Beauty with history
EDWARDS Asian Village co-owner Susan Bristol said meeting her source for Chinese antiques was “serendipitous.” In fact, Bristol cherishes the discovery so much that she and her partner, UnChu Ring, make it a policy to keep his identity a secret.”We met him through a friend,” Bristol said. “If we set out to do it, we couldn’t have possibly come up with that source. And even if we did, whether or not he would have trusted us is another thing.”Trust, Bristol said, is crucial in the antique business on both the dealer and seller end of it. The dealer must trust that the seller is accurately representing the antiques, and the seller must trust that the dealer’s antiques are authentic.
It was easy to believe in their source, Bristol said, because he has been written up in Town and Country and Art and Antique publications as one of the prime antique experts in Hong Kong. The personal connection helped the source to believe in Bristol and Ring – he knew they were reputable because of the mutual acquaintance. But it wasn’t just that. Ring and Bristol have done their homework when it comes to Chinese antiques, and their source was impressed.”He’s very particular about how his antiques are represented,” Bristol said. “He wants to make sure the people who are representing are knowledgeable about the piece’s history and what it was truly used for. He wants to make sure you know exactly what type of chair it is or what type of cabinet. We have read a ton on Chinese antiques. We have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge are are always learning.”Asian Village in Edwards sells Chinese antiques and hand-crafted accessories, gifts, housewares and adornments, most which have an Asian flare. Ring and Bristol moved locations in May to the Riverwalk simply because they needed more room. The large store boasts layers upon layers of treasures and trinkets. One might spend all day there, constantly discovering new items. “We focus on small vendors and artists for unique gifts,” Ring said. “We like integrating the old and the new.”Asian Village carries craftsmen from the U.S., Japan and China, making the selection as unique as the artists who create it. Jewelry, clothing, gifts and housewares are all represented. Some of the contemporary Japanese pieces, like the trays crafted from magnolia leaves, appear old, which is a trend among the store’s selection. One of the store’s artists takes antique pieces of jewelry and designs them into modern adornments. The store’s Asian clothing has been featured in InStyle Magazine.”We have a personable relationship with everyone we represent in the store,” Bristol said. “We know how hard the artists work to produce significant pieces. We can convey that to our customers. So they are not just buying a vase, they are buying a work of art.”
Ring and Bristol’s connection with the artists translates into stories surrounding every one of their pieces, whether it’s how the item was created or what the artist is like on a personal level. The stories circling the Chinese antiques are especially rich. “Each piece of furniture was made for a specific person,” Bristol said. “There were no mass factories, so what sort of symbol they chose to have carved on their furniture is a very personal thing.”From dragons to ornate leaves, Bristol and Ring can tell buyers what the symbols mean. These symbols give insight into the original owners needs, whether it was power, fortune or fertility. All of Asian Village’s antiques are conserved in China with a “secret” process. Ring and Bristol observed the process during one of their trips to the country.”With the process, each antique really blooms with its former beauty,” Bristol said. “It’s not as easy as putting shellac on something. It’s layers hand rubbed and hand rubbed again.”They went to China to feel a deeper connection with the place and the culture from which their products hail. Bristol and Ring don’t speak Chinese, but Ring is Korean and was often mistaken of Bristol’s translator.
“‘Thank you’ was the only thing we learned,” Ring said.”Yeah, we laughed our way through China for two and half weeks,” Bristol added.Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14640, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado