Kyle Tortora is the founder-owner of Oceanside, California's Lotus Sculpture, which specializes in stunning Hindu and Buddhist statuary--spiritual images that delight the artistic senses and refresh the soul.
Meryl Ann Butler: Thanks for visiting with OpEdNews, Kyle. How did you get inspired to start Lotus Sculpture?
Kyle Tortora: When I was young my favorite book was Herman Hesse's Siddhartha. I was always interested in Buddhism and and meditation.
When I was a freshman in college and in the pre-med program I wanted to do something interesting for the summer. Instead of cleaning swimming pools I decided to go to Thailand and go to a Theravada Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai and meditate. It changed my life! I fell in love with Thailand and its people.
I came home and changed my major to religion. After graduation I spent four years backpacking around Asia from China, India and all of South East Asia. On my first trip to India I was 25 and needed to think of a way to keep traveling and to support myself. I saw a Nataraja statue and it immediately hit me. I was going to find out where these statues were made I was going to buy them ship them home to sell on a website named Lotus Sculpture. And that was it! The Nataraja that I originally fell in love with is now the centerpiece of my living room!
MAB: What a great start! As I mentioned to you earlier, I own a stunning Sarasvati statue, which I love, and which forms the centerpiece to the foyer of my art school.
The author's Saraswati statue in the foyer of Ocean View Arts
(Image by Meryl Ann Butler) Details DMCA
And I don't think I have stopped collecting! I understand that you have developed some special relationships with your artisans, can you share a little bit about that? And how your relationships support each other?
KT: Over the years I have forged very special and deep bonds with my artisans. As Lotus Sculpture has grown so has each one of my artists. Every year I make it a point to go to Asia and visit with them to stengthen existing ties as well as to discover new artists in new areas of Asia.
My friend Balan and I have been together since the beginning. I remember the first time I met him in 2000 and he was a bachelor living in the abandoned local prison. His room was actually a holding cell. He had two marble artisans working with him. His statues were unique and each had his special style which he referred to a masala. Masala in Indian cooking means mix so he would mix aspects of Shiva with Vishnu and Ganesh and carve them in very different poses than was typical of South Indian sculpture. I loved his statues and I bought every one of his marble sculptures.
In every trip to India I now travel with Balan all over the country to meet new artists. He is the most knowledgable person I have ever met about contemporary Hindu sculpture and he is an invaluable resource to Lotus Sculpture. But more so than that he is like family to me. My Indian brother!
Now he is married with two little daughters and runs a full workshop of 30 artisans. In 2017 he finished a three year project on a Hindu temple in London! I am so happy and proud for him that he was able to grow so much from our humble beginnings together.
Varadaraj with a Nataraja statue I commissioned from him to make for Lotus Sculpture. He liked it so much he kept it in his house to do daily puja to Lord Shiva!
(Image by Lotus Sculpture) Details DMCA
MAB: I understand that you also employ women in your workshop in India -- which is unusual, right?
Our wood statuary is the only setting where you find women working along with men in the production of statues. In India, and mostly anywhere in Asia, statue making is typically dominated by men. Here women sand and paint wood statues.
(Image by Lotus Sculpture) Details DMCA
KT: Yes, our wood statuary is the only setting where you find women working along with men in the production of statues. In India, and mostly anywhere in Asia, statue making is typically dominated by men.
MAB: I love that! It seems like your "job" -- if one could even call it that, it seems more like spiritual calling--would be a perfect incubator for intriguing coincidences or events of spiritual significance"do you have any stories to share?
KT: I have been involved as both a participant and a curious onlooker in quite a few ceremonies where the energy in the environment was palpable...In my first visit to India in 1999 I visited the Nataraja temple in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu. I believe it was Shivratri to the temple was having a large puja in honor of Shiva. It was at night and the temple was bursting with devotees. Thousands of bells were ringing, smoke was billowing out of fires. It felt like a rock concert with devotees clamoring to get to the front to catch a glimpse of the bronze statue of Shiva inside the main temple. The atmosphere was electric! It was like nothing I had ever experienced in my life and it blew me away. The sounds, sights and smells I will always remember from that day.
MAB: Thanks for sharing your story with OpEdNews, today, Kyle!