Artisan Organization: Samart Takham
Country: Bali and Java
"I grew up in a large family whose main occupation was farming and in their free time they would work on wood turning. When I was a child, we had no electricity in the village so the equipment and tools for wood turning were crafted from folk wisdom. For example, stepping rhythmically on a transmitting belt in order to make the machine rotate using a long handle knife to lathe the wood as needed.
"At that time I was very young and didn't pay any serious attention to wood turning. When I was about 10, my village was the first one to get electricity, transforming handcrafted tools into electric motors that looked very modern at that time. Wood turners from nearby villages with no electricity would come over asking to use the electrical tools at my house. The atmosphere was very energetic. Many skilled turners came to work at my house. They exchanged ideas about wood turning techniques, and I got very excited about it.
"When I was done with homework I would watch how quickly they worked, creating beautiful items using different types of chisels in a variety of charming designs.
"Most of what they crafted were furniture components such as table legs, chair legs, handrails, etc. Sometimes I would try the lathe on scraps of wood but I was not allowed to use the electrical tools, so I only used the traditional ones. I was a little disappointed because I wanted to use the modern ones. And yet I didn't give up. Instead I worked harder and harder to improve. I used my free time continuously to lathe until I became skilled and that's when I began to help my family as a professional turner.
"When I got married I kept on wood turning as well as farming. When my village began to prosper many investors bought land to build houses to sell, so I had to sell my fields because the surrounding ones had already been bought. Now I only earn money from wood turning.
"I don't only make furniture components, I also craft wood bracelets as per to my daughter's suggestion. It has attracted many customers, so I've created more designs and styles to add to my collection. I carved, grooved, and painted each one to enhance their beauty. I use food coloring to paint the bracelets, and I finish them with a coat of quality lacquer. Although the color is more expensive than general, I think it is worth in the long run since it is safer.
"Both my son and daughter received better education opportunities but I still taught them how to turn wood so they understand our family's original occupation, and they were both willing learners. My son graduated, has secured a job, and has his own family yet he still spends his holidays to help me.
"My daughter is a senior student at a university and she's been practicing on the lathe since 9th grade. She turns smaller pieces such as lotuses for worship, drawer handles, etc.
"Being a wood turner is not a career in which one can make much money, just enough to earn a living. So I encourage my children to earn money themselves. My daughter takes the bracelets and small home decorative pieces that I crafted to sell at the street market in Sankamphaeng. All the income she makes from her sales go toward paying for her education and various personal expenses.
"I am very proud to teach my children to rely on themselves. They are not embarrassed to tell their friends that I only studied up to 7th grade (the highest grade of compulsory education at the time). They say that I'm an expert in wood turning because I'm patient and diligent, and what I learned I learned from the previous generation, which cannot be taught in schools. I intend to teach wood turning to my grandchildren as well as anyone who is interested in inheriting this wood craft.
"My daughter got interested in handcrafting braided rope bracelets and necklaces, especially with macramé lace techniques and decorate them with gemstones or silver beads from the Karen hill tribe which she admires. She started crafting them and I helped her by making the tools to make her knitting process more convenient as a base to hold the rope, and also help her to finish the product by removing excessive wax by using flame from candle. I think that her work is beautiful, neat and interesting so I brought it to present to you. Hope all of you like my daughter's work as well.
"Nowadays I spend some time working for our community. I am a village representative and join in meetings with the government, and I am also a village health volunteer responsible for coordinating with public health agencies to assist in the health care of the community.
"I hope that the bracelets and wood turning work will attract you, thank you very much.""