Myanmar Arts and Crafts

Objects are created from gold, silver and iron; bronze, brass and copper casting; relief work in stucco; turnery; drawing and painting; lacquer ware; sculpting in stone or marble and lapidary work. Traditional skills are preserved within artisans families and transferred from generation to generation to keep the expertise in handicraft. Carved wooden figures found in stupas, pagodas and shrines of the Bagan period, 1057-1287, suggest Myanmar carvers raised the standards of the woodcarving skills introduced from India in the 9th and 10th Century.

 

Traditional designs

include the kanoke pan depicting intricate lotus buds, blossoms and stems; scrollwork with a floral arabesque; chu or stylized figures resembling lions with  flowing manes; keinnaya and keinnayi, mythical male and female birds with human heads and torso; beloo or ogre; and galon or garuda, the mythical king of birds.

Carved wooden figures and bas-relief works are usually found on the covered stairways or zaungdans of pagodas,  in monasteries, in highly embellished teak panels and in many religious buildings and residences.

Even household furniture, fixtures and utensils are decorated with wood carvings.

 

Traditional arts & handicraft skills

are carefully preserved in families and passed down from generation to generation. Most of the artisans are simultaneously at home and at work in their residence. Further info  more at e-books. This group of smiling artisans is simultaneously at home and at work in their residence located close to the Shwedagon pagoda.

Myanmar traditional arts

Traditional at Inya Lake Hotel Yangon

Antiques Shop Chatrium Hotel Yangon

Antiques Shop
Chatrium Hotel Yangon

Myanmar Antiques Shop Chatrium Hotel Yangon

Antique Burmese Painting

Antique Burmese Painting

Myanmar Gem Painting

Myanmar Gem Painting

Myanmar Market Oil Painting

Modern arts and crafts exhibition

 

Today there is a tremendous diversity in the subjects that are carved. There are Buddha images, altars and other religious figures, nats or spirits; elephant, oxen, buffalo, tiger, bullock cart and peacocks as souvenirs for tourists; chinthes and other objects of Myanmar legends. Orders can be placed for almost any model, at very reasonable prices.

Wood is cheaper – in Myanmar- and softer than other materials but can be difficult to handle. Carvers carefully select wood with the right degree of hardness, grain and hue for each object. Myanmar carvers prefer to work with rosewood, ironwood, teak, tamalan (Dalbergia oliveri), hpaw (Adina cordifolia) and yamanay (Gmelina arborea).

 

Woodcarvings

Decorative Woodcarving

Decorative Woodcarvings

Decorative Myanmar Woodcarving

Woodcarving Arts and Crafts

Sandalwood Carving

Sandalwood Carving

Sandal Buddha Woodcarving

Sandalwood Carving Buddha

Myanmar Woodcarving

At Bogyoke Market

Woodcarvings at Shweinbium Monastery Mandalay

Woodcarvings at Shweinbium Monastery Mandalay

Teak wood carvings at a Mandalay Monastery

Monastery at Mandalay with rich teak wood carvings

 

Myanmar Arts and Crafts

Woodcarvings at buildings, often monasteries, and larger objects usually are commissioned work,  long discussions are held for the right design, after its carefully drawn on paper by the master craftsman who has at least ten years’ experience.

The tracing of the design on wood from the drawings is done by younger apprentices with less than about 3 years’ experience. They lightly sketched in the major outlines with charcoal, which were then checked by the master craftsman. Mistakes are covered with white chalk and redrawn in black, when necessary.

For particularly intricate details, the paper design is cut out and pasted on to the wood a template. The main outlines were hewn out with an axe, saw, and chisel and then passed over to carvers with at least around 7 years’ experience to do the basic carving. Carvers use a variety of awls, chisels, and gouges of different sizes to cut, chip, and hollow the wood into the desired shape.

Chisels are deftly powered by mallets of tamarind wood of different weights to vary the pressure, depending on the type of carving being done. The finishing was left to apprentices with around 2 years’ experience. All stages of production were closely supervised by the master craftsman, who was not averse taking up a chisel himself to animate a face with a few quick strokes or to pare away a sprig of foliage in the interests of balance to a design. Apprentices were always respectfully attentive to their hsaya (teacher), the master craftsman kept a fatherly eye on his young assistants.

Myanmar wood-carving has been widely praised for its freedom, spontaneity, and superb spatial arrangement. Traditionally, the best work was reserved for palaces and monasteries, with teak the major medium for architectural embellishment. Yamane (Gmelina arborea), a hard wood from Mogaung, was also popular for carving. Being coarse-grained,a fine, detailed finish was not possible with these two woods. Instead, on architectural work, which had to be solid to withstand the abrasive effects of searing sun alternating with heavy rain, the carver concentrated on achieving a boldness and liveliness of form, along with a balance of sweeping curves and dark shadows to catch the eye of the viewer below, more.

Here are not many way’s one can earn good money for their livelihood, one of the exceptions is creativity with the focus on useful artwork. Typical creative work related to this are all kind of Buddha statues, figurines and sculptures made from various materials such as marble, bronze, brass, wood carving, jade, stone and other materials.

For creative arts and crafts it needs some artistic ability but not very much since the task to create an object is usually divided into several steps, often only the master artist do the sketching and apply this to the material the object is made from.

Creative work skills usually are passed within a bigger family from generation to generation. That means a person can really grow with the time and can earn a good livelihood. Since more and more people have extra money to spend for decorating their house, temples, or just for a simple donation there is brisk business.

One of the creativity hotspot is Mandalay, in the quarter just behind the Mahamuni Temple.

People come from all corners of the country to commission new marble, wood, stone, brass and bronze  Buddha’s to be placed at various shrines as donations, and there is also a substantial international business in particular with China, Korea and Japan.

 

lacquer fruit plate round

Myanmar lacquer fruit plate round from Bagan

lacquer pot

Lacquer bowl made in Bagan has similar properties as plastic but is natural.

Myanmar Lacquer

is somehow a crossover between art and everyday use items. It is the top cottage industry in Myanmar these items used in households are a combination of porcelain, glass and plastic. This technique probably came in directly or indirectly from China as so many other things and processes over the last few thousand years.

There are some indications from Manshu texts, one was.. in the Pyu kingdom, there were over a hundred Buddhist monasteries with courts and rooms all decked with gold and silver, coated with cinnabar and bright colors, smeared with kino and covered with embroidered rugs… There is no specific mention of lacquer, but it indicates the use of tree gums and resins.

At Bagan today is the biggest cottage industry in lacquer production and there are some indication that here it all starts during the heydays of Bagan in the 15th. Century. At an exhibition at Yangon in 1918 a teak box from 1284 painted with lacquer was shown the item was found near the Mingalazedi pagoda and got lost during the Second World War.

Lacquer art ware is a local version of today’s plastic, it has similar properties und is used in the same way, the difference is, it’s natural. Using this technique for decorative arts started in the Ava period. There are references during this period to lacquer artisans as prisoners of war, more.

myanmar arts and crafts lacquer vase old style

myanmar arts and crafts lacquer plate with rectangle pattern

Black plate with rectangle gold pattern

myanmar arts and crafts lacquer table and plate

Table and plate with flowers and geometric pattern

myanmar arts and crafts lacquer plate round

Brown plate round

myanmar arts and crafts lacquer plate

Plate on a painted and gilded table

lacquer elephant

Lacquer elephant with gold plating on top

myanmar arts and crafts lacquer vase

Dark red vase