SOUQ champions natural materials, slow production and old school craftsmanship in a world obsessed with ‘newness’ and ‘quantity’. From timbers to metals, we look for elements of beauty that can be worked with human hands to make unique pieces that can be admired and kept for generations.
Though Indonesia is known for its timber furniture, Central Java has a long heritage of metalsmithing with skilled craftsmen adept at working metal sheet, forging and sand-casting metals into everything from decorative bowls to giant sculptures.
Amongst SOUQ’s favoured metals are brass, copper and bronze with their beautiful undulating tones and endless possibilities for luxurious finishes for creating tables, huge pots, door handles and sculptural pieces.
While mild steel and iron are almost defenceless to rust and corrosion especially in the wet air of Indonesia, brass, copper and bronze react to oxygen differently; instead of forming the layer of brittle orange fur, they ‘patina’ or change colour over time taking on rich and uneven hues of chocolate, blue and green. SOUQ can ‘force’ the oxidisation of these metals by treating them to achieve these colours in short timeframes and with the skilled hands of our smiths, we create textural finishes on the metal from mirror-finish high polishing to hammered and etched effects.
For forged furniture pieces in brass and copper, SOUQ creates solid lightweight internal frames from sturdy materials before covering them in metal sheet with tidy precision joins. For sculptural pieces such as door handles and railings, we cast them from moulds that we crate using wax, concrete or timber moulds.
SOUQ also works extensively with aluminium, a perfect lightweight and rustproof material for making outdoor furniture and pieces for commercial projects that need to be moved around often. However the virtues of aluminium are greater than its practicality; the powder-coating finishes that SOUQ applies to our aluminium pieces are matte and velvety which elevate the look as well as extend the performance of the furniture.
From the stunning grain of sonokeling and sungkai to the soft colour of mindi, fast-growing suar to old durable teak, rare kajimas to accessible mahoni, SOUQ knows the virtues of the diverse timbers of Indonesia, the purposes they are best suited for and how to enhance their attributes.
We use specialised European exterior and interior stains and treatments to let natural elegant grains show through stunning and unique colours and finishes that distinguish SOUQ pieces from the common timber items with brash yellow and orange tones.
SOUQ’s timber furniture and homewares are crafted from premium-grade woods that have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an international body that creates standards for the responsible management of the world’s forests. We use recycled timbers that have been reclaimed from old buildings and furniture or high-quality timber from FSC-approved government plantations.
Much of the supply of timber in Asia used for construction and furniture comes from young plantations; the use of this low grade timber has many unfortunate ramifications, not least for its environmental impact and the associated exploitative practices involved in its growth but also because of its poor durability.
A young plantation tree tends to have a much narrower trunk which means that the greatest part of that trunk is ‘sap wood’. Sap wood is the outer ring of the trunk that transports water and nutrients up to the tree’s canopy for growth; suited to this purpose, it has a low density which makes it soft and spongey and usually has huge colour variation within it. This kind of timber is referred to as ‘C-grade’ or lower. Due to its cheap price it is the most commonly used and makes very poor quality furniture; it is the wetness in this wood that causes the furniture to crack and split once it is shipped to drier climates.
However buyers should also be wary of teak identified as ‘A-grade’; unless it is recycled, this timber is generally harvested from very old-growth rainforest trees so it is an unethical source and for this reason it is now in very short supply from Indonesia.
When SOUQ uses teak, we use B-grade wood – the best quality that Indonesia can ethically supply. We use only the core of the tree, farthest away from the soft sap wood and we dry it in huge kilns for up to six weeks to achieve a moisture content of 12%. This drying technique is one of the greatest determinants of durability of furniture outside humid climates.
SOUQ uses the finest quality rope for braiding, weaving and wrapping hand-crafted timber and powder-coated aluminium frames. Woven rope for seating is much more hard-wearing than fabric and gives a depth of colour and richness of texture for a sophisticated finish which is beautiful for both interior or exterior furniture.
SOUQ’s rope is made by and imported from Italian suppliers and is UV-resistant, colourfast and weatherproof – the same rope used by well-known designer furniture brands in Europe. Unlike the quality of rope commonly used for furniture production in Indonesia, SOUQ’s Italian ropes are incredibly long-lasting and impervious to fraying.
SOUQ’s ropes come in rich vegetable colours such as verdant green, petrol blue, speckled charcoal and ferrous red and can be combined to create tweed effects.
With its thousands of volcanic islands, Indonesia is rich with unique natural stones including onyx, marble and limestone. From this resource a skilled industry of stone carving has developed with stonemasons adroit at creating everything from small tiles and tableware to large custom table tops.
Having mastered the trade of carving, European suppliers even send their stone and marble over to Indonesia for cutting and finishing before being sent back to Europe for installation.
Chips of off-cut marble and stone, pebbles and glass are also mixed with pigmented concrete to create slurries of terrazzo in an old Italian-style that are then formed into tiles, pots and table tops. Terrazzo craft has been learnt and adopted by Indonesia with expertise.
Earthenware and ceramic potters operating with huge outdoor kilns are able to create even enormous decorative and functional pots and gardenware.
SOUQ designs and sources pieces made from stone, terrazzo, concrete and ceramic from suppliers in Bali and Java that that they have worked with for more than a decade.