With a long family history of goldsmiths from Mangal Bazaar in Patan, Sajan has spent his entire life in the artisans’ community. Born in 1980, he learnt his skills from his father and grandfather, which for his chosen path is ideal. That is not to say it was easy to follow in such footsteps. His father has some work in the MoNA collection. He is married to Rachana, who is as much an artist as he is, though quite retiring about her own talents. She likes landscapes, but also works on similar works to Sajan. They have two sons, who already have interests in the family traditions.
The tradition of working metals, including gold, is a centuries-old craft and one that allows a degree of individuality. Sajan began his career working with metals like copper, which, although beaten by hand with specialised hammers and tools, is not an easy medium. Too much hammering easily cracks it, requiring heating to resoften. It’s a dirty and sometimes dangerous profession, especially when gold plating (mixed with mercury) is added to the basic work. When painting as opposed to plating, gold powder is used, a much safer method but of course a different finish. Some statues and images can take 6–7 months of work. He recalls working all day sometimes, four hours painting and eight hours helping his father.
In addition to in-house training, which lasted three years, he learnt from Raj Kumar Sakya in the Aksheshwor Mahavihar of Patan, where many other artists have also honed their skills. He also learnt other skills from D B Lama and Yugratna Shakya. Eventually he reached a crossroads and had to decide whether to continue working with metals or to branch away into painting. Now he is learning painting from Uday Charan Shrestha.
He found a great compromise and ‘invented’ his own style and brand, combining the two skills. It mixes painting with embossed work, giving rise to a unique style and appearance. His paintings are extraordinary, both in detail and design. The added texture requires a delicate embossing process. No room for errors here! Poster colours used to be the medium, but modern acrylics are much more durable and give the superb strong colours that are the hallmark of his images. Canvas is not an ideal base, so a cotton synthetic type of base is required for some paintings.
He works mainly on commissions; some buyers familiar with his style come direct or through word of mouth. He does not have a studio as such, since most pieces are sold quite fast. Of course metalwork needs a workshop – a place that is full of life and colour, but very noisy and not at all comfortable.