留住木艺之美 / 2015.12.04 
地点:广州 番禺 
人物:曹师傅 刘嘉淇 吴婷婷 





The carpenter working for Bentu is master Cao from a carpenter’s workshop nearby the factory.


It is more like a small brick house than a workshop; only master Cao works there. Sometimes his wife came to help when it’s too busy for him to handle alone.



With his 20 years carpentry experiences, master Cao has witnessed the descending of hand-made woodwork from its last prosperity to decay. From the time when he worked as an engineering apprentice in state-owned organizations to the time when he worked for private companies and then by himself, there are not many left as carpenters from those who were apprentices with him, he said.



Even though Master Cao persists on managing this small workshop until now, but he has no big ambition. According to him, he will have to have apprentices if he ever wants  to expend the business, but most of the youngsters nowadays have high aims but less abilities, they want a lot but dose not work up to the mark, he would rather to do it by  himself. Woodwork is a fine craft, no matter how noisy the outside world becomes, a carpenter must keep his inner-peace with no rashness; the slightest error will fail the  final product. A carpenter can produce good woodworks because he is handing out a craftsman’s character. Therefore master Cao would rather keep the workshop small in  the hope of guaranteeing that every product from his workshop is a great piece.



Master Cao makes all range of practical products from small compass and knife to bigger mallet by himself. Not only are the quantities of the products to be wondered but  also the genuine thought is amazing.


But the thought of passing on the craftsmanship is always in his mind, “the problem is that nowadays nobody would like to learn this. First you need to get familiar with the  blueprint and basic knowledge of woodwork, on top of that you also need to learn construction techniques… one must integrate knowledge from many prospects, it’s difficult  to grasp the skills in short time. But it’s quiet impossible to ask today’s youngsters to learn 3 to 5 years with just slender apprentice allowance, therefore many industries are  facing the crisis of shortage of talents. ”



It seems like small carpentry workshops like master cao’s are everywhere in China, they are mostly small-scaled and not efficient so that they dare not to accept big orders but do not get enough small orders as well, they live in a narrow space between mechanized big factories and the heavy taxation from the government. There are not  many workshops that can still make a living like master Cao dose, more workshops can not make ends meet and are on the verge of bankruptcy.




Woodwork as an ancient business which has penetrated into the entire human culture leaves its tracks all over our daily lives, for example the tenon and planer drill; woodwork was there since the beginning of human activities and the glory generated by woodwork skills has come across the course of history to shine in modern days.



But master cao sighed: “It is not easy to be innovative in this traditional carpentry business ” Indeed, woodwork consumes time, has low efficient and requires huge input; it is  really difficult to find a innovative way of development to survive in this more and more mechanized and efficiency–oriented industry, but Bentu has been trying to explore  new models. Just like master cao had said: “I’ll follow your steps from now on.” When traditional carpentry meets modern design, what kind of spark will they create? Could it  open up a new prospect for the traditional woodwork?



Our society has become increasingly utilitarian, may it be individual, group or enterprise, as a composing element of this society, we take it for granted to enjoy the resources  without doing our duty to the society and the environmentCarpentry which made great contribution to  human culture has unique originality and artistic quality. Not only for  the sake of the past, but also for the beauty of carpentry, when this culture is in decay, we have responsibilities to reach out a helping hand and make every effort to save this  traditional craftsmanship!



Lay down the utility but think and live up to the ideas, this is also what we’ve been always insisting on.