Inspiring a whole new generation of artists

Late Raj Kumar Shakya was probably the world’s best repousse artist. Having met, known and worked with Raj Kumar for nearly three decades, his 54 years of short life can be read like a book on “what it takes to be a successful artist. To mark the 45th day of his passing, I have captured the key attributes of this great artist so that others may learn and strive to succeed. Raj Kumar was a very successful craftsman and success is contagious.

Raj Kumar was passionate and set big goals

When it came to any piece of art work, no matter what the size or scale, Raj Kumar knew he could do it. This made him a very confident person and there was no task that he said no to. He knew his own capacity and was always willing to take it to the next level. The colossal statue of Guru Padmasambhava that Raj Kumar built in Bhutan is not a small feat. The statue of liberty in New York would be the only famous statue that is comparable. Raj Kumar succeeded because he had the passion and he believed in himself. The time and effort it took to craft each of the masterpieces Raj Kumar has gifted to the world did not matter either, because he loved what he did. He was dedicated to promoting and preserving the repoussé art and all the skills and techniques that went with this. The most important lesson is that Raj Kumar was not afraid to set big goals.

He was rooted in the community and articulated well

When you undertake any major project, one realizes that human resource is your biggest variable. Countries like South Korea and Japan understood this and so did Raj Kumar. He was always on the lookout for skilled people like himself. He has taken them into his team and then trained them. He was also a person who trusted people and hence was able to expand his work into the larger community. He did this because he was deeply rooted in this community and was trusted and respected by the community in return. He spent a lot of time engaging the community through many events. He never said no to a chance to speak at these events. He could put his ideas very clearly and was always well prepared to engage the audience. Being an active member of the community and a good communicator made Raj Kumar a success.

Raj Kumar was a good teacher

Three decades ago Raj Kumar worried that there were so few families left that were still in the repousse tradition that it could disappear completely. In thirty years the art is well and alive and reaching all corners of the globe from Patan, thanks to Raj Kumar’s effort as a teacher. A whole new generation of successful artists in Patan have benefitted from the knowledge and skills that were presented to them by Raj Kumar. Young people who aspired to master the craft also got a chance to work with and for Raj Kumar where they could start from scratch, make mistakes correct them and become good at what they were crafting under the watchful eyes of the master. As more and more work was generated, more and more young people came back to their traditional work. With economic growth in Asia and greater understanding of Buddhism and its significance, the demand for these skills will grow.

Raj Kumar understood and applied science, technology and geometry to his work

The ability to open your mind to new and relevant information, new tools, and techniques and to constantly be learning is the key characteristics of a successful person. Raj Kumar adopted the computer; he always relied on applied science and was really good with practical geometry. He would always be telling young artists to learn science and be good with numbers and was always a role model who practiced what he taught. He could generate computer models of art and craft and add the perspective of the artists to these models to create masterpieces. He felt that art made without perfect mathematical proportions did not do well in the market.  This ability and dedication to combine the best of applied science and art is what made his creation do so well in the market. Once again size and scale demanded the use of science and technology.

Raj Kumar was a good businessman

History is full of great artists who had nothing in the form of wealth and a comfortable life.  Hundreds of years later their art work is being sold in the market for millions. Raj Kumar was a good businessman, he knew how to promote and market his products. The market loved the quality of his work and the transparent ways he did business. He had a large network of suppliers, shippers and skilled workers who he could mobilize. He was good at raising money for large work and he invested his earnings well. The good thing about the investments he made was that it allowed the business (On Metal) to really expand. Many artists and smaller businesses benefitted from On Metal’s expansion. Raj Kumar also was good at complying with regulation.

Honoring him by completing his dream project- the world’s tallest Bhairab mask

The demand for Raj Kumar’s time and skill was growing rapidly when he fell sick and passed away. Besides a number of larger orders, he was finishing a Buddha statue at Lumbini and undertaking restoration work at Mahabouddha. On top of all this we were working on his dream project, to put up the largest and tallest mask of the Bhairab at the southern edge of the Kathmandu valley in the Nepal Art Village (NAV). He was president of this company and leading this project that is now incomplete. If we want to honor the man, the artist and the success of late Raj Kumar Shakya, we must all come together and complete all his projects. His legacy must live on in the form of his work and the high standards he set will have to be followed by everyone.