The roofs of Balinese homes have traditionally been made of rice straw or ceramic tiles. The tiles are much longer lasting (they will often outlive the structure beneath them), and are fireproof. The best clay for making roof tiles was once found in the village of Pejaten, and the village acquired a reputation for making the best roof tiles. The clay has long been exhausted and must now be imported, but Pejaten's reputation remains.
The road that winds through Pejaten is lined with workshops for making ceramic tiles. The workshops are a part of the homes, or the homes are part of the workshops; it was hard to tell where one started and the other ended. We often saw young children in the workshops. Some were even helping with the work.
The clay is first worked by hand to the proper consistency, then mixed with rice straw and water, and finally worked into a stiff mixture.
The finished slip is cut into the right size to form a single tile and is placed on a well-oiled metal die. The die is then slid into the screw press and a matching die is pushed down from above. Excess slip is squeezed out between the dies. The tile is trimmed and the die rotated to drop the tile onto a small wooden rack which supports it until it is properly dried. Here a worker displays a completed tile.
The completed tiles are placed in large drying racks. It takes a long time for them to dry in this humid, tropical climate. Large numbers of tiles are accumulated before they are fired in the kilns.
After drying, the tiles are fired in large kilns. The kilns are heated by burning coconut husks and wood scraps in hearths at the bottom, while the tiles are stacked in at the top. The kilns produce a great deal of smoke during the firing. We saw only one kiln in operation, and didn't get too close.
In addition to the field tiles, special clay pieces are made to cap the ridgelines of the roof. The middle cap piece and several end pieces are especially decorative. These highly decorated pieces are molded in several pieces which are then assembled by hand. After assembly, there are many details which must be applied freehand. Each piece thus becomes a little bit unique.
The completed tiles are offered for sale on site. Some home owners will come here to personally select the best qaulity tiles. Other tiles are sold to building supply stores throughout the island.