Lotus Arts de Vivre chronicles its history in the Unexpected Creations book

Pages of wonder

Unexpected Creations, the coffee table book that celebrates the magnificent oeuvre of Thai jewellery house Lotus Arts de Vivre, contains many arresting images. Perhaps the most arresting of all is one of a crocodile emerging silently from a lush lotus pond, watched warily by a heron. The heron, in this case, is a polished bole of wood given legs and a beak of silver, while the sinuous reptile is actually three separate pieces of handcrafted sterling silver combining into a crocodilian.

From towering eagles, intricate jewellery to ornate depictions of mythological figures, the book – authored by Victoria Gomelsky, photographed by Yuriko Takagi, published by specialists Assouline (Price: RM888) – lovingly chronicles Lotus Arts de Vivre’s knack for seamlessly melding jewellery with organic materials into extravagant designs. Most of all, it speaks of the unfathomable creativity that springs from the mind of Rolf von Bueren, the man who started it all.

“It begins with the material,” says the august Mr von Bueren. “The material influences the design. When I see something – it could be a perfectly preserved ammonite or a gnarled root of the teak tree, I know exactly what I want to do with it.” And what that something is is high quality distinctive pieces that combine as many natural materials possible into a design. The roots of this design philosophy stretch back to the youth of Mr von Bueren, when he and his wife Helen travelled the globe and were inspired by the natural formations small and large they encountered.

He still remembers the first piece he created, a small piece of jewellery. And while the von Buerens have gone on to create biggest, grander objet d’art in an evolving styles, the underlying idea has not changed. “What makes us different is that our designs are non-commercial,” he says. “We started by creating designs that pleased ourselves, and somehow found along the way that other people liked them too. It turned into a success by itself. We intend to continue that.”

Unexpected Creations records that entire journey. Prefaced by an introduction detailing the history of the von Bueren family and the Lotus Arts de Vivre brand (with a rich trove of archival photographs), the book then launches into a celebration of objects that, in many cases, belong in museums. Photographer Takagi places the objects in simulated natural environments – the crocodile in the lotus pond, an emerald snake coiling around a branch-like arm – in a style that is beguiling. Over 10,000 pieces made it into the book, some shipped from private collectors all over the world to Bangkok in a creative process that took four years to complete. “We couldn’t recover some significant pieces,” says Mr von Bueren, before perking up slightly to add, “but we got most of it!”

A tome like this might seemingly closes a chapter, but Mr von Bueren has no intention of stopping. “I’m still designing,” he confesses proudly. “My sons help me out; Sri handles production, quality control and occasionally helps with design while Nicki does marketing, but I still do almost all the designs.” Is there room in Lotus Arts de Vivre for a third generation of von Buerens? “I would love to see my grandchildren join the company – the oldest one has just gone to university – but it is up to them. We are not pushing them.”

Meanwhile, there is work to do. Mr von Bueren is particularly excited about merging technology with Asian craftsmanship. “A lot of innovations in the world come from the East. The West contributed technology. That can make our designs better. For example, India has fantastic jewellery, but the locks are very poor. Western technology like multi locks can improve that. I am right now working on a golden handbag with a removable clasp. That clasp, with an emerald, can be removed to become a brooch, or split further into two brooches. This is only possible with technology – to add utility to a museum-quality piece.” And material for Unexpected Creations Volume II.

Lotus Arts de Vivre

Sign up for our Newsletters

Stay up to date with our latest series