Saturday, January 16, 2010

Uncle Bernie, the Chinese Puzzle Ball and the Global Village

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May peace soon be with all of those suffering from the earthquake in Haiti.

Today, in between running  the normal round of errands, I stopped by an antique sale at our local exhibition park.   I've been bent over my computer for most of the week, happily working on blog designs for three different customers, all of whom have been and are just a pleasure to work with.  I've been reflecting on how this internet connects us all together as a global family and this notion came to light even further when I discovered one of my customers lives in Kuwait.     Trained as an architect, she is now following her passion and has become a 'dessert architect' with a thriving business in ...the desert.  I have had a few daydreams while working on her design that perhaps one day, I'll have the pure pleasure of biting into one of her delicious creations.

So,  a trip to an antique sale after a week staring into the monitor for several days, did not disappoint !

As a young girl I used to visit my father's sister and her family at least once a year during holidays.  They lived all over the world - Libya, Rome and Africa and so their collections of art pieces were always very intriguing to me.  One of which (and my favorite) was an ivory Chinese Puzzle Ball.  It was always shelved in a cabinet  'behind glass' but once my Uncle sat down with me and showed me the intricate layers inside of it.  I was then and forever, taken with the mystery of how it could have possibly been created.  The spheres within spheres and the minute details of stars and dragons, and phoenixes.  Of course,   I never asked to set my own hands on it knowing full well what the answer would be,  considering what an active little girl I was.  But, I 'vealways always wanted to have one that I could call my own. I can recall combing the antique shops during a visit to NYC at least a dozen years ago, finding one, but not being able to afford it.

Today, my dream came true. I indulged in a gift for myself and purchased one at the show.  Below, a photo of my new prized Chinese Puzzle Ball.  My uncle taught me how to tell if it was Hong Kong ivory (synthetic) or elephant ivory.  So, I studied it carefully for the striations inside the cuts and decided it was the real which adds to my reverence to it as well as its mystique.    It  has 12 layers to it.  I carefully counted them with a toothpick. 

The following, the photo along with an excerpt I found describing these beautiful globes in detail.

 Ivory Chinese Puzzle Ball - a long awaited treasure to hold

The art of ornamental design has been part of China's culture for thousands of years. Art and craft have gone hand in hand to create items of great beauty and functionality. Beauty and functionality are inseparable from each other, for beauty itself is a function in Chinese culture. Each shares in equal importance. Intricately painted wall scrolls, highly ornamented hand fans, and other items of Chinese art are well known. Not so the Chinese Puzzle Ball. The Chinese Puzzle Ball is one of the summits of Chinese ornamental design and beauty.
These complex objects are thought to have an influence on the unity of the family. These puzzle balls come in many sizes, and can be made of ivory, wood, resin, soapstone or jade. Most are handmade, and consist of an outer sphere that contains smaller, movable spheres. They generally come in balls of 4-18 'layers'
The concentric layers or balls are open work carvings of plants, animals, dragons. They are an amazing display of craftsmanship. The outermost sphere is usually the most decorated, many times with dragons. The layers of the ball can be thought of as symbolizing, as a four-layer ball can symbolize the four basic elements of earth, wind, fire and water, or the four directions of the compass.
These multi-layered balls are one of the wonders of Chinese craftsmanship, practiced since ancient times. They are also rightfully known as Mystery Balls. Once they are seen and it is remembered that these balls are created out of a single sphere, you may consider them a mystery too!
 Article written by Alan Beggerow


Marilyn Rock said...

Wonderful find! Thanks for sharing the history of it, too. It's beautiful!

Deirdre said...

Your new mystery ball is AMAZING! The stand makes me nervous, you don't have any cats do you? I'm sure you will spend lots of time looking at the layers, getting your own wheels turning looking at the artistry.
:-D eirdre

Bea said...

I had no idea it was that beautiful. I can see why you would buy it anyway. :)Bea

La Dolce Vita said...

what a magnificent object and how knowledgeable you are on this subject! i think antiquing with you would be great fun!!

neva gagliano said...

sooooo exquisite photographed with that lace.....
"all free from monitor" joy

The Artist Within Us said...

It is truly a treasure and I am very happy for you. It will grace your home, offering pleasures and memories for years to come.

Terri Kahrs said...

It was meant to be, Trudi! What a wonderful purchase! It's stunning! Hugs, Terri xxoo

Kim said...

Wow! No wonder you couldn't pass it up Trudi, it's beautiful! What a fabulous treasure!

Debby said...

Oh my gosh, Trudi this is specatular. Good for you. Loved your story.

Lorraine @ creativedaily said...

I've never seen one Trudi! This is a truly incredible treasure! Such detail and skill is exhibited.