Today’s blog comes from Candace Weir, Central Library staff:
The coffee table is a small surface that calls out for the clutter of life: a book, a tea or coffee mug and small things. Small things – either curious or beautiful – invite inspection and reflection.
The art of small things by John Mack considers the aesthetic of smallness and celebrates the art of the miniature. Among many fine things, he profiles two of the treasures that I keep on my coffee table.
I was given a plaster replica of the queen from the famed Lewis Chessmen. They are a collection of pieces from four different chess sets that were found in a bay in the Outer Hebrides.
My queen is great for ruminating on, although something a little stronger that tea may be called for. Based on her expression, being a medieval queen could not have been all pleasure. She is slightly larger than the figures of another obsession of mine: netsuke.
Netsukes are small sculptures about an inch tall, commonly carved from ivory or wood. Grace Gift Shop in the Dragon City Mall (second floor) in Chinatown carries some lovely Chinese netsuke. I have carved my own versions using taqua nut.
In the collection at Central Library, there is a splendid older book, The Art of Netsuke Carving, by Masatoshi. It shows traditional tools and techniques as well showcasing examples. Carving Japanese Netsuke for Beginners is another inspiring source that includes a gallery of beautiful pieces.
Finally, keep a place on the table for The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal. Winner of 2011 Ondaatje prize, it traces the history of a family and an era through the story of a delicate and exquisite collection of netsuke.