Samui Wining & Dining

Head for the shop that’s so full of heart – Chaweng’s Nature Art Gallery.

Head for the shop that’s so full of heart – Chaweng’s Nature Art Gallery.

Just take a look along Chaweng Beach Road. It’s a busy little strip. And it’s also a prime tourist trap. The logic is simple enough; this is where most of the tourists are, after all. And, on the whole, this makes shopping there great fun. But it has its down side too. Although there are hundreds of shops all selling the same kind of gifts and mementos, it’s hard to find the good stuff. Quality items. The sort of thing you just know is in there somewhere if you keep on looking. Fortunately, you don’t have to look very far. Because ‘Nature Art Gallery’ is just about directly opposite the main entrance to Central Festival Mall.


It’s an ironic fact that so-called ‘designer’ goods mostly have very little thought in their design. It seems enough merely to stamp them with the labels of Gucci, Prada or Versace. But here it’s the opposite. The moment you look around you’ll see endless items that simply shout creative flair, from the unassuming to the bold, and every one of them has been individually, painstakingly and lovingly designed. And yet there’s not a brand name to be seen at all.


But, before you’ve even entered the shop, it’ll grab you from outside on the street. It stands out – especially in the evening. It glows. And it’s not the bright hit of neon, either. In fact, the warm, golden, mellow presence of Nature Art beams out in a soulful contrast to the cool and glitzy glimmer that surrounds it. It’s partly the fact that every single surface – ceiling, walls and floor – are clad in the same golden wood. It’s partly the warmly diffused tungsten lighting. But as soon as you’re in, you’ll sense there’s something more to it.


This’ll no doubt take a while. You’ll be fazed at first; there are so many things all around. You’ll wander and scan, hesitantly, drawn this way and that, trying to take it all in. But at some point, it’ll strike you. It’s not simply quiet: it’s more than just that. It’s actually tangibly tranquil. There’s an odd sense of calm in this shop. Then you’ll see that people coming in slow their pace. Without knowing,they talk in hushed voices. It’s hard to pin down. But the fact remains - this isn’t just a shop full of treasures (and good ones, at that). It’s something strangely special, too.        

Nature Art Gallery opened here about six years ago. Partners,Head for the shop that’s so full of heart – Chaweng’s Nature Art Gallery. Michael Trav and Shai Nissim, are well-versed in the lore and energies of crystals and stones, having had more than 20 years’ experience of working with them. But the shop – and now there’s another one across the road in Central Festival Mall, on the second floor above Uniqlo – goes further. The partners have spent time in assembling and showcasing what’s almost a collective of artisans and craftsmen, all in one place. You’ll find a plethora of jewellery, mostly made of silver, set with a whole variety of stones and crystals. But there are samples of fine leatherwork, too - bags and belts and wallets and purses. And then to the heart of the store: a huge range of raw crystals in all shapes and sizes, to buy as they are, or to be used in a setting of your choice.


Shai comes from a background that encompasses Reiki, massage and reflexology, and he’s attuned to the potential energy of the stones and crystals. “Used wisely, their energies can align you with more positive physical health,” he explained. “Each type of stone has its own properties, and when these are matched to the vibrations of your chakras, they can assist in healing physical ailments or in enhancing concentration, and in many other directions, too.” If you’re uncertain about any of this, then you’ll find some very friendly advice forthcoming from both Michael and Shai, together with free handbooks on the subject to guide you.


But, unlike all those shop fronts that simply re-sell mass-produced goods, here at Nature Art Gallery there’s a suite of workshops upstairs. And if you can’t find the stone in a setting that you like, they’ll work along with you to create something specifically to your liking, creating a custom ring, bracelet or pendant to your precise instructions. Indeed, their resident Nepalese master-craftsmen come from a family that has a long history of making jewellery for the King of Nepal. They are equipped to mould and cast items in gold and silver, or to re-mount new stones in existing pieces – even to create jewellery to your own designs. And this idea is popular with couples who have come here to get married; matching ‘his ‘n her’ rings to your own design.


It really does take some time to look around and take it all in. The quality of everything is extremely high; take a look at the simple wristbands, for example, made of leather and silver.Page 108-3 They’re more expensive that the stuff you usually see at local craft fairs. But there’s absolutely no comparison in the way they’ve been made; the ones here will last you for decades. Examine the clasps of the necklaces and pendants, and the way in which the stones have been set. They are all solid, substantial and well-engineered. An outstanding design or an attractive group of stones means nothing unless they are put together in a substantial mount. And, here, they all are.


Lastly, something really special. Just recently, the shops have begun showcasing bags, belts and wallets made by ‘Allen’. The belts and wallets are nice enough. But take a really close look at the larger shoulder bags. Not only are they made of the most superbly supple (yet strong) leather, but they have been ‘worked’ in a way that’s almost magical. The design is subtle, yet complex, with layers of pouches and pockets and zips. But the decoration and the way it’s been woven plaited, beaded and ruched into the structure of the bag is exceptional – made by elves from Rivendell, perhaps? If you’re looking for an exceptionally individual gift, then this is it. And this is the place – Nature Art Gallery, in Chaweng.



 Rob De Wet


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