Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 80

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Monday April 6, 2009 (diary, Martinshof)

With Mairead Kelly (left) and Freda Park A quiet day today. Lunch in nearby Palmerston (10 km away). Then a siesta followed by a leisurely soak in the Mango Farm pool with a G&T to keep me cool, because the pool, without shade cloth, is still quite warm, like a bath really.

In the evening it is bridge at the Arafura Bridge Club in town. There is a good turn up this evening, 9 tables. I have taken my camera because both Freda Park and Mairead Kelly are there and I wish to take a photo of them together.
I very much enjoy playing bridge with them. They are both intelligent, easy going ladies, with a good sense of humour who like a drop of wine or scotch.

Martinshof - 6 continues from February 2, 2008
I have been meaning to tell the Martinshof story from the start, but was looking for some material online without success until I found a couple of photos of Jean Target's work a few weeks ago. So here goes.
After the war my parent's jewelry business in Zutphen was confiscated by the Dutch Government, so when my father finished his 3 years internment he had absolutely nothing. We picked him up by taxi on a sunny late summer afternoon in 1948 from the Concentration camp near Dieren (halfway between Zutphen and Arnhem), only a few kms away from the Crematorium where he 33 years later (in 1981) would be cremated.
Returning to parochial Zutphen was for my parents out of the question. Instead, helped by a loan from my grandmother he started a new venture : Atelier Martinshof.

Martinshof around 1970 The garage of our home 'Martinshof' (built in 1942 and named after my grandfather Johannes Martinus and in a sense also after me) located in a forest 1.5 km south of Gorssel, was converted into a gold smith studio for Eweg the outstanding goldsmith who had worked previously for my parents in their jewelry shop in Zutphen.

My father was a most remarkable man. He always maintained that the creative aspects for the business was always my mother's input and in a direct sense this was of course true. Perhaps largely because of that, I have for many years largely overlooked the enormous creative force my father himself was. He was the one with all the new ideas, right throughout his professional life. And he was the man who sought out the right artists to carry out and support his ideas.

Eweg at work in the Martinshof studio His first great find was the goldsmith from Indonesian origin Maud Smit. Together with Eweg they formed the artistic core of Atelier Martinshof, Maud being the creative designer while Eweg was the master craftsman. Maud Smit lived with us at Martinshof. Eweg lived in nearby Warnsveld from where he every morning arrived on his bicycle. Eweg had known me right from my birth in Zutphen and we became great friends. He was a most kind and very patient man. I was fascinated with his work and every afternoon rushed back home after school to stand right next to him watching the gradual creation of just about every single piece of jewelry Eweg made.

Maud Smit, 1950 Maud Smit was the sole creator of the visual concept, face, style of the Martinshof Collection. It was an enchanting fairy tale world of fish, birds, seahorses, mermaids, surrounded by sparkling stones and enamel in yellow, green, red, and blue in which Adam and Eve (brooch presently held by Antien) too participated. It represented the beginning of a new era in jewelry design, a total departure from the then prevailing boring and rather uggly jewelry which (sadly) up to this very day still has a considerable foothold in countries like the UK and Australia.

'Het Zeepaardje' by Maud Smit The signature piece of the collection was Het Zeepaardje ('The Seahorse'), an absolutely magnificent gold multicolour enameled seahorse mounted on a 8cm (3 inches) diameter set of gold wire circles studded with various coloured stones and stars. Its image was on the front page of all Martinshof brochures. It was eventually sold, I have no idea to whom.

Martinshof is 1 km south of Gorssel It took Eweg and Maud Smit about 6 months to created a collection large enough for an exposition, which in mid 1949 took place in Hotel Restaurant de Leeuwenbrug in Deventer.
De Leeuwenbrug (located diagonally opposite the Deventer Railway station) was in those days the most distinguished place in town with an excellent restaurant (where my parents took us for dinner to celebrate my graduation from High school in 1955), a distinguished formal nightclub 'De Leeuwenkuil' ('The Lions' Lair') and a large light room for conferences or expositions. Over the years the Leeuwenbrug lost its luster. It became a hostel for Turkish guest workers in the 70's and when I visited Deventer last year it had been knocked down and replaced by an office block.

The Martinshof exposition at De Leeuwenbrug was wonderful. The jewelry was displayed on several narrow wide tables covered right to the floor by magnificently burnt red plush cloth on which the individual pieces were arranged on artistically draped small pieces of black silk. Every visitor of the show was most impressed and enthusiastic about the collection.
However this was a time just after the war (WW2) that people spent their money on basics which they had gone without for so long. Consumerism was just starting in Europe and people saved up to buy those wonderful new things like electric washing machines, fridges, radios, turntables, a telephone, even a car. Jewelry, no matter how beautiful, was at the very bottom of the wish list, so in the end only a few items of the collection were actually sold.

The Mermaid The outcome of that very first exposition could perhaps have been very very different however and the question mark about this lingers in my mind up to this day.
There was an American visitor to our show. He was, according to my father's account, hugely enthusiastic about it and offered my dad to buy the entire collection to take home and sell in the USA. I vividly remember my father discussing this at the dinner table one evening. In the end he decided to decline the offer. It had taken him a long time to build up the collection and it would mean starting all over again. We all agreed with him at the time.

