shopping 02.6.03

Chinese Snuff Bottles

The story goes that two or three hundred years ago, in the Qing Dynasty, a Chinese gentleman with a slight substance abuse problem, in this case, snuff, popped into a temple for a little prayer and a little toot. Prayer not answered: empty snuff bottle. After the Chinese equivalent of a d'oh!, he began jabbing at the powder, rather desperately it seems, off the interior glass with a bamboo stick. A monk watching him noticed that scraping the interior glass left visible lines and this gave him the idea of interior bottle painting.

You need the patience, not to mention the flex hours, of a monk to create paintings inside a bottle. It is excruciatingly painstaking work, in which a slender bamboo stick with a little hook on the end creates an outline in ink on the bottle's interior wall, after which a stick is dipped in paint and then carefully, delicately applied. With the slightest tremor, several days work can be ruined. Major drag.

On the upside, the finished work can be incredibly beautiful, fetching the artist some big bucks. But the only place we know of where you can find bargain-priced snuff bottles is at one of our favorite stores, The Bathroom, 94 Charles [Bleecker] 646.638.2284. The large size is $40, the small size $22. They make great gifts.
Rafe New York's excellent bags and accessories for men and women will be on sale from February 11th to 16th, 12noon-8pm (7pm on Sunday) at the store, 1 Bleecker [Bowery] 780.9739. Up to 80% off the Fall/Winter 2002 collection.

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