A sculp­tor seeks suc­cess in clay sculpt­ing

Business Bhutan - - Nation - Tsh­er­ing from Thim­phu

He was about 14 years old when he first laid his hands on clay sculp­ture at his vil­lage in Bidung in Trashigang.

Ten years later as time and sit­u­a­tion changed, Norbu, 24, started Gaa­kee Unique Arts and Craft along with his two friends, spe­cial­iz­ing in mak­ing clay sculp­ture at the startup cen­tre in Changzam­tog, Thim­phu.

Norbu, with no ed­u­ca­tion qual­i­fi­ca­tion and without any sort of train­ing from any in­sti­tute, started the busi­ness of mak­ing clay sculp­ture statue three months back. To­day Norbu em­ploys nine other sculp­tures along with his two other part­ners - San­gay Wangmo and Sonam Tob­gay.

Norbu’s ven­ture into sculp­tur­ing be­gan when he ac­com­pa­nied a Lama in Sikkim, In­dia for two years. He then learned how to sculp­ture and de­cided to take it as a pro­fes­sion. He started sculpt­ing first at his rented home.

In Bhutan, sculpt­ing or Jinzo is one of the old­est forms of craft orig­i­nat­ing in the 17th cen­tury. Clay stat­ues, pa­per mache, clay masks and pots are ex­am­ples of Jinzo. Bhutanese clay sculp­ture is among the best in the Hi­malayan re­gion and many gifted sculp­tors were in­vited to build stat­ues for some of neigh­bor­ing Ti­bet’s an­cient monas­ter­ies.

In Bhutan, tow­er­ing clay stat­ues of Guru Rin­poche and Zhab­drung Nawang Nam­gyal are cen­tral fig­ures in more than 2,000 monas­ter­ies all around the coun­try. All the clay sculp­tures are re­li­gious in na­ture and most of the master sculp­tors are em­ployed full time by the gov­ern­ment. Clay sculp­tur­ing skill is also one of the skills taught by the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Zorig Chusum.

In an­cient times the frames of the stat­ues were built from bam­boo and thick-stemmed grass. Nowa­days cop­per or iron wire and rods are used. The cen­tre of a statue con­tains a carved col­umn of wood (sogsh­ing) which rep­re­sents the life force of the statue. It is usu­ally made of ju­niper wood. The top of the wooden col­umn is carved in the shape of a stupa and the bot­tom is carved to re­sem­ble a va­jra. The col­umn is di­vided into sev­eral sec­tions.

Norbu said get­ting raw ma­te­rial is dif­fi­cult as they have to travel to Gedu in Chukha to bring the raw ma­te­rial af­ter iden­ti­fy­ing the best clay.

He added that friends came as god in dis­guise who in­spire and sup­ported to start this clay sculpt­ing and now it has be­came his pro­fes­sion.

Mean­while, Bhutanese are fa­mous for the qual­ity and the in­tri­cacy of their clay sculp­ture, rep­re­sent­ing deities and re­li­gious fig­ures. The most renowned crafts­men come from Hey­phu monastery (Ney­phu) in Paro val­ley and have worked the world over.

The qual­ity of the image also comes from the mix­ture of clay and other ma­te­ri­als such as the pa­per used. The mix­ing and beat­ing of clay is done by hand and then the artist on a bam­boo or light wood frame­work shapes the image.

Norbu along with his two friends are plan­ning to ac­quire loan from fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions and ex­pand their busi­ness. His clay made stat­ues’ cost de­pend­ing on the length of the statue peo­ple or­der. Cur­rently his cen­tre re­ceives around five– ten or­ders in a month.

Norbu ad­vices youth that there are many op­por­tu­ni­ties in the mar­ket but the only thing is to ex­plore and grab the chance. He shared that hard times do come but over­tak­ing the ob­sta­cles with pos­i­tive note brings fruit at the end.

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