Sculpting fate into favor

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At first sight, Tshewang Dorji, 49, from Ramjar gewog in Trashiyangtse district does not appear to have any extraordinary skills. He comes from a peasant family.

That is why it is pretty astonishing to note that this man is a Jinzop (sculptor) who has created countless figurines of various goddesses in the country as well as India and Nepal.

When he started out, he had no education in materials, techniques, or theory and also lacked formal schooling in sculpture. Today, he is well-versed in his profession and has been travelling within the country and without for sculpturing purposes.

Before venturing into the art, he spent 16 years in his village with his parents, helping them grow crops and herd the cattle.

However, he was determined to make something of his life and he traveled to Bumthang to learn the art of sculpture. He enrolled himself as a disciple under Lopen Omtong in Bumthang’s Kurjey Lhankhang in 1989 where he learned the skill for three years.

Then, he moved to Thimphu and worked with a handicrafts shop for another three years. After that, he again tutored under Lopen Karma in the capital to further hone his skills and technique.

Talking to Business Bhutan, Tshewang Dorji who is currently based in Nepal said that it was a learning experience to be in Thimphu. “I wanted to absorb as much of the skill as possible so that I could master the art.”

He worked in Bhutan for six years before leaving for Nepal. Sharing, how he landed in Nepal, he said some of his friends were already working in Nepal and they needed additional hands, so he was called and that is how he decided on moving.

Once in Nepal, he joined Lopen Singye and disciple under him.

“Before starting my own business, I learned under three Lopens for 12 years. From 2001, I started on my own. I have also employed Bhutanese men to work with me and depending on the size of the project, I employ people. But more than five to six Bhutanese are always working for me,” he said.

Sometimes, he employs more than 15 Bhutanese at a time but currently, due to the pandemic works have come to a halt and he has relieved his workers.

He has done most of his work in India as compared to Bhutan and Nepal. In India, he worked in Orissa, Bodhgaya, Ladhak and Arunachal Pradesh. Whenever he gets a project, he moves to the relevant site. Currently, he is in Nepal since he has got a contract to build a huge statue.

The payment is made based on the skill and experience of the sculptor while some payments are made based on the size of the statues. The prices vary from Nu 30,000 to Nu 200,000 depending on the size.

It has been more than 20 years since he has been working abroad. He is happily married and the couple has a daughter.

Tshewang Dorji comes from a family of seven siblings-some of them are in the village while others are in Thimphu.

Meanwhile, his parents live in Thimphu.

Chencho Dema from Thimphu

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