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"The level of craftsmanship of the Newar people is unparalleled in Nepal," says architect Steve Coyle, referring to the intricate woodcarvings that blend Buddhist and Hindu motifs and have graced the shrines and homes of the Kathmandu Valley since the 13th century. It is a craft that has been passed from father to son, with no formal training, for generations. Unfortunately, "it's being washed out of our cultures," says Coyle, as neglected, centuries-old structures are replaced with more economical high-rises.
For that reason, he and partner Steven Ott started Newari Gallery with the dual purpose of renewing interest in these architectural elements, and providing Nepalese craftsmen with an opportunity to preserve their art. They scoured the country to document original carvings—pillars, window casements, armoires, even entire rooms—resulting in a database of 500 models which are used to create reproductions or custom work. Artisans in Nepal use chisels and wooden mallets on either of two indigenous woods, fal and sissom (both very dense but varying in hue), which can be finished with a variety of varnishes. As additional good karma, a percentage of all proceeds goes to the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust in support of the historical buildings and carving traditions of Nepal. From $2,000. 605A N.E. 21st Avenue, Portland, OR 97232; 503-233-6319; www.NewariGallery.com.