Behind the scenes of handmade jewellery from Nepal & a story of one jeweller's Grandfather.
During my stay in Kathmandu in August 2017 I had a rare opportunity to be introduced to 4 Nepali master jewellers, each working in their own unique way and producing jewellery of outstanding quality.
My host was Sushanta Das, who is originally from Dunedin but has lived in Kathmandu for many years.
Sushanta who himself is a jeweller, designer and gemstone merchant introduced me to these jewellers and told me a story about one of their grandfathers:
This grandfather who was a master jeweller would travel on foot from town to town carrying with him his tools of his trade and call on places where he would offer his services to his clients.
Known for his ability and skill he would also be called to the king’s palace in Nepal and the king would order particular pieces.
He would be given a room to work from and the gold or silver he required for the job.
For days he would work on the pieces that the king had ordered and he would not be allowed to leave the room until the pieces were all finished.
Once the king was satisfied the jeweller would be searched to make sure he didn’t take any of the gold and silver with him. On his departure he would receive a poor wage for a brilliant job.
The thought of a story like this, even though it may sound to us somewhat romantic certainly also gives us feelings of disgust about the injustice. Yet many stores in our western world sell items that may have been created by people in poor circumstances that produce brilliant items but get paid appalling wages.
The handcrafted silver jewellery from Nepal in Artma Spiritual Gallery may therefore seem relatively dear. Our western psyche does not expect this from Nepal as we still have a mind-set that jewellery from this country will be cheap.
But none of the silverwork from these artists is mass-produced.
All the work, including the filigree work and any other fine decorations are done by hand, the stones used are of a high grade gem quality, the settings are sound and there is more pure silver in this jewellery then in the commonly used 925 Sterling Silver.
The grandson of the jeweller who worked for the king in Nepal still uses traditional tools. While his son for instance uses a modern gas-torch to melt the silver.
Both of them tediously worked on silver pieces while I watched and photographed them in their workshop.
They had to rent this workshop after the devastating earthquake in April 2015 destroyed part of their home.
Their home was a 5 minute stroll down a little lane and when they showed me around I got a good impression of the difficulties people in Kathmandu still struggle with on a daily basis.
Their ‘lounge’ measured about 3x4meters and had 4 beds in it, leaving less then 1 square meter of space between the beds. A separate but smaller ‘room’ from corrugated iron was built next to it and contained the bathroom and kitchen.
There were children, parents and their parents who all lived here, together 16 of them! The youngest child was seen as a tremendous blessing and a healing for the loss of one of their children who died in the earthquake.
A big part of the house had been destroyed and the jewellery business was still very much affected by the aftermath of the earthquake.
I look forward to a future in which we treat and share with each other equally and I feel inspired by the work of my friend Sushanta Das and his Nepali wife Shanta whom tirelessly give time, energy and money to help those in need.
Artma's trip to Nepal visiting a project that Artma Spiritual Gallery supports.
The traveler returns from a five week trip which is really not such a long time, yet the intensity of the differences makes it feel a lot longer and thus returning to New Zealand becomes quite an experience in itself.
Even though Nepal through it’s mountains, Sir Edmund Hillary and the earthquakes may appear to have a lot in common with New Zealand, culturally they are so vastly different.
Prayers, ceremonies, temples, colors, monkeys, sacred cows, beggars, lush forests, rich green rice paddies, pollution and lacking traffic rules make for an exotic dance through this country who’s physical dimensions are surprisingly similar to New Zealand’s South Island.
My friends Sushanta & Shanta’ sober lifestyle allows them to support a lot of poor people, orphans and more recently also drug addicts and alcoholics.
They took me on a three hour 4wheel drive to one of their charity projects: a newly built school which is an earthquake proof, reinforced rammed earth building. With walls of one foot thick and well insulating bamboo ceilings.
This entire school building is a donation to this community from the rammed earth company with which Sushanta is involved. All the door and window frames were paid for by donations that we have collected through Artma Spiritual Gallery!
Children walk up to 45 minutes daily to now follow classes in comfortable classrooms that stay warm in winter and cool during the summer.
Even though it was a challenge to get to this remote site (we had to climb the last few hundred meters on foot), seeing the efforts and results of this project was wonderfully reassuring.
Teaching children is creating future and especially for girls in Nepal this is still a luxury rather than a norm.
So once more I like to thank all these who make donations to the Nepali Orphan Fund.
For those who didn’t know yet, we have a donation box in the gallery and the money that is generated through this is all being used in Nepal and for those in need in Nepal.
For this purpose we also accept donations in the form of books with a spiritual or self-development subject. Again we sell these books and that money is also being donated to the Nepali Orphan Fund.
It’s always good to see you, so when you’re in Timaru please call in at Artma Spiritual Gallery!