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Main Line Artist Takes Us from Bali to Bala For Three Extra Days

As a batik artist who keeps alive the traditional Indonesian techniques for painting and textile dyeing, Laura Cohn walks a fine line between fine art and craft art. So it only made sense for Cohn to weave her own career by marketing and controlling the sales of her work, which consist primarily of batik paintings executed via her impressionistic style. Combining her deep appreciation and advocacy for Indonesia, a region of the world known mostly for natural disasters and its ties to President Barack Obama, Cohn has brought Bali to Bala (Cynwyd) for the last 14 years. And business has never been better.

Cohn's Bali to Bala holiday sale, which features Cohn's work as well as a slew of unique arts, crafts and culture Cohn imports from Indonesia, was extended an extra three days through Dec. 8 (open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. daily) and is being held for the first time in a major commercial corridor--Germantown Ave. in Chestnut Hill at the former Magarity Ford site (8200 block). Cohn has already seen sales double from last year, an impressive jump considering the event has grown steadily, from Cohn's home in Bala Cynwyd to a rented space in Manayunk for the last three years.

Cohn first visited Indonesia 22 years ago and spent six years living and working there. She worked at a university where she promoted sustainable tourism and learned the art of batik, a centuries-old artistic process that uses hot wax and colored dye to decorate textiles, among other things.

"The craftsmanship is extremely fine, extremely technical," says Cohn. "What they do is take a functional object and make it beautiful. Each piece I have has a story from where I bought it."

The annual holiday sale starts with her annual spring trip to Indonesia, where she spends up to two months selecting new artistic and cultural treasures to import and visiting family and friends. It usually takes up to three months for the goods she purchases to arrive stateside by ship, and she warehouses the items in her home studio. As fall approaches, Cohn prepares her inventory and starts her marketing push. Cohn's extensive knowledge of Indonesian culture and its people is probably her biggest sales tool. She also has a large list of regular clients who stay connected with her and her offerings.

"My work is not as hard as it used to be, when I used to have to get the map out," she says. "In the batik world, that's a constant challenge."

On Sunday Cohn will include an Indonesian travel slide show at 5 p.m. and an Indonesian dance class on Tuesday (time TBD). A portion of proceeds from the sale will be donated to support Indonesians in need.

Source: Laura Cohn
Writer: Joe Petrucci
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