Drawing a Bead on a Better World

The Purple Buddha Project attempts to forge beauty out of ugly histories that continue to alter life in the present.

When the battle ends and the dust settles, the remnants of war remain: empty gun casings, exploded ordnance, fragments from the Berlin Wall. Forrest Curran has travelled from China to Germany to India collecting these remnants, formerly the weapons of conflict. They will comprise the raw materials for his jewelry collection, the Purple Buddha Project. Every piece is manufactured in Cambodia by local artisans who, Curran says, receive fair wages for their labor. Cambodia is a particularly significant location for his project—historically, it’s one of the most heavily bombed countries in the world.

Purple Buddha Project founder Forrest Curran

A portion of the proceeds from the Purple Buddha Project will go toward removing land mines that continue to take the lives and limbs of Cambodians in the eastern part of the country. More bombs were dropped on Cambodia during World War II than both Germany and Japan combined. Unexploded ordnance litters much of the countryside, claiming the lives of Cambodians who aren’t careful enough to watch their next step.

“This is a critical problem in Cambodia, as many farmers still struggle to do the most primary of economic actions, which is subsistence farming, because many are afraid to expand their land for farming in fear of these bombs that exist in the ground,” says Curran.

Curran’s project is a product of his own family’s experiences during WWII in Japan. His grandfather fought in the war when he was just 15 years old. He told Curran that he was given two rice balls and a uniform before he was sent off to report to combat. His grandmother, too, was transformed by the war.

“My grandmother to this day tells me to leave my shoes facing the door when we enter the house so that we can escape the house as soon as possible in case of bombings, although Japan has been a peaceful country for a while,” says Curran. “So I understand that, in a sense, war has left a mark on her forever.”

Through the Purple Buddha Project, Curran is attempting to forge beauty out of ugly histories that continue to alter life in the present. They’re not just ornaments but rather reminders of those histories.

“I integrated icons…into jewelry through directly upcycling objects of history from around the world into each piece; from the great triumphs of history to the great tragedies created by man,” says Curran. “I think there is something that we can learn from the past and apply [it] today, as history tends to repeat.”

Curran is currently funding the project through Kickstarter, where he’s already received more than half of his goal.


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