Every time I visit my friend, Jew, I come away with more respect and admiration for him and what he does. He and I share a passion for the statues he creates, he with a firm love of making Buddha statues and I with a firm love for sharing them with the world.
Jew is a 40-year-old producer of Buddha sculptures in the small village of Nakom Pathom, Thailand, about an hour and a half north of Bangkok. Having known him for 12 years now I always knew that he took over the business from his father who started it 40 years ago. What I learned on this trip was that Jew had taken over a struggling business at the young age of 20. I was always under the assumption that his father had a thriving business that he took over and made better, but this was not the case at all. Jew’s father had only one artist working for him while Jew has created a prosperous business employing all the families in his surrounding village of almost 40 people. Click here to view his Buddha artists handcrafting Buddha statues. Every day he spends hours going over each of the statues to make sure they are being executed correctly. He is very concerned with the well being of his workers. He pays them well and wants them to succeed.
I first fell in love with his work because he had the best patinas on his sculptures that initially made me mistake them for antiques. He had beautiful antique patinas that no other producer was able to create. This is still the case today. He recently developed two new patinas of a stunning antique green and a deep red mixed with gold leaf. I went out to dinner with him last night and in his broken English he summed up his worldview…
“When I die, I cannot take money with me. Money paper…I make Buddha, I pray Buddha so I can be born next time.”
When I asked him about his customers he told me the majority of his business, besides Lotus Sculpture, comes from temples within Thailand. I asked him if he sold to the antique dealers of the Riverside mall in Bangkok who are known to sell fake antique Buddha statues. He leaned over to me and said, “No, I do not lie.”
This is who he is, he is the salt of the earth with a good heart. I love his family; his crotchety old mom who yells at me every time I see her in Thai I do not fully understand, his beautiful wife and 3 children. And most of all I love him!
Article written January 25th, 2020 by Kyle Tortora
My first trip to Vietnam was in 1998. I was a 22 year old backpacker just out of college, exploring the country without a care or worry in my mind. Vietnam had the distinct smell of salt water and the aroma of food. It’s as if their unmistakable flavor of fish sauce had permeated the air and surrounded you at every turn. Twenty three years later it still has that same smell I remember which immediately took me back with nostalgia to my backpacking days.
I came to Da Nang to visit my white marble statue maker, Lan, and her family. Da Nang is situated at the base of what is known as the marble mountains, a place famous for its abundance of quality, pure white marbles. Lan and I have worked together for 15 years. She was the first artisan I worked with in Vietnam. Her entire family is involved in the business. Her brother operates the workshop, where all the statues are produced and her cousin, who is the master carver, is responsible for the faces and all the intricate details of the statues.
All these years later I was still impressed with the quality of the Lan’s sculptures compared to that of other workshops in the area. Seeing her 22 foot Kwan Yin statue with my own eyes for the first time, I was completely blown away! She has this gossamer, realistic quality where it looks as if her robes are made of pure silk gently swaying in the breeze. The statue is so lifelike I found myself forgetting it was a 10,000 pound solid block of white marble. Later that day I visited another workshop where I saw a large Kwan Yin statue carved by a different artist. It completely lacked the life and beauty inherent in Lan’s Kwan Yin sculpture. The Kwan Yin at Lan’s workshop is stunning and has that special untouchable something that makes a masterpiece a true masterpiece.
“She has this gossamer, realistic quality where it looks as if her robes are made of pure silk gently swaying in the breeze. The statue is so lifelike I found myself forgetting it was a 10,000-pound solid block of white marble.”
Sadly, I arrived the week before Tet or Chinese New Year and all the artists were on break. In planning my trip I knew about Tet and figured being there a week before would give me time to see the artists before the shops would close. I was very wrong, no one was working. I found the workers take off 2 weeks prior to Tet and then a month following. Instead of hearing the incessant clinking sound of chisel on stone all I heard were birds chirping and wind blowing through the palm trees. All the carvers had gone home to their villages to visit with family and friends. It is the equivalent of going to Europe in August when everyone flocks to Mediterranean beaches.
One thing that I am always impressed, when I visit any stone worker, is seeing the raw block of stone they have yet to begin carving. Climbing over them you can appreciate their pure size and mass. The raw white marble blocks are massive, larger than any I have seen in India or Indonesia. It is an amazing talent a stone artist has to visualize the god or goddess that is sleeping within the stone, waiting to be rendered by the hammer and chisel. But that is exactly what these artists do and I am amazed by it every time I see it.
Later in the day Lan and her brother took me to a beautiful seafood lunch on the beach and a leisurely stroll through the historic town of Hoi An for Vietnamese coffee. For anyone visiting Vietnam, Hoi An is a must see. Even though you are navigating your way through a maze of tourists it still has an old world charm visible through its tiny avenues and beautiful colonial architecture. Walking around the old streets I appreciate knowing that I will be returning to this part of the world for the rest of my life. I often think of how fortunate I am to be doing the work that I am doing…..today was one of those days.
Page 1 Of 27
Free UPS Ground Shipping SALE!
For a limited time we are offering free UPS Ground shipping on all orders within the 48 States. International customers will receive a 40% discount off the price of shipping. This discount will be extended to our Canadian customers as well!
Items weighing over 150 pounds including packing materials will be shipped using a freight service. Domestic Freight will be discounted by 35%!