|Handcraft fish mounts|
In the back roads of Chalong district, in Phuket there is a triving cottage indrustry that is well known and sought after by anglers the world over. This is where perfect replicas of fish are skilfully
Crafted in fiberglass. The current owner, Khun Bancha,learned the trade from the legendary Australian, Ian Pike who won worldwide recognition for producing scale perfect reproductions of black marlin in Cairns, Australia. This region of Australia is known as the “Black Marlin of the World”
Prior to lan’s creative solution that bought about the “catch and release” practice that he helped initiate, proud anglers had their catches stuffed and mounted. It was hard work convincing these traditionilists to release their beautiful “trophy” fish, but Ian’s creation were so perfect , that anglers were willing to try his eco-friendly solution. It was no longer necessary to kill the magnificent specimen. Ian had a collection of moulds in different sizes of various species that only took 2-3 days to manufacture.
Ian Pink met Khun Bancha’s sister and her husband, Khaun Chumnan ten years ago at a fishing tournament in Phuket. Khun Chamnan at that time was the president of Phuket Fishing Association. Ian mentioned that he wanted to start a factory for making fiberglass fish mounts in Phuket . He was introduced to Khun Bancha, who was then sent to Australia to learn all the trick of the trade.
Shortly afterwards, Ian Pink moved to Phuket. A thriving partnership was formed between him and Khun Bancha and a successful business was born. The production was going well, but tragically, Ian was killed in a motercycle accident just 200 metres from the workshop.
Khun Bancha has carried on the successful business and ships these outstanding replicas not only to anglers and divers worldwide but also to resorts and museums. Le Meridien hotel near Patong has one on display in their restaurant and Karon Whale Resort ordered 2 whales, each 3.5 metres long. “The biggest one we made was a 6-metre long whale shark manufactured for the National Museum in Bangkok” , says Khun Bancha. A manta ray manufactured here is also on show at the Phuket Aquarium.
Khun Bancha has a large collection of custom-made moulds in his workshop. The process of manufacturing is fairly simple but requires skilful workmanship. The mould is sprayed with a releasing agent a fiberglass is applied to the mould. It takes about 1-2 hours for it to dry. Once a replica is made, well-trained artists with an eye for detail paint them. “we used to use glass-eyes, but found they didn’t look real enough. So now, we make our own eyes using plastic,” says Khun Bancha.
Khun Bancha does a brisk business in November, during the fishing tournament in Phuket. “The catch includes marlin, sailfish, trevally, kingmackerel, wahoo, rainbow runner, tuna, dorado and barracuda”, he says. With the ‘catch and lease’ policy during the tournament, all the anglers have to do is tell Khun Bancha the size and species of their catch and he will make a species of their catch and he will make a splendid replica that anyone would be proun to take back home.
The workshop in Chalong has several of these works of art on display. They come in the form of table-mounts, wall-mounts, on shields as trophies and as freestanding individual pieces.
There are manta rays hanging from yhe ceiling, reef-coral fish in display cases and leopard sharks on the floor. A large stingray spanning 135 cm across and 206 cm from head to tail looks so real it is hard to believe that it’s not. The wall has a display of dorado’s , blue marlin , jack mackerel , groupers ,coral trouts , tiger trouts and many others. It is fun to browse through the displays as wellas the grounds and workshops full of an interesting collection of moulds.