When I ride towards Negombo from Ja-Ela I had seen this place called Wishmitha Handicraft which produces wooden miniature sailing ships. Today I thought of exploring the shop. It is full of sailing ships of different colors and sizes. The proprietor and the creator is a guy called Liyanage Sumedha. He has ships in a price range from 750 to 35,000 rupees. He was making one worth 30,000 rupees when I met him. He already had a buyer for it and the buyer decides the color and the size. He says that people who believe in Feng shui art buy the miniature ships to decorate their houses. They believe that the ships bring the house prosperity. But if you keep the ship in the wrong way it brings bad luck. Ask him what side should be exposed to the door side.
Sumedha’s buyers range from locals to foreigners. Foreigners usually buy the smaller sized ones as they find it difficult to take the bigger ones home in the plane. Some foreigners have promised him a lot, like providing opportunities to export his ships to their countries but those nice talks were just limited to talks, nothing more. He is still hopeful though.
Ships are colorful and beautiful. They are mainly made with wood and for sails, Sumedha uses some kind of papers that are colored with a spray gun. He sprays different colors into papers to get the desired colors of the ships. When he sprays these things you should look at him. His clothes are also painted with the spray gun and he himself looks like a painting. I am not sure you can buy that painting though.
The sailing ship maker, Liyanage Sumedha is a 32-year-old man originally from Hokandara. When asked how he got into the ship business, he told me that he once made a miniature sailing ship by looking at a picture some 5 years ago. There was a buyer for it. Since his friends encouraged him to produce more he ventured into making sailing ships as a business. He moved to Seeduwa and rented this place and opened up the shop. Some sailors, after seeing his ships, advised Sumedha on the designs and finishing of the ships. A keen learner, Sumedha includes those changes in his new ships. There are two more helpers who work under Sumedha now. His father also helps him in the ship making.
Both Sirasa TV and the Sunday Times newspaper have covered his creative venture last year and sales increased heavily thanks to the publicity they gave him. He says he still gets orders from outstations due to that publicity.
Ships look really nice. There is no doubt you too will feel like owning one if you saw his ships with your own eyes. His excellence cannot be shown better with a newspaper, TV or on internet pictures. You have to be there and see how neat the sailing ships are.
Steve Jobs Theory
There are some wooden trishaws, bullock carts, kerosene oil carts of yesteryear in the collection, separately from the ships. But I don’t see the logic of selling this common stuff that can be bought elsewhere. It only distracts the customer. Like Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs thought a producer should sell only what is unique for him, not small stuff that doesn’t add value to the main product. If I were Sumedha, I would throw away all these small stuff and keep more ships at display instead.
I liked the open air shop a lot, though it is little untidy and disorganized, I think you should try to buy a ship or two to keep at your home, not because that I believe in Feng shui but because of just the beauty of the ships.
Wishmitha Handicraft, Opposite Police Station, Seeduwa