Harmony

4 Sep

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Ancient Chinese tradition sets great store by the mythical figures of Fu, Lu and Shou – the three wise men representing harmony (good fortune), wealth (prosperity) and good health (longevity). This soapstone figure belonging to my grandmother I believe represents the scroll bearing scholar Fu – he stands about 8 inches high and in her flat always sat beside a large bottle of Dutch Gin, a box of Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes, a bowl of dice and the telephone on a moth eaten Persian rug laid over an antique walnut card table.

Normally the wise men as figurines are meant to form a triptych to work properly within the precepts of Feng Shui, but I reckon this old totem was powerful enough to work on his own. My grandmother, Hartje de Boer lived a long, rich and happy life.

I have used him here to scale a new table I built for a young tattoo artist – Ellen Morris who has designed something for me in the spirit of ‘a fair exchange is no robbery’. Here is her design

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A table for a frog:

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The coffee table is about 4.5 feet long and has a Zebrano top fixed to an oak trestle. I found the top board in a saw mill in Yorkshire and I thought it would look good in Ellen’s shop – the wood looks as though it has been tattooed.

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Zebra wood comes from Nigeria – my birth place. It is a threatened species – this piece was certified by the Rainforest Alliance as part of a programme to promote harmonious sustainable timber harvesting. The oak is from Forestry Commission sustainable sources. Finished in Danish oil and bee’s wax, the table is my own design. Frogs too are in decline globally – they are particularly sensitive to environmental degradation.

Harmony in design and life cannot be achieved by the veneration of a soapstone figurine, but Fu reminds us of the the need to strive for it. In this age of austerity barter and exchange may carry greater potency than financial transaction. Tables lift us from the ground and raise our spirits, and who can resist a frog?

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