Thursday, June 24, 2010

root bowls

this is no ordinary bowl... no ordinary wood either. i had never heard of root bowls until i received this one as a gift. i thought it was really unusual. here is its story.

this is the inside. i was really intrigued since you can see the rings of the tree. i found that the bowls are made from the shan mu tree, native to central china. they've been used for furniture and construction for over 5,000 years. in keeping with asian tradition, the entire tree is used including the stump and root hence the making of the root bowl. isn't that cool? and very earth friendly, too.

the stump and the root typically remain in the ground for a year to cure before they are carved into bowls and plates. knots, holes and cracks are left. usually, the roots of the shan mu are free for anyone who wants to dig them up. however, the loggers in the forests tend to bring the roots into the carving villages so various companies can bid on them and the process of making the bowls, plates and such then begins.

those who spend their time cleaning, processing and carving use a variety of steps to achieve a finely polished product.

after power washing, the carver saws off specific sized pieces to begin working on with his tools. a chain saw is utilized for rough carving then hand shaping is done with chisels until the shan mu is in its final shape. it is then dried in a steam chamber and finally coated with a fine spraying of shellac. it then looks like this...

ready to be shipped for the giving as a gift or to be kept by oneself. it is amazing to me the process that these roots undergo and that the bowls are considered literally works of art. as i did this research, i found that as such these bowls are on display in the chicago museum of art. can you believe that? i guess if the trees are thousands of years old, such time is taken to form the root into the bowl as a work of art is, it makes sense. when you see them in person, they are quite remarkable. much more so than a picture does them justice.

happy day.....

No comments: