One of the highlights of our stay in Bagan (Burma) was our visit to the Jasmine Family lacquerware workshop. We knew that lacquerware was a specialty of the region and a friend had recommended that we visit the Jasmine Family in particular. After walking past some of the more popular (and touristy) workshops, we ended up in a little side street and found the big blue sign indicating that we were in the right place.
As soon as we walked in, we saw two young ladies delicately engraving some lacquered boxes and bowls. Someone quickly came to greet us and was happy to explain how the family makes its lacquered products. The owner’s son sat us down and went through every step of the process, from using bamboo to create the shapes to applying a different layer of lacquer for every colour in your design.
It was amazing to see how much work goes into each creation – you would never think that it takes so many people so many hours to make high quality lacquerware! Each little soya sauce bowl actually needs many layers of lacquer to make it strong and durable, and a few more to give it some colour. One master engraver creates the designs, while a few ladies engrave all the details on the Jasmine Family creations.
After spending at least forty minutes learning about all the steps in the lacquerware process, we were convinced and just had to buy a couple of souvenirs. We went for a little bowl and a plate with beautiful designs with flowers and birds. As we were about to leave, the owner of the shop gave us a little bowl. He then gave it to the master engraver who engraved the Jasmine Family’s “logo” on it, right in front of us.
We left the workshop feeling that we had learned a lot, and that we had spent our money with people who really deserve it. I definitely recommend stopping by the Jasmine Family workshop if you ever are in Bagan!
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