In the village of Mas, the buses drop us at a lovely building nestled in a beautifully landscaped setting. What marvelousness greets us inside! These woodcarvers have set up showrooms as elegant as any museum I've ever been in. Although the displays are crammed with all nature of carvings, the impression is really of museum rooms, rather than salesrooms. Strategically placed potted plants pull everything together into visual wonderlands.
Joan and I wander around oohing and aahing, having no intention of buying, but still wishing we could anyway. The small stuff that WOULD fit into our suitcases doesn't appeal to us. But the larger statues that we could in NO WAY ever get into a suitcase--and YIKES--one look at the price tags and we think we're back in the USA!
Some of our group pass by and tell us that the really "neat" stuff's upstairs! We climb up to a second floor wonderland straight out of mythology. Here all manor of demons and gods reside, each highlighted and featured by means of ingenious methods of display and spotlighting. Whoever arranged all this has to be an artist par excellence.
We join a small group to whom one of the carvers is explaining the different kinds of wood they use. There must be at least four different kinds of hibiscus! That seems to be a favorite wood. I had no idea hibiscus would grow large enough and tough enough to be used in woodcarving!
The largest carving up here must stand seven or eight feet tall and a couple feet in diameter at its base. It's carved from a single trunk and root of hibiscus! Light and airy rather than massive, it seems almost to have been carved out of vines. The carver has greatly exaggerated the vertical proportions of the figures, so they almost seem to be thin wisps--suggestions, rather than substantial beings. The natural rich medium brown color has been polished to a high patina.
We ask how long it took the carver to finish this piece. "Oh, many, many months!" replies the man who told us about the different kinds of wood. "Wow!" we exclaim. "We didn't know hibiscus ever got so huge!" "Oh yes," he replies, beaming, "very, very big!" After he leaves to answer someone else's question, we sneak a peek at the price tag and try to mentally convert rupiahs into dollars--it comes to about $10,000 to $12,000! GASP!
We wonder how someone could spend that much time carving a piece having such a remote chance of being sold. Perhaps the carver's independently wealthy? Or perhaps he spent half the day producing salable items and the rest of the day on this piece? Of course, once a carver sells a big piece, then he'd have the time to devote to another one without having to worry about his income for a while.
Another exquisitely carved piece catches our eye. This one, also carved from a single hibiscus root, seems about three feet in diameter and 18-20 inches high. It, too, has a light and airy feeling with most of its interior being negative space. Graceful figures of animals climb, clamber and hide in a magical setting among vines and trees. From any angle that one views this piece, one discovers a new treasure that had been hidden from view a moment before. Some scenes and creatures can be seen only by peering through the spaces on one side to see the inside of the opposite side!
I indulge in a fantasy of having won the lottery and now I'm buying this piece and having it shipped back home to be displayed in my mansion! This piece speaks to my body and soul. Nothing else will do! I tell Joan my fantasy--we laugh--wistfully.
Downstairs, Don has found the piece he wants to get to complete his series of Balinese musician statues. "Five hundred dollars!" he wheezes. "Oh, no! That breaks my budget!" He groans and moans. We hang around, enjoying his highly exaggerated display of disappointment. He fondles the statue, hugs it, rolls his eyes heavenward as if beseeching some angel to come down to his aid. Tenderly and lovingly he sets the carving down on the counter, sighs and tells the several carvers gathered around that it's just too much money, more than he can afford.
He walks away toward Joan and me. He explains that he'd bought his other statues here, and that this one was carved by the same artist who made all his others--but $500 is just ridiculous. We laugh and wander our separate ways.
But later, when Don boards the bus, he's clutching a package, eyes gleaming, mouth grinning from ear to ear. "You bought it!" someone exclaims. "Of COURSE I bought it!" he laughs. "What'd you end up paying?" asks someone else. But Don just flicks up his eyebrows, grins mysteriously and plops in his seat. The bus pulls out onto the road. We assume he got one helluva deal!
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