Emily Readett-Bayley’s first graffiti commission was in 1990 when she was asked if the craftspeople in Bali with whom she was working could carve some bevelled and gilded wooden letters based an Old English font called Caslon Old Face.
They did and the original POSH Graffiti was born. They have not stopped making the letters since and the same families in a small rice farming village in the foothills of Bali’s majestic volcanoes still work with Emily who estimates that they have produced over a million letters for her company. Some of the children born since 1990 are now carving, some are running micro banks and some are teaching but the main thing is that they have stayed on in their villages and the traditional Subak system of farming rice continues.
This secondary industry acts as a financial incentive for communities to continue with agriculture rather than migrate to the coast to work in tourism. The letters are carved from a fast growing tree called albizia which is a giant legume grown on the dry land around the rice terraces to provides the lightweight wood that is suitable for carving. The template is cut from planks with a jigsaw and then each is shaped with a knife and dried in the sun. After this, it is coated with a thin layer of plaster and some letters are left with this simple white chalky finish whilst others are covered with a coat of sticky paint and gilded with a silver or gold metal leaf. Each is a unique piece of art.