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FEATURES • BRANDS

Closing the Loop
at Kevala Ceramics

Closing the Loop
at Kevala Ceramics

For a quarter of a century, Kevala has been the creative force behind ceramics on the island of Bali, driven by Wendy Thomas's vision to harness the unmatched talent of local artisans. Starting with a small production facility, Wendy has worked tirelessly with the Kevala team to develop their knowledge and skills. Today, Kevala champions over a hundred artisans specializing in hand carving moulds, wheel throwing, and surface decoration. Each piece of tableware undergoes a labor-intensive process, worked on by at least 12 pairs of hands before it finds its way to clients who design their bespoke pieces and collections with the team.

April 2024 • Words & Photography by The Punch

"We are taking major steps
to adapt production and ensure it is both socially and ecologically responsible."

Kevala Ceramics

SUSTAINABILITY MANAGEMENT

Kevala is deeply committed to addressing the pressing sustainability challenges facing our planet, taking significant strides to transform its production processes to be both socially conscious and environmentally responsible. Leading this charge is Sara Howard, an accomplished ceramicist and sustainable materials designer with a passion for innovation. Collaborating closely with Kevala, Sara brings her expertise to the table, specializing in forging strong partnerships with other industries and crafting circular systems tailored for the ceramics sector. Additionally, Sara is spearheading impressive research and development initiatives for Kevala, driving forward innovative solutions that further enhance sustainability and efficiency.

SUSTAINABLE & LOCAL SOURCING

Kevala's research and development is evident in its Circular Ceramics tableware collection. This innovative line is crafted from 75-100% waste, sourced locally from various industries, including river pollution and ceramic production remnants. Recognizing the ceramics industry's heavy reliance on dwindling natural resources, Sara Howard, in her collaboration with Kevala, sought out sustainable alternatives. These materials not only come from local sources but also divert waste from ending up in landfills. The clay body for the tableware is entirely reclaimed from Kevala's wastewater treatment system. The glaze is a blend of recycled consumer glass from Bali's rivers, slurry from marble and granite factories, and residues from ceramic production. The natural clay finishing uses 75% fewer natural resources, while the colored pieces are crafted entirely from waste. Each time materials are reclaimed, a new limited-edition glaze is introduced, adding to this ever-evolving, sustainable collection.

Interview

Meet Wendy Thomas
Founder of Kevala Ceramics

WHAT IS YOUR STORY?

"My name is Wendy, originally from the North of the UK. I first visited Indonesia back in 1994. Before that, I spent many years working in the electronics industry in southern England. I was actually on my way to Australia for a new job when I made a stop in Bali. What was supposed to be a three-month stay has turned into 30 years! During my early days here, I was really into triathlons and running. Through those activities, I met some like-minded people who introduced me to a ceramics business in Bali. That's how I got started in ceramics, and I've been involved in it for 30 years now"

HOW WAS KEVALA BORN?

"In my previous company, we were producing a local drink that was housed into a ceramic bottle and with the hospitality industry growing, my partner and I decided to move forward in the ceramic and table wear world. After a few years working together on that project, we had different ideas in how to move forward. I was much more passionate about the ceramics and especially custom-made ceramics for hotels and restaurants which was not part of his vision. So in 2007, we decided to go in separate ways and that’s when Kevala was born."

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO GROW A SUSTAINABLE BRAND?

“I believe that concentrating on sustainability makes the environment a better place and allows people to have a better life. Through my business, I want to be part of the solution, not the problem. Producing ceramics relies on depleting natural resources as the clay is from the ground and that clay is not going to be available forever. In my 30 years in the field, I have seen many of our suppliers not being able to provide the materials anymore and for me, it is important to take responsibility for the issue we are creating in the industry. At Kevala, we acknowledge the need to reduce our impact in order to meet Indonesia’s global climate goals. Everybody doing its part is what is going to make the change.”

CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR COLLABORATION WITH SARA HOWARD?

“I met Sara Howard a couple of years ago. I have built a relationship with a University in England called Central St Marteens – an art school offering a degree in ceramics and Sara was a graduate from that school. Sara had already written her own book about the sustainability aspects of of producing ceramics and she approached me as a fresh graduate. Her passion and knowledge about sustainable ceramic is phenomenal. She was looking for an opportunity to continue her work and make a true difference in a bigger ceramic factory. I offered her to come over for a year without much plan; I just knew that it was going to be a long-term journey that we would work on together.”

IS KEVALA A SINGLE USE PLASTIC FREE FACTORY?

“Yes, we have completely eliminated single use plastic in our production. What we need to eliminate now is the single use plastic coming from our staff. We are looking to provide reusable options for their lunches and refreshments. Internally, we already have that in place and we are educating them about what they bring from home.”

HOW ARE YOU CLOSING THE LOOP AT KEVALA?

“At Kevala, we are working on designing, producing, and distributing a ceramic line entirely made from waste. From reusing clear, green, and brown glass waste from Bali’s waterways, stone slurry from natural stone distributors, oyster shells waste from restaurants to our own production’s spray booth residue and water treatment waste, we are proud to introduce our new 100% circular collection “Made from Waste” designed by Sara. The clay that is used for this production is from our own waste streams mixed with stone slurry waste and the glaze is made from glass waste. This collection is about to be launched, we actually just took our first order and I’m very excited. Another thing that Sara has achieved over the past year is sustainable packaging. I have been working on sustainable packaging for quite some time and I am happy that we are now using 100% sustainable packaging made from recycled materials.”

CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR CORAL INITIATIVE?

“In April 2022, I was invited to the Maldives to work with a sustainable resort and take look at how we could improve their coral propagation. Sara has done researches on this topic in the past. Originally, for their coral propagation, they were using metal tripods with plastic clips. They would put these on the ocean bed and the coral would attached to it and grow. Sara created a guests experience where the guests were invited to make clay sculptures, display coral fragrances in these clay sculptures and place them on the sea bed. Within three weeks, the results were amazing. The coral started growing without the need of metal and plastic. This project is still ongoing and we will have an update within 2 months.”

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