Henny Augustien is the inspiring and adventurous woman behind ‘KOELIT’, translated in Bahasa Indonesia as ‘LEATHER’ a handcrafted genuine leather goods brand located in Semarang, a coastal city on northern Java Island.
In our interview with Henny she shares the ‘fashion dilemma’ that prompted her leather business idea; what she is working on right now, and a treat for us all, Henny’s favourite places to visit, eat and experience in Semarang and wider Indonesia.
Do make sure to read right through to the end of the post to discover what Henny does on the off-chance she finds a spare 15 minutes … (such fun!) and her advice on never being too old to learn something new.
* Kenalkan : Henny Augustien
Your full name please: Henny Augustien
What do you like to be called? Henny
Please tell us a little about your background – Where did you grow up?
I was born and grew up in East Jakarta where I graduated from High School. I then moved to Bandung to study Architecture at Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB).
What did you want to be when you were a child?
Most of the time I wanted to be an Architect, but sometimes being an Astronomer seemed fun, too ( I often lay on the roof of my house with my best friend before bedtime, just enjoying the sky and trying to see as many constellations as we could with a book in our hands 🙂
I got into handcrafted leather goods …
My journey with leather started when I couldn’t find a simple leather tote bag in Semarang.
After searching for quite a long time without any good result, so I decided to join a leather workshop out-of-town in Yogyakarta.
I was so happy I could make a tote bag!!
I felt amazed by the simple leather tools I used and soon ‘I got hooked on leather craft.’
Although I could use a heavy-duty sewing machine for sewing my leather goods, I most love to handset them myself!
What are you working on right now?
Making a bag and a laptop case for customers
‘By creating excellent quality leather goods that will last a life time, I also want to speak about the importance of conscious consumption’
What gives you energy? My passion for leather craft and cups of coffee!
Who do you find inspiring and why?
Abenk from Kaula Leather. He’s my first teacher in leather craft. I learned how we could make something beautiful from leather without even owning fancy leather tools … just keep it simple, have passion and never hesitate to share your skill with others. Maya Angelou’s wise words really speak to me:
‘when you learn – you teach, when you get – you give’
What’s one thing about you that would surprise people?
When they know I learned how to ride a bike when I was over 30 😀
What annoys you?
Running out of coffee, people who drive slow in the fast lane, having to cook for over an hour
What delights you?
Good books, good company, good coffee
What’s your most treasured possession? Love letters from my kids
About Semarang & Indonesia:
3 words to describe your Semarang, Central Java?
Sunny, Home, Good Food
What’s your favourite Indonesian book?
Supernova from Dee Lestari
What’s your favourite Indonesian Movie?
Marlina si Pembunuh dalam 4 babak
Who is your favourite Indonesian artist? / creative?
Joephine Komar (Bin House), Chitra Subyakto (Sejauh Mata Memandang)
Where’s your favourite place to eat in Semarang?
Semawis Night Food Market at the Old Town area
Tea, Coffee or Juice?
Juice in the morning, hot chocolate for a rainy afternoon and coffee at any time. (Tea is not my favourite) And where? Home for juice and coffee, Cafe Coco Madeleine for the best chocolate.
Where do you go to relax in Semarang?
Walking by the lake near my house in Semarang. That’s the most relaxing activity for me!
Finish these sentences:
Every visitor to Semarang should eat….. Lumpia (spring roll)
Every visitor to Semarang should visit…..
Semawis Night Market, Old Town area, Lawang Sewu, Banaran Coffee Plantation
Every visitor to Semarang should experience…..
Pasar Karetan Sunday Market
What’s your favourite place to visit in Indonesia?
Where haven’t you visited yet?
We would also love to know …
What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Say Thank You
You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
It’s very very rare. But if I have 15 minutes and my husband is also at home, we always ride our motorcycle. We love ‘keluar masuk’ (can’t find the perfect term in English) small kampungs (villages) in the rubber woods and rice fields not far from our place. Usually 15 minutes becomes an hour and we end up buying jagung bakar (char grilled corn) 🙂
Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
‘In the end only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you’ (Buddha)
Name a book and movie that changed your life.
Book : There are so many … that it’s hard for me to choose. Books I love most.
I feel bad about my neck (Nora Ephron)
In the company of women (Grace Bonney)
Movie : Joy and Still Alice
Women power themes always steal my heart 🙂
Julianne Moore’s acting is very natural, and so true. She reminds me of my dearest mum who suffered from Alzheimer disease for 14 years before she passed away 2 years ago. Alzheimer’s has always been the most frightening disease to me.
What are your favourite Apps?
Instagram, Skillshare and lately Asana Rebel
If you could have dinner with 2 famous people who would you invite?
Oprah and George Freeman
What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
Reading, Enjoying movies with my family, Running with my goldenlab – Bumblebee
Anything else you would like to add?
‘I realised I’m a late bloomer … I started many wonderful things not at a young age. I learned to drive after having 3 kids and learned to read a score for the first time and play cello at 40
I’m still not good at playing that instrument haha !
I’m grateful to have a supportive husband and kids that let me ‘be me’ and go wherever I want to grow’.
How can our readers follow you and order your beautiful leather pieces?
Henny ships to Jakarta and can do custom orders, as long they are original ideas.
Here is how you can contact Henny to discuss a handmade leather project you may have.
Before I sign off for the weekend .. encouraged by Henny’s story and her final words about ‘going wherever I want to grow’ … if you had the opportunity to learn or do something new, what would it be?
Drop us a line in the comments below.
* Kenalkan – let me introduce
Words : Henny Augustien and Liz McClean Photography : The Koelit
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