical trees to intricate copper lamps and black terrazzo candle holders adorned with brass edges. From his gallery in Seminyak, founder/owner Marcus Scharzenberger works with a team of talented Balinese artisans to create one-of-a-kind pieces and takes orders for bespoke creations for those with something specific in mind.
You opened the Fascini gallery in 2021 when Bali was still closed to tourists. What prompted that decision?
I had the time and the people available to start something new and just experiment a bit. It started with a workshop, as I had a large piece of wood I wanted to turn into a table. My wife hated it, so I rented a studio, put a couple of paintings on the walls, added some smaller pieces, and the workshop began to take on a life of its own. We first opened in June 2021, and one person we invited to the opening bought virtually everything, so we had to shut down and create more pieces.
The gallery is in a constant state of change, as we hardly ever reproduce anything. Business has been surprisingly good, particularly since Bali opened back up to international tourism last April.
Tell us your background and how you got into doing what you do.
I started a jewellery company in 2009 in Hong Kong and moved here in 2014 with the aim of creating specialist one-off pieces. I’m the designer, working with painters, sculptures and wood carvers to visualise and sketch out what we’ll create. We’re particularly skilled in metalwork – everything you see in the gallery has a metallic element, and I work with some really talented silversmiths and goldsmiths.
As everything is hand-made, it must take a while to produce?
Yes – in the gallery, we produce three to five pieces a month, so it’s very time-consuming. Sometimes it will take a whole month to create a single piece. The craftsmen I work with understand my expectations and the need for quality. I’m constantly impressed by their skills: they’ll take a lump of wood and make something amazing out of it. Everything on the website is just to show what type of pieces we can make, but we do a lot of bespoke pieces.
Not everything we make is a success and a couple of pieces have ended up in my house. But it’s important to experiment.
Who are your clients and how do they find you?
It varies; we have a very wealthy Russian businessman with houses in London, Moscow, and Istanbul, for example, and we helped him decorate his Istanbul home. Then we have an art dealer in LA who’s bought a lot of pieces from us. We also have Bali expats and local customers. A lot of people want something different that can’t be bought from an art dealer and has been created especially for them.
The stranger creations seem to appeal to people, like a piece we made of a skull wearing a baseball cap. It’s something that you don’t see every day.
You have three jewellery shops in Bali under the name Fascini – Di Pietra, with one in Ubud and two in Seminyak. How are they doing?
The jewellery shops are even doing better than they were pre-covid. People with more money are coming to Bali and they are willing to spend. Our jewellery isn’t that expensive, and you can pick something up for around US$50-200. We decorate the pieces with natural materials and carvings, so each piece is individual. The brass pieces are doing well, as it’s in fashion right now. Before, everyone wanted silver, now it’s gold and brass.
Everything is hand-crafted for the jewellery stores. How do you keep on top of that?
It’s very difficult! Working with metal, you need very capable artisans who can really ‘whisper’ to metal. The main thing that appeals to customers about our pieces is the quality of the finishing… I’d say it’s up there with fine jewellery, just using cheaper materials.
How would you characterise the Bali art scene right now?
I’ve been to many galleries here, and Indonesia is a very creative place. Some artisans work with very limited resources and create these incredible pieces. There are galleries specialising in antiques, or just paintings, and there are all different price points. For such a small place, there’s a lot going on.
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