The Watch Repairers of Luang Prabang

A treasure trove on the ground

In Melbourne I take my watch for repair to a jewellery shop. In Luang Prabang, however, watch repairers work in small kiosks on the street across from the Dara Market. What fertile ground this was for a found object assemblage artist.

As the watch repairers downsized watchbands for Lao people, they tossed the links on the street. When the kiosks closed for the day, I would walk by and carefully scan the pavement, gutter and parking area nearby looking for these tiny treasures.

Missing links

These ‘missing links’ became the common theme across several of my miniature wall sculptures. One of my sister’s friends suggested the name for my first watchband work. I thought the name was so clever, however, that I kept using it.

After making the first ‘mini-mountain’, I started transforming the watchbands into cityscapes. The ‘sun’ shining down on the cities was sometimes a watch part as well.

What else can you do with a watchband?

Then the watchbands started morphing into more and more different things – mazes, pretty maids and flags. They even became nagas, the serpents that protect the Buddha.

Since I’ve been back in Melbourne, I’ve only found two bits of watchband, neither very nice. I have no idea where either of them came from or how they got in the gutter where I found them.

As you can probably tell, I sorely miss the watch repairers of Luang Prabang and the treasure trove they created for me without even realising it.