Then things changed. On a trip to Myanmar also known as Burma, I spoke with a wood carver who lived on the fringes of a clear-cut forest. He offered me a block of exotic and extremely hard wood, and thanking him for it, I told him that I preferred working with root wood because of the unusual configurations. He smiled at me and my interpreter and, sweeping his hand over the replanted fields of pineapples said, "The next time you come, I'll give you all the root wood you want!"
It struck me afterward that there must be an enormous supply of stumps of rare wood out there in the pineapple fields and replanted rubber plantations. And not only there and in other areas of Myanmar but all over the world where forests have been in most cases clear cut. If somehow those rare and beautiful stumps could be dug up and reworked, they could be sold to provide very much needed income for foresters, carvers, and others who had made their living in the now denuded forests.
These thoughts were very much alive while I was traveling through a small town in southwest China not far from the Laotian border. There in a small art shop, I discovered small rosewood stumps in the back room. They had been painted over with a protective coating, and parts were bruised or damaged. I bought three and had them shipped, along with personal belongings, to my home here in California. My plan was to learn to fashion these rosewood stumps into coffee tables or other practical pieces, and find a market for them. They would be functional art pieces of rare and exotic woods that - for the wood alone, I thought - would be valuable.
But there was another consideration perhaps more valuable than making a living for local crafts people. In the process of creation, These refashioned stumps would become touchstones of cultures and people. In the process of bringing out the beauty of the wood , the carver learned to connect his or her own depth of spirit with that of the wood. Then carver, wood, and the project itself became an expression which others could see and feel and touch, much as some native art still does.
Of the three stumps, two have been fashioned into glass topped tables. I am working on the third which is posing many more challenges. I am hoping that by joining ISC, I can begin the next somewhat scary process of finding a market for these functional art pieces.
I plan to use the proceeds from selling these tables to return to SE Asia where I'll be making contact with local wood carvers and tree experts for more information. The man from whom I bought the Dalbergia (rosewood) tree stumps said they came from Laos which meant they could be D. chinchinensis, or D. oliveri, or D. cultrata, or another sub-species, all of which grow in the Myanmar-Thailand-Laos, Cambodia-Viet Nam area. I was told that it was impossible to identify the species. This was corroborated by an expert on line whom I contacted and who was, coincidentally, a graduate of FPL.