Tuesday, January 15, 2008

an encounter with the authentic

on saturday, we went out to an antique place on the edge of a tiny village nearby where we hadn't been in about 5 years. it had been so long, we weren't sure it was still there. it had always been more of a furniture repair workshop than an antique place anyway, so we drove on in, despite the lack of signs on the road. it was still there and the same man with the same attachment for each piece of furniture was still the owner. he is a very special character. tall, unkempt hair, a bit stooped in the shoulders, with bits of varnish on his rough, workman's hands. it's clear from the bits of drawers held together with clamps and small wood shavings here and there, that he is a real craftsman. we were after a chest of drawers for a strange, nearly unusable space at the top of the stairs. as he showed us the various chests he had, he lovingly stroked their wood surfaces, seeing their characters with his hands. i had a sense that he could, with a stroke of his hand, call forth the stories of what they'd seen in the homes they'd stood in. there was one that was the perfect size and height for our space and we asked him a price. it took him nearly 5 minutes to respond, during which he waxed philosophical on how well-made furniture was in the 1920s. i wasn't sure he was ever going to name a price, it was clear that it would be like selling his baby to him. he did finally name a price and we immediately agreed. but we couldn't take the chest immediately, he wanted to give the top of it one more sanding and a coat of wax. so he will deliver it to us this week.

in a world where people today often seem to only skim the surface and to never show their real selves, it felt like an enounter with a very real, authentic person. one comfortable in his obsessions and unafraid to show them and to lose himself in them, right there, in front of others. a person with a real feel for his craft and a love for the objects he works on. it was so clear that he could feel the life in the wood, although the trees had been cut down years before and fashioned into desks and tables and chests of drawers. it made buying the chest from him something special and it will be special object in our home, rather than a simple storage unit, because of his ability to show us that there are stories there within the wood. he did it all with a touch of a loving hand, rather than actually telling any stories. but thanks to that caress, we are able to hear the whispers of the stories that are there within the object. his authenticity lent an authenticity to the chest of drawers that makes it worth much more than the price we paid.

he has another old set of drawers from a shop--12 big, deep drawers and 9 small ones--that we want to buy for our kitchen, to use as an island, rather than buying some soulless thing from a kitchen shop. we came home and measured and want to make it work, no matter what. i think we both feel that such an object, full of stories and lovingly restored by the authentic furniture man will create just the atmosphere we're looking for....one where the stories of the past are there, within the object and we layer on our own stories, as we live our lives with the furniture in our midst.

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