Was the offer made a bona fide one ? I have no idea and as a child I was of course not privy to the complete story of it all. I also think that the American would probably have persisted a bit more if his offer had been a genuine one. But if the offer was genuine, rejecting it could have been the biggest business mistake we ever made. After the war America, unlike ravaged and poor Europe, was flooded with money and wealth. Our jewelry would undoubtedly have sold there like hot cakes. But in Europe the prevailing image we had of Americans was the typical American tourist in shorts with a loud tie, camera around his neck and with a rather poor taste. Well that is history for you.
Martinshof - 6 continues on April 11

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Tuesday April 7, 2009 (diary)

It is overcast today as I wake up. Overnight there has been an IT power failure affecting all of the Northern Territory. All mobile phones, eftpos and ATM machines are out. No wireless Internet access. The shops are in a mayhem as credit card sales can not be processed. Shops are missing out on sales, banks close and you can't get cash from the ATM machines. Electric power failures also occur during the day.

Nightcliff Pool At around 2 PM I manage to get online, pick up emails and upload my Blog, then get into the car for lunch at Stokes Hill Wharf. Although still overcast I then go onto the Nightcliff Pool to cool down and have a swim. I purchase a 30 swim card, to make sure I keep coming for at least another 30 times and I can use any of the three Council run pools in Darwin.

The water is wonderful but Mary is not there this afternoon. She is more a sun bather than swimmer, so an overcast day like today is probably not good for her. I drive home through a huge down pour of rain, great, it is washing off all the dead locusts still plastered to the front of my car. I tank up at Woolworth in Coolalinga, but just when I have fueled up my car the Service station computer goes down. After an endless wait I finally fill in a form of non payment and promise to come back tomorrow to pay my bill.

On the news tonight Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announces a new IT plan for Australia. As after tender the Companies have not come up with a suitable proposal, the Government (on the spur of the moment ?) has now decided to do it themselves (yet another one of those socalled Labour "revolutions"), building a 43 billion dollar (which no doubt will blow out significantly) fibre optics net work directly to 90% of all homes in Australia. It is to have a 100 MB per second download speed. A nice idea, but probably highly unprofitable and in the end to be paid for by the taxpayers themselves according to several commentators. The emotional intention is good but the reality is being overlooked.

The saying, only half in jest, comes to mind :
If you are not a socialist when you are 20 you have no heart....,
but if you are still a socialist when you are 40 you have no head.

According to above description I have been born without a heart. I have been a conservative by nature right from birth. I am not a rich man, never have been never will (far from it in fact). But I am by all accounts and my actions a generous and compassionate man. So, I am proud to say, I believe are my two children.
And unlike Socialist Governments which (in a well intended but over the top attempt to consider them as "equal") treat all people as being the same, I believe in the right of the individual and that every human being is unique and should have the independent creative opportunity to express and develop this. That is what Conservative Governments are at least trying to be all about.

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Wednesday & Thursday April 8 & 9, 2009 (diary)

My pastels on acrylics after a Willem de Kooning painting Wednesday is a sunny day again, but despite that the (solar powered) electric gate on our property is running out of puff. It has to open and close for us too often each day to keep up. So for the time being it is back to manual operation until a stronger battery is installed.
I drive into town (Casuarina) for a sushi lunch and swim then enroll at the Casuarina Seniors College in their pastel painting course commencing April 28. Like my mother I have never been much motivated to paint, probably because I am not very good at drawing. Eventually she had some lessons in oil painting I believe and I too did some course 10-12 years ago but never continued. Perhaps I now have become a bit more patient to follow through. We shall see.

Thursday I am much excited. My sister Wivica, after reading my last Martinshof story, has found quite a lot of material from those days. She has emailed me photographs of Eweg, my father and Maud Smit's drawing of Het Zeepaardje which I immediately include in my Blog. The rest will arrive later by post.
In the evening it is off to Palmerston for an evening's bridge playing with Freda. We had a win last week, but I am not so sure about tonight. I am in a rather absent minded mood and make two or three rather bad errors. The other games are again right on track.
Back home I get on with reading The Sword of Hour which I much enjoy. Can't sleep, so off and on I keep reading then try to sleep until finally after 3 AM my mind at long last comes to a rest.

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Friday April 10, 2009 (diary)

With Brian, November 2007 For an nonreligious person like myself and on my own, Good Friday is always a boring day as most shops and restaurants are closed all day. Fortunately here in Darwin things are not so grim. The Stokes Hill Wharf eateries are all open and are having a busy trade when I arrive there for lunch. The ladies from the Portside Char Grill know what I always have so I only need to give them the money. It is a lovely day and quite wonderful just to sit there looking out over the harbour.

The Nightcliff Swimming Pool is closed today, so on my return to the Mango Farm I hop into our own pool where Brian already has installed himself. Brian, who lives with his wife Margaret in one of the two large sheds (fully fitted out with kitchen, bathroom and aircon), is a very quietly spoken man, but, a restless wanderer like me, he has had quite an interesting life. While I float around in the warm pool with a G&T in hand he tells me about his experiences as a flight Sergeant in the RAAF, then as trucky driving road trains between Adelaide and Darwin.

In the evening it is off to the Darwin Bridge Club where I play with Mairead tonight. I give her (like to Freda yesterday) a gift bag with some Easter egg goodies. Both ladies are pleased with my surprise. Initially the evening starts off like yesterday, I feel just out off sink with my bridge. But as the evening progresses things improve and we still end up winners for the night.

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