5/2/2017: Day One at Au Lac
Updated: Jul 26, 2020
I walk into the dusty, light-pierced workshop - filled with wood sculptures waiting to be delivered to their individual destinations. It appears that the sculptors are scarcely phased by the 30 plus perfectly carved pieces that daily surround them - sculptures ranging from mythological figures to landscape scenes. I find myself dumbfounded, in the midst of the most incredible works of art I've seen in one space. Chung walks up to me and hands me a ten pound Buddha sculpture. It's about a foot tall, and eight inches wide. I take a moment to study it. A jolly fat man grins at me as he's holding, what appears to be, a necklace in his right hand and an amulet of sorts in his left. His body is draped in an oversized robe. Duy, the only english speaker of the 40 person staff, informs me that my first project will be to sculpt an exact replica of the piece in my hands.
I moved to Vietnam with the intention of learning how to be a better sculptor. I've been teaching myself for the last three years. Because of this, I've always felt aware that working and learning solo would be a difficult, inefficient path to improving my craft. I knew that I needed to expand my wood sculpting knowledge, craftsmanship, and overall designs. However, what I didn't know was what this expansion would look like - until the moment my new mentor handed me a Buddha.
In some selfish way, I anticipated that I'd immediately begin working on some of my own designs. Instead, I was going to be doing the opposite. I could never have imagined I'd be copying a piece, especially not one as traditional as a Buddha. How long is this going to take me? Is this piece going to inhibit me from creating every grand concept that I want to produce in the one year I have in Vietnam? What does it mean to make a Buddha as a Christian? As fast as my emotions began to stir, I felt them suddenly calmed by the words: Be teachable.
Time doesn't take precedent over growth and learning. Those "grand" concepts of mine aren't going to be anything without a matured, skillful hand. And, if I read it right, God is after my integrity, not just what is carved into a surface.