The Murals at Bali Kali Kabu
Five years ago, if you had told Priscilla Carpenter Witte that one day she’d be painting a mural in a bathroom at a boutique hotel in Bali, she never would have believed you.
The New York State native moved to Venice, Los Angeles in search of sunnier pastures but found so much more. She became enmeshed in the robust creative community of the beachfront town, and unlocked artistic skills that have taken her to Croatia, Russia, Italy, and now Indonesia.
A photographer turned illustrator turned muralist, Priscilla is grateful for the opportunities mural painting has afforded her. From the types of projects she’s tackled, to the amazing locations she’s travelled to for jobs, mural painting has provided her with a path for exploration and discovery.
“I’ve gotten to see so many beautiful places through making murals,” she says. “Places that I don’t even know if I would ever go.” That’s why when her former co-worker, Kathryn Romeyn, looked to her to spruce up her vacation home in Bali, Priscilla leapt at the offer. “Bali wasn’t even on my list of places to go,” she says, “but, honestly, I want to go back ASAP!”
She might have been there for “work,” but Priscilla made the most of being a guest at Bali Kali Kabu. “The decor, the beautiful floors…It was just so cozy and so beautiful,” she recalls. Painting brightly colored leaves on bathroom walls by day, then lolling in macrame hammocks and going on Bali adventures by night, it’s no wonder Priscilla considers her experience painting at Bali Kali Kabu to be one of her favorites ever. “I got to paint in my bathing suit,” she says, “and just be like, ‘I’m hot!’ And just jump into the pool or jump into the ocean.” Talk about an ideal work environment!
Priscilla painted a striking bathroom with large coral, mint, and green leaves and shapes completely covering all four walls. “I just love that bathroom!” she says. “I wish this was my bathroom!” She also tackled an abstract mural on an outdoor wall by the house’s yoga shala beside the 65-foot pool. She says the murals are very different from one another, as she was going for a more serene vibe with the second. “The one that I did outside was a little bit more soft,” she says. “It feels very zen.”
Luckily when it came to conjuring concepts for the murals, the setting of Bali Kali Kabu offered much in the way of inspiration. “You hear roosters and all the animals and people scooting around,” says Priscilla. And as someone who’s usually immersed in the LA bustle, painting in Bali was a welcomed escape. “It’s just kind of a nice feeling to have a nice little dose of quiet.” Priscilla mostly drew from the existing color palette of Bali Kali Kabu for the murals, and was particularly influenced by the chevron-patterned dusty-teal and white floor in the great room.
Priscilla’s success as a muralist is indicative of an exciting time for design, as handcraft mediums are having a bit of a resurgence in the face of our increasingly digital world. “People are searching for handmade,” she says. “I think it’s because people are now starting to try to get a little bit away from being so media heavy.” She explains how there’s a unique draw to something that’s been handcrafted, as such works exude an inherent warmth and sense of welcoming. “If you see something that’s handmade, you kind of get excited about it. Like, ‘Ooh what is this?’ So I think a lot of people want to bring that back.”
Bali Kali Kabu is just one of the many places all over the world where mural-painting has taken Priscilla. Her first overseas commission was painting interiors at a boutique hotel in Croatia called The Admiral Zaton. From there she went to Hotel More in Russia where she transformed a lifeguard tower on the Black Sea with imagery of swimmers and divers in her signature boldly graphic style.
Photographs via Priscilla Carpenter Witte and Kathryn Romeyn