Henny Augustien : Leather craftsperson at the KOELIT

Please meet Henny Augustien! (Image supplied by The Koelit)

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. While there are places that help with restoring worn leather it’s nice to have some where like ‘KOELIT’ that provides quality leather products.

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

About You:

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 🙂

Henny as a Balinese dancer in Elementary School, age 10-11 (Image supplied by The Koelit)

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!

Henny with a newly finished bag ready to be delivered to its new owner(Image supplied by The Koelit)

What are you working on right now?
Making a bag and a laptop case for customers

What type of leather do you use?
I use natural vegetable tanned leather most of the time (cow leather)
I always buy from a local leather shop in Yogyakarta
Henny is ‘hooked on the smell of new leather’ (Image supplied by The Koelit)
Why do you like to work with leather?
Its smell and unique texture are the things I love most about leather! The pliable nature of good quality leather also amazes me. Working with leather involves all the senses. It’s a great material that has an everlasting effect and it ages beautifully over time.

‘By creating excellent quality leather goods that will last a life time, I also want to speak about the importance of conscious consumption’

Butterly soft leather clutch (Image supplied by The Koelit)
How long does it take to make say a bag?
For a really simple tote bag, it could be done in 3 days.
Some tips for caring for leather:
Try to polish it once a month with leather cleaner then follow with leather wax / balsam to keep it clean and good. Wax will help to protect it from stains too.
Henny believes that leather does not need to be stainless to be perfect. We agree! (Image supplied by The Koelit)

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’

Leather embossed trays (Image supplied by The Koelit)

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

Three things that delight Henny. Good books, Good company, Good coffee (Image supplied by The Koelit)

What’s your most treasured possession? Love letters from my kids

Henny, her husband and children hiking Mount Prau in Dieng plateau, Central Java (Image supplied by The Koelit)
Mount Prau,stands at 2565m above sea level and is the highest peak of the Dieng plateau, Central Java. Mount Prau is situated in Wonosobo. (Image supplied by The Koelit)

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

Semawis Night Food Market at the Old Town area (Image supplied by The Koelit)

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!

Henny and her family walking in the rubber woods near her home (Image supplied by The Koelit)

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

Part of the old town of Semarang (Image supplied by The Koelit)

Every visitor to Semarang should experience…..
Pasar Karetan Sunday Market

What’s your favourite place to visit in Indonesia?
Flores island

Where haven’t you visited yet?
Raja Ampat

Temple in Semarang (Image supplied by The Koelit)

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)

One of Henny’s favourite reads ‘I feel bad about my neck’ (Image supplied by The Koelit)
Another of Henny’s favourite books and one of mine ‘In the Company of Women’

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

Henny’s beautiful dog Bumblebee (Image supplied by The Koelit)

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.

Instagram @the_koelit
Etsy www.koelit.etsy.com
Email hennyaugustien27@gmail.com

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

You might also like:

Threadapeutic – Making a Difference Through Fabric Upcycling
Sarita Ibnoe: Mulit-Talented Jakarta Artist
Introducing Local Artist Dewi Tobing
Abstract Messy and Fun with Nabila Delaseptina of SROU


  1. says

    I’ve known Henny and her wonderful art for years. I own a few of her pieces and the quality of her handiwork is incredible. I really enjoyed reading this and learning more about this amazing woman!

    • ajourneybespoke says

      Hello Meri, so lovely to hear from you. Thank you for sharing your connection with Henny and her leather work with us. We agree! Henny is an amazing woman.

  2. Christine Stevens says

    What an inspiring young lady. Goes to show it is never too late to embrace a dream. Beautiful craftsmanship. Enjoyed your interview. So many diverse talents being discovered and shared by you two in Jakarta with us who are afar. Thanks.

    • ajourneybespoke says

      Hello Christine, it’s always lovely to hear from you. We are glad you continue to enjoy our interviews and posts. For us it is a privilege to meet so many diverse and talented people in Indonesia.

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