Nopradol Khamlae is a seasoned woodcarver living in northern Thailand and trained in the local “Lanna” carving tradition, arguably amongst the world’s most intricate and spectacular styles.

Nopradol has been carving in the Lanna style for over 35 years, the skills having been passed down in his family. The tradition owes much to carver monks producing devotional works for Buddhist temples. A stunning example, Wat Bupparam, in the center of Chiangmai has doors and window shutters of thick polished teak relief carved with scenes from Buddhist scripture,
much of it epic in scale and detail. The abundant, fertile nature of the Thai countryside is background to the work, especially the succulent and sacred Bhodi Tree under which Buddha is said to have gained enlightenment.

I had a chance to take one of his three-day workshops, geared toward students with some experience in art or with tools. During the course, Nopradol’s hands were never still and his focus was absolute.

The hill country around the city of Chiangmai in northern Thailand was once the King- dom of Lanna. It was rich in teak, one of the world’s great durable timbers: once used for ocean-going sailing ships, teak can also be carved into details the thickness of a leaf.

With this legacy, the region evolved into a woodworking culture and became the workbench of the nation.


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