Jakarta-based illustrator Melissa Sunjaya brings Indonesian craft global with totes and more
by Maureen Ferry Cuellar
When designer and BlueLounge co-founder Melissa Sunjaya, returned to her beloved but chaotic hometown of Jakarta, she was struck by the disconnect that exists among the country's population of more than 250 million. As a natural resource and manufacturing-rich nation, Indonesia ships top-quality components and ingredients all over the world, yet at the same time, large cities like Jakarta are teaming with humble tradesmen roaming the city streets in make-shift portable workshops, kitchens and kiosks, barely eking out a living day-by-day. To marry Indonesia's rich resources with the local, hands-on, entrepreneurial spirit, Sunjaya returned to her true passion as an illustrator and created Tulisan prints for canvas totes, limited-edition prints and illustrations, paper goods and household items.
Tulisan, which can mean writing, script or inscription in English, began in 2010 when Sunjaya paired the itinerant neighborhood upholsterer with an artist in his garage silkscreen studio. Gradually over the next two years, she assembled the building blocks to develop a line of lifestyle products with internationally certified eco-friendly components, 95% of which are sourced in-country. Tulisan now employs 20 people in a truly sustainable business model, which also includes programs to develop and empower Jakarta street children through KDM, a local non-profit.
Tulisan's colorful designs are fresh with spirit and life. The brand's popular appeal, according to Sunjaya, is all about the careful research of her subjects as well as the colors she chooses to use. International travelers can visit the cheerful Jakarta storefront, while shoppers in the US can visit the newly launched web shop.