Lotus Arts de Vivre: One-of-a-kind objects d’art
This Bangkok-born jewelry and home decorations firm Lotus Arts de Vivre refuses to wilt in the face of a global pandemic or stray from its mission to protect Asian heritage.
Few symbols are as distinctly Asian as the lotus blossom. Revered in Buddhism as a symbol of purity, the lotus is a garden-variety offering at temples. In the Thai language, however, multiple references to the flower reveal a multitude of meanings, from a symbol of nature to a metaphor for different classes of society and even a nickname for girls.
Drawing on myriad Asian influences from legends and folktales for their opulent creations, Lotus Arts de Vivre has fittingly appropriated the famous flower into its name. The firm’s designers also use the continent’s rich and vibrant materials and techniques to striking effect. From Indonesia they source woodwork. From Thailand the designers get nielloware. From China comes cinnabar lacquer.
“Ebony Dragon Bowl with Old Chinese Mystique” which took four months to complete, shows Lao Tzu, the mystic, poet and founding father of Taoism.
Nowhere is the designer’s confluence of influences and materials more readily apparent than in their Masterpieces Collection of Home Decorations, which they release twice every year. Among the newer items, lo and behold, is an “Ebony Dragon Bowl with Old Chinese Mystique”. This masterpiece took 11 craftsmen some four months to complete, and the affection for details is astounding. Made from a single piece of ebony, one of the most famous and famously durable hardwoods, the work shows Lao Tzu, the mystic, poet and founding father of Taoism. The design also incorporates that other age-old symbol of Asia: the dragon.
Some of the other pieces bear uniquely Japanese stamps. Cases in points are the “Lucky Toad Bucket with a Coin” and the “Wooden Lucky Toad Sculpture/Table”. Both artworks riff on the spirit known as Jin Chan (“Money Frog”), which is a creature from folklore said to appear close to houses or businesses that are about to receive a windfall.
Are these objets d’art one of a kind? “Most of the jewelry,” says Nicki von Bueren, the CEO of Lotus Arts de Vivre, “are single pieces. In the home section, 60 percent are one-off.”
The exclusivity of these pieces adds to their allure, but so does the fact that each of these functional artworks has a story to tell. The “Japanese Bonsai,” for example, contains a millennium of Zen Buddhist references, allusions to the cultivation of ornamental gardens in Japan and metaphorical leaves from its school of traditional poetry. To bring this majestic piece to life, which combines rustic wood and sterling silver, took seven artisans some three months.
At a crucial juncture in history, when the world has been knocked off its axis by a pandemic of global proportions, we had to ask the CEO how their business has been impacted and how the company’s future is shaping up.
“Yes, COVID-19 has severely impacted retail businesses worldwide, including ours, but we have always focused on direct sales and building close relationships with clients, which helps somewhat. This will still be our main approach in the future though we will also focus more online,” he said.
Under its “Masterpiece Series of Events”, the company will continue to roll out exhibitions this year as well. In store for aficionados of exorbitant artistry are exhibitions of Vintage Cartier timepieces, Padma Hens from New Delhi and an Obi Master from Kyoto, said the CEO.
Don’t let all that glitz blind you to Lotus’s mission statement: preserving all this priceless heritage which may not be as timeless as connoisseurs hope. Across Asia, the push to modernize and digitize the world is rendering older art forms obsolete and artisans underemployed with few members of the younger generation willing to carry on these noble traditions when it’s become much hipper to design apps, software and mobile games.
Founded in 1982, with offices and retail stores across Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and more far-flung places like Russia and New York, Lotus is uniquely placed to help these arts and crafts survive. Nicki von Bueren believes that such consummate craftmanship is in no danger of dying out any time soon.
“I think there’s a good future for artisanal designs as long as we educate the next generation,” said the CEO. “I feel more people are after less mass-produced pieces as this makes them feel special.”