Dig­ging Mod­ern

Atomic Ranch - - Contents - Writ­ten and pho­tographed by Chad Baker

Early in my ex­po­sure to Mid­cen­tury Mod­ern ac­ces­sories and ac­cent pieces, I stum­bled upon an artist who cre­ated in­cred­i­ble wooden birds sculpted from unique wood species. The artist be­hind these lit­tle birds, Emil Mi­lan, crafted sil­hou­ettes show­cas­ing re­fined, smooth, flow­ing, and clean lines—per­fect com­pli­ments to mid­cen­tury ar­chi­tec­ture. Long af­ter re­al­iz­ing my de­sire to one day own some of these mas­ter­fully crafted, life-like wooden birds, they fi­nally be­came a re­al­ity for our home.

A sur­prise twist brings a col­lec­tion of Emil Mi­lan cre­ations home for a song.

Eight years ago while study­ing photos from an es­tate auc­tion in Penn­syl­va­nia, I was elated to dis­cover a large col­lec­tion of these won­der­ful wooden birds by Emil Mi­lan. Ev­ery piece was de­scribed over the phone by the auc­tion house as in per­fect con­di­tion, signed, and iden­ti­fy­ing the unique species of wood such as Palo Rosa, Bis­silon, Im­buia, Wenge, Cu­cum­ber Mag­no­lia, and Wal­nut. The quan­tity of birds, their shapes, sizes and species of wood, made this a rare, amaz­ing find that I sim­ply couldn’t miss.

Hav­ing pur­chased from this auc­tion house pre­vi­ously was a def­i­nite ben­e­fit. I in­quired how the birds would be sold and was told “by the lot”; mean­ing that the en­tire col­lec­tion would re­main to­gether. I trusted the in­for­ma­tion they had pro­vided about the con­di­tion and they trusted me with my very generous bid. Now all I could do was wait anx­iously for the phone call, which I re­ceived the fol­low­ing day.

To my great sur­prise, I was awarded the lot of wooden birds for a mere $20—this was truly a great find and my dream to own some of these amaz­ing, hand­crafted cre­ations came true.

How­ever, the auc­tion house seemed to be in­trigued by the de­ci­sion be­hind the per­ceived large bid.

Con­se­quently, their re­search re­vealed artist Emil Mi­lan as a close friend of their fa­ther (whose es­tate was be­ing auc­tioned). Oc­ca­sion­ally on Emil's vis­its, he would present their fa­ther with a newly sculp­tured wooden bird, which would find a rest­ing place on their fa­ther's shelf. Know­ing my pur­chase saved a col­lec­tion as a whole unit for the fu­ture is most re­ward­ing and sat­is­fy­ing.

You never know where the next amaz­ing find will ap­pear, but the el­e­ment of sur­prise and ex­cite­ment of dis­cov­er­ing a trea­sure will re­main a fond mem­ory—and hope­fully be­come a col­lec­tion all its own.

Know­ing my pur­chase saved a col­lec­tion as a whole unit for the fu­ture is most re­ward­ing and sat­is­fy­ing.

FOR MORE, VISIT ATOMIC-RANCH.COM.

Chad Baker is a knowl­edgable mid­cen­tury en­thu­si­ast who has been dig­ging for mid mod trea­sure for more than 10 years. As a re­sult, he has a plethora of sto­ries about res­cu­ing, restor­ing and scor­ing great finds. Along with his wife Tina, Chad lives in a stu

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