Carving a future with bamboo
Shrouded in a blanket of bamboo forests, Chishui in Southwestern China’s Guizhou province is a delight to witness. Over the many years this region has developed its bamboo sector rapidly with the support of the government, the Forest Bureau and other relevant authorities. Promoting all aspects of sustainable development, Chishui hosts a range of enterprises that focus on utilising bamboo to create a diverse collection of products. Bamboo here is not only supporting environmental action through carbon sequestration and soil erosion prevention; it is also being used to create a number of products including flooring, handicrafts and furniture. Handicraft units are among the various enterprises that use bamboo to create products in Chishui. There is a great demand for decorative items – based on estimation, 20 million RMB of tourist souvenirs are sold in Chishui each year. An incredible bamboo workshop located in the middle of the town excels in creating a masterpiece with hand carved bamboo.
Founded and run by Mrs. Lu Huaying over two decades ago this workshop combines talent, patience and creativity to bring to life amazing works of art. Mrs. Lu Huaying is a well-known artist who was trained by a master craftsman renowned in China for his finesse in art. Over the years she has honed this skill to create works that inspire. Using different parts of the bamboo she forges diverse forms of delicate creations. For instance, the bamboo culm can be carved delicately to create almost painting like display and sells at almost 20,000 RMB per piece. The bamboo workshop also hand carves bamboo rhizomes to create magnificent artwork. This takes time and requires years of dedicated training. As such, the bamboo workshop does not mass produce and only focuses on producing items if an order has been placed. The workshop has a number of orders to work on and the annual value of production is almost 5 million RMB.
Apart from creating delicate pieces of art, this bamboo workshop does something truly unique. Mrs. Lu Huaying has made it her personal endeavor to add value to the society and through her skills contribute to the Chinese economy.
She has over the past two decades trained an approximate 2000 people in the art of bamboo carving. Out of the numerous people she has trained almost 200 of them have set up their own bamboo carving units. As a part of the training program the bamboo workshop provides apprentices with a subsidy of 1000 RMB per month at first, which is then increased to 2000-3000 RMB after three to six months of training. Skilled workers can make almost 6000-7000 RMB per month. On being asked about this endeavor Mrs. Lu Huaying commented, “Making a truly impressive artwork requires training, time and patience. However, learning this skillset offers the opportunity [to create] a stable means of livelihood. I am interested in adding value to society and do sincerely hope the government and organisations can offer support in taking the training program further.”
Offering to support the economy with training for bamboo carving has added an extra dimension to the potential of this remarkable plant. If given adequate support the programme run by Mrs. Lu Huaying could be escalated and thus impact an even larger section of the society in Guizhou province.