We hope you enjoy our new tri-fold format, printed in Bali. It allows for more artistic leeway and more space to share what we love. The purpose of the newsletter remains the same: to inform, inspire, educate, and excite. I hope this ignites in you a sense of awe and wonder about the potential of people to create beauty from amazingly diverse geographic, cultural, economic, and educational backgrounds. If our curiosity is stimulated, you value beauty more highly, appreciate other cultures, and our best is brought out in you, then we succeeded. I realize this is a mouthful, but it is the foundation of all you see, feel, and touch at David Alan Collection. I hope you enjoy the shows we open this month on June 28th, 2007: the “Gusti Ngurah Collection” and the “Betel Nut Culture.” We are also happy to share the new features about artists, collectors, design, and great places. We always appreciate your comments and suggestions.
Be well, be inspired, and be happy.
Katha’s Morning Market
The morning fog softens the sounds of Katha awakening. A row of British colonial houses is revealed as the dark sky turns dusty pink during our walk along the Irrawaddy River in Northern Burma. No cars, trucks, or motorbikes are in sight as we approach the market. Candles light many of the vegetable and flower stalls, casing golden light over baskets of oranges, eggplants, and baby potatoes. It’s a short-lived, magical few minutes with vendors talking quietly among themselves and preparing for the day.
The townspeople arrive with the full light of day, and soon we’re all rubbing shoulders in the crowded pathways. The stalls overflow with fruits and vegetables I never saw before this trip. The next aisle is lined with shops selling bright yellow, freshly plucked chickens, mounds of silver fish from the river, and other more exotic foods.
Everyone greets us with smiles and good humor. I feel ogre-big among these slender, gentle folk. Time has disappeared in the etermal world of village markets. I’m right here, right now, and thoroughly happy and at home.
Tony was born of a Balinese mother and Dutch father around the time of Indonesia’s independence from Holland. His ability to recognize and collect fine artifacts that are charged with good energy made him master collector of primitive art, and one of my favorite people to visit in Bali. He has a good eye for all manner of art and high craft from fabrics to ancient stone, and his collection is extensive.
In addition to his business of collecting, Tony is highly respected in the spiritual community, and participates extensively in local ceremonies. He is an intelligent, knowledgeable, and generous man who trains youngsters from his village in carving and woodworking, and guides them in their spiritual development. I always make sure there is enough time to visit him and his collection several times during each trip to Bali, and consider myself fortunate to know and work with him.
What Makes a Piece of Furniture Great?
Numerous criteria can be used to determine if a piece of furniture is great. In the context of this article, “great” may not be synonymous with “museum quality,” rather great means a work of beauty and soul. These criteria could be separated into five including: the basics, the patina, the materials used, the history (interest), and the energy.
1) The basics include beauty, balance, harmony, color, structural integrity, craftsmanship, and condition. All of these attributes are important to determine if a piece is excellent. These are some of the physical attributes to consider along with the patina of a piece.
2) Patina is the physical evidence of the soul of a piece. It says something of its history, its age, if it’s had a hard or easy life; its personality. I find a “perfect” old piece amazing, but wonder if it’s had a life. The patina gives mystery without telling its history.
3) The materials used can be incidental to the piece or the reason for the piece. I purchased many pieces simply because the wood or stone were over-the-top beautiful. Almost anything can be forgiven if exquisite material is well used. I designed pieces solely to present the beauty of a piece of wood. On the other hand, if the other basics are strong, then the materials matter very little.
4) Each piece, old or new, has a history. Knowing something of the history: its age, place of origin, use, maker, why it was made, for whom, and where purchased, adds to the value and interest of the piece. By “interest,” I also mean, “Does it hold one’s interest?” Does it reveal itself bit-by-bit and allow for discovery? Is it subtly un-symmetrical or have aspects that are revealed as one inspects the piece, for instance, carvings that tell a story, a hidden compartment, or initials carved in the back of the door? Does it have an implied history, such as “if this piece could talk, what stories would it tell?” It’s a history we will never know. Does it hold one’s affection, or is it merely likee a kitchen cabinet or an Ikea side table?
5) Energy is the factor few talk aobut. One can at times recognize energy in a person “across a crowded room.” Energy can be recognized in an object as well. The energy of the piece can be imbued by the artist, or can come from where or with whom it lived, or how it was used. I have seen countless pieces from the Collection find homes, simply because they feel good to their buyer.
Many of our favorites in the Collection are pieces we simply want to be around, not cecessarily the ones with the most beauty, the best craftsmanship, the finest design, or the most compelling history. They are simply the ones with the best energy. A piece with good craftsmanship and bad energy is not acceptable. Harmony and good energy are valuable things in one’s environment. This s not mysterious. It’s just instinct and intuition.
Betel Culture Show
The idea for this show arose from finding so much intriguing paraphernalia related to the chewing of betel nut. Throughout the East and the Pacific, from Burma to Indonesia, I found tools and containers used in this tradition. In Vietnam, betel is used in ceremonies and weddings; in India it’s an after dinner treat; and in Burma, it’s used almost anywhere, anytime, as a social past time among friends.
In this living oral tradition of thousands of years, the betel is slivered or grated and is usually used with lime and a variety of spices, depending on the locale. This mixture is wrapped in a betel leaf (not related to the betel palm) and chewed for 20 minutes or so, spat out on the street, which is easily identified by the red pigment.
The implements used in this ancient tradition can be seen at David Alan Collection in the “Betel Culture Show” opening June 28th, 2007.
The Gusti Ngurah Collection
Gusti Ngurah, estimated to be in his 80′s, is a rice farmer from a small village in the Gianyar regency of Bali. Though stone carving has been his hobby for years, he carves only when inspired. He works the paras stone he collects from the river when he returns home from the fields. Slowly, characters emerge from the stone’s rough form and his own imagination.
My friend, Wayan, discovered these stone statues in front of a house while driving through Gusti’s village. Intrigued, he stopped and asked to meet the artist, and was invited to see the whole collection. When Wayan asked if he could buy some carvings, he found they were not for sale. Over the years, Wayan periodically stopped by to have coffee with Gusti Ngurah and talk about his love of carving stone. Much to his surprise, last year Gusti offered to sell his whole collection to Wayan, who subsequently passed it on to me to bring to David Alan Collection. Early this year, I saw his latest carving and was happy to find he hasn’t lost his touch. The show, “The Gusti Ngurah Collection” opens June 28th, 2007.