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Calusa wood carving show to feature Vietnamese artist

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Published:   |   Updated: February 26, 2014 at 10:05 AM

HUDSON — An award winning, world-class wood carver and professional artist who came to the United States from his native Vietnam, will showcase his creations as the feature carver for Calusa Wood Carver's 33rd Annual Show and Sale.

The event will take place Saturday and Sunday at Veterans Memorial Park, 14330 Hicks Road.

Chau Pham, who won a scholarship to the Atlanta College of Art after a perilous boat escape from Vietnam, is an accomplished customized cabinet and furniture maker and building subcontractor from Winter Park, where he lives with wife Sachiko and daughters Serena and Erika.

Pham learned wood carving as a young Buddhist monk protege at a temple in Vietnam. He strove to be an artist, so he left the temple and attended Gia Dinh Kim Anh Institute of Art in Saigon for six years.

There he learned drawing, painting, design, and other arts and crafts before being allowed to participate in sculpture. He became an accomplished portrait painter at a young age.

After the 1975 fall of South Vietnam, North Vietnamese officials arrested and jailed him as he attempted to escape from Saigon. His mother, a doctor, was able to obtain his release, but later the communists prohibited her from practicing medicine.

In 1979, he and some friends decided to attempt an escape from Vietnam. They secretly purchased an old fishing boat, which took months to restore to seaworthiness before seeking freedom.

Off the coast of Thailand they were attacked several times by pirates who raped and killed some of the group and stole their food and water.

Using a tattered blanket for a sail they managed to reach safety. Pham lived for two years in refugee camps in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia and then came to the United States via YMCA International and a sponsor family in Waycross, Ga.

The Atlanta College of Art scholarship allowed Pham to earn a degree in fine arts. Chau believes he has been fortunate and is blessed to be here.

Pham truly enjoys carving, often working with wood for long hours to relieve stress and give peace and joy to his soul. Large, life size carvings of wildlife are common in his shop. He is currently finishing a full-sized, red tailed hawk.

Pham recently completed a 5-foot-long carving of The Last Supper for a friend in Vietnam. A 21-foot-tall Buddha is in a temple in Dallas and a 6-foot-tall sitting Buddha is in Orlando.

Pham teaches master carving classes and seminars on wildfowl wood carving. He is frequently a panel judge for wood carving shows. When not carving or using his photography skills, he enjoys fishing, remote-control gadgets, and playing music.

Spectators can meet Pham at the Calusa Wood Carvers Show from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, or 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. For more information contact David Gourley at (727) 376-2180(727) 376-2180 or Dave43@tampabay.rr.com.

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