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Pieces of China carved in stone

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What started out as a hobby between two friends in Arizona has blossomed into a business that imports stone carvings from the San Dong province in China and sells them to a wide variety of customers."Anyone who is artistic and into Oriental art is into this stuff," said Job Mebrahtu who co-owns the store with Patrick Tsai.The store, among a row of car washes and auto repair shops on Queens Boulevard, carries pieces that range in price from $20 to $20,000. There is something for everyone - from a 700-pound jade coffee table to man-made crystal Buddhist meditation beads.Mebrahtu said that one customer wanted to purchase the jade table for his balcony but he needed to make sure that it would support the massive weight."I had to ask him if he was sure the balcony would hold up," said Mebrahtu. "He said it was concrete and could hold the weight."While some of the pieces have been carved by hand, the more unique stones have had only minor polishing to showcase what nature had in mind. One stone, that has two types of igneous rocks intertwined, shows what appears to be the silhouette of a fisherman casting into the water. Igneous stones are made of lava that has cooled below the earth's crust and turned into hardened rock. Another piece, dubbed the peacock rock by Mebrahtu, has the spitting image of the bird in front of a swirling marble background.Many of the stones also have the signatures of the artist who helped create them as well as a description of what the artist saw while he was working on the stone. Tsai translated the Chinese characters painted on one stone and explained that the artist envisioned a view of a mountain with a lush valley below.If a craftsman's touch is what you seek, a 4-foot tall carving of a traditional Buddhist scene could be what you are looking for. Made from a stone Tsai referred to as long life mountain stone, the design's intricate detail is obvious, but becomes even more compelling when the stone is inspected more closely. Smiles grace the bearded faces of the tiny robed monks frozen in the stone and with each passing glance of the eye, a new detail is discovered. Mebrahtu explained that the stone is taken from a single mountainside in China and took a carver about seven months to complete the piece. The rock could become extinct in as little as 10 years, he said. "We have quite an exquisite piece of (long life mountain stone) that we are proud of," said Mebrahtu.A favorite piece of Tsai's is a sphere that boggles the mind as one tries to figure out how it could have possibly been carved from a single chunk of jade. The sphere is actually seven separate spheres, each smaller than the one that surrounds it, all capable of moving independently while still being locked together as one stone. Mebrahtu explained that jade is a coveted stone in China, Korea, and Japan where it is considered to bring health and good luck. With the vast collection of jade on display, the duo should have a bright future ahead.Reach reporter Peter A. Sutters Jr. by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 173.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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