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a story of wood

With respect for nature’s precious materials
and with faith in man’s gifted hands
our exquisite furniture is crafted
to add beauty, value, and dignity to your home.

Timelessly.

 

My grandfather was a master cabinetmaker from Hoi An, a small and ancient town in Central Vietnam, famous for its handsome old houses and exquisite woodwork. When I was small, I used to sit on a bench in my grandfather’s workshop to watch him craft pieces of furniture and sculptures. He was always utterly concentrated in his work, and completely fulfilled. The wood was almost a part of him; he knew it, loved it dearly, and used is to express his being.

“People don’t make furniture of worth any more,” he used to say. “They produce in a hurry, sell in a hurry, and have no respect for wood, the precious material with which they work. They don’t speak through their craft, and so their work can only be soulless.”

“How was furniture made in the olden days then?” I asked my grandfather.

He told me when a Mandarin, a scholar, or a rich merchant needed a cabinet or a psaltery table for his home, he would invite a master to come to live and work in his house. The craftsman would move in, allowing him to fully breathe in the culture, the rhythm of life, the taste, and the dignity of his customer’s home. Only then would he set to work.  He would then begin to design the furniture and select the proper wood, discussing all the details intimately with his client. He would devote all of his time, skill and soul to his craft. The results then often bore the signature not only of himself, but also of his family, or even his whole village.

Today, those works have become timeless masterpieces that speak of pride and evoke a rich and exquisite history.

They are rare and priceless.

 
 
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After the war was over, I left our village. Twenty years later I came back to find my grandfather dead, his workshop long closed. But his works remained still, beautiful and full of stories. For me, my grandfather still lives with them.

I decided to revive the family’s tradition of cabinet making and woodcarving, of devoted and exquisite craftsmanship. Together with my brother, who had studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, I spent two years traveling to Vietnam’s most famous carpentry villages, looking for the most gifted and committed craftsmen. We studied the finest furnishings and visited museums, learning about the history of furniture design in the East and West.

We re-opened our furniture workshop after twenty years.

We call it Cam Kim, after the name of our village in Hoi An. Today, Cam Kim is a dignified, integral part of Authentique.

We are pleased to welcome you to Authentique.

—  Doan Minh Phuong

 

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Photos taken by Doan Thanh Nghia, our furniture designer, 1996.