The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!
On the first floor of the Marianas Business Center (the “Nauru Building” with the big "360" on the top), there exists a unique store, with a unique name. The layout and offerings reflect the artistic bent and passion of its owner, Ashley Moffatt-Uys (Uys is pronouced "ace").
The store is called Fu Dogs & Qