Every year at my studio and workshop we have a 'Tham Bun' ceremony when we bring monks to bless our factory and staff. This year it took place in early March. For me it is always a day of reflection on my experience building this small business and living in this special country.
Buddhist Monks chanting and blessing the Alexander Lamont employees.
During the afternoon of the day before, we stop work early and clean everywhere pouring buckets of water over the floors to take away the dust and generally spruce up the place. The next day begins with a food offering and incense burning at our spirit houses to appease the spirits that dwell on the land plot. Then there is a health check-up for everyone at the company. A fully staffed medical team turn up with X-ray buses, eye and hearing tests, screened body check areas and many nurses and doctors... its an impressive set-up that is performed smoothly and with lots of laughing from everyone about weight increases. It seems that everyone puts on weight at Lamont!
After this the monks sit in a line on a raised platform in the central workshop facing everyone for the actual blessing in the form of chanting in Pali, the liturgical language of Thai Buddhism. We sit on mats on the ground with our hands together facing the monks, our feet carefully tucked away behind us out of respect. The sound of the chanting is a rich rolling sound as the monks recite the Dhamma teachings. As I sit listening with all my colleagues about me I find myself dreaming in a timeless Thailand, away from the busy city and traffic. There is an austerity to the chanting and to the monk's life. I think about my children who pass Buddhist monks in our street every morning on their way to school, and of how I came here at their age and fell in love with Thailand. It is a reverie of spirit and contemplation and a moment of communion that is important to all my staff.
After this we give food to the monks. Khun Ann, our Office Manager, had chosen three restaurants to come and cater for the event, and once the monks had finished their last meal of the day, and showered us with blessed water, a feast began. Eating and merriment went on through the lazy afternoon until the sky began to darken and the open area before the workshop was filled with 'Tae Jiin' or Chinese tables for the evening party. I gave a speech that touched on the many changes that have taken place this year and reminded everyone that what we are doing within the workshops is unique in the world and unique in history. We were visited by some of the world's greatest designers last year, coming to see the place that has mastered so many rare or lost materials and methods.
After the speech we gave special awards to three staff who had been with me for ten years, and had a big lucky dip. Finally the band started up and raucous dancing and singing took over until the small hours. I left after midnight, legs aching with dancing, glowing with the pride and privilege of my responsibility in growing and securing this business. I have come a long way from the tiny village in Somerset where I grew up listening to the owl in the silent night opposite my bedroom window. The adventure and sense of discovery of my last fourteen years in Southeast Asia has been far beyond the hopes I had when I started the business. Days like this are important markers in thanking the gods and those around me who have made it all possible.
Spirit houses and offerings in our workshop courtyard.