Curiosity and a sense of intrigue wash over me as I sit across Rolf von Bueren and his son Nicklas in their peaceful abode in Bangkok,Thailand, which could’ve been easily mistaken for Bali, Indonesia. It seemed as though I would need a good two days, at the very least, to admire every nook and corner in their house that is adorned with captivating artefacts.
Celebrating a four-decade-long legacy bound by Asian culture and mythology, Lotus Arts de Vivre is the creation of Germany-born Rolf von Bueren and his better half, Helen von Bueren. Lotus is known for its bold and modern yet one-of-a-kind intricate designs made using rare and opulent natural materials. Of course, the materials are met with unparalleled crafting techniques to produce truly marvellous hand-crafted pieces. Lotus began as a passion project by Helen von Bueren when both her sons left home for further studies. It was grown by Rolf von Bueren as a tangible manifestation of his undying love and passion for preserving cultural heritage. Currently, though, the reins of the business are in the hands of their sons, Sri and Nicklas.
Rolf von Bueren’s vast knowledge and the love with which he speaks of his present home made it difficult for me to believe his confession; that he completely misunderstood the rich cultural heritage back when he moved to Thailand in the early 1960s. At first, his European background compelled him to view Thai art and culture as gaudy. But as destiny would have it, it didn’t take him long to fall so much in love with that very culture that he now has a space dedicated to narrating exotic stories of Asia through unique art pieces. A self-proclaimed old-school romantic, Rolf von Bueren has a natural flair for narrating his global explorations. As intrigued and captivated as I am with his stories, I wonder how the man, with his old-school ways of working, has managed to preserve cultural heritage in the fast-paced present age. “Globalisation has a lot of positive points, but if we all start believing that a hamburger and a t-shirt is our identity, then I think that is a very poor identity,” he shrugs. We are all different. We speak different languages, we have different cultures, and we express our identities through different aspects like our clothes, our music, and our religious ceremonies, and these are the very things that make us different. It makes us who we are. I do feel that globalisation is great, but there has to be a line where you protect your own identity. That is where being proud of your identity and preserving your culture comes in the picture.”
The von Bueren family has travelled the world no only to discover raw materials but also to meet and build a community of highly trained craftsmen skilled in traditional techniques. What drove their love for the exploration of ancient cultures was the rapid speed at which cultural heritage is disappearing today. It made them realise how important it is to preserve local crafts and techniques to create their pieces. The philosophy at Lotus Arts de Vivre is not to convert nature to art but to find art through nature. Natural elements that would otherwise be burnt or disposed of are reclaimed and converted into masterpieces of art. These artefacts are then decorated with sterling silver and semi-precious gemstones.
Discussing the future of Lotus with me, Rolf von Bueren says, “The aim is to keep doing something different and unique. The design identity should be strong enough for you to see a piece and identify it as a Lotus product without seeing the tag. Our pieces are so unique and culturally driven that people often tell us that these pieces will be in museums one day!” For a man who carries so much knowledge in his pockets, I wonder if there was anything about his journey that he wishes he would have done differently. He smiles before responding, that there isn’t much like that, but if he had to pick one thing, then it would have to be about being more commercial. After a brief pause, he adds, “Then again, when you are more commercial, there is somewhere else that you lack… I am quite happy with what I have done and managed to achieve.”
I leave the place musing about India’s immensely rich art and culture. It is such an integral part of our individuality, and yet we choose to be lackadaisical when it comes to its preservation and protection. How wonderful would it be to treat art as an impactful element of every walk of life.
Visit them at their Colaba Store: Regal Cinema, Shop No.3, Suleman Chamber Housing Society, Battery St, opp. Gorden, Colaba, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001.
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