Lao woodcarving has been practiced for many centuries by the Buddhist monks of Laos. Initially, it was an art form exclusively practiced by monks for adorning Buddhist temples. Today, it has become one of the most popular art forms in Laos, as evidenced by the various designs in modern buildings, houses, government offices, furniture, cooking ware, and decorative accessories. Lao woodcarving is an intricate art which requires a lot of time, patience, and skill to perform.
Panh Mounvongkham has been woodcarving since 1968, initially learning from a Buddhist monk at the temple in his home village in Laos, and later completing a formal training course in school. Of his experience with woodcarving, Panh says, “Lao woodcarving has been a very important part of my life. It has taught me a lot of patience, and being able to perform an art form that only few people have the skill to do has given me something to be proud of. As important, this art form has given me the opportunity to make extra income to support my family, especially during the time when we were refugees in Thailand.”
In 2009, Panh participated in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program with his son and apprentice, Bounpon Mounvongkham. Their apprenticeship focused on reviewing the basic skills needed in Lao woodcarving, including choosing the proper type of wood, preparing the wood for carving, using various woodcarving tools, and most importantly, designing and completing a piece of moderately difficult design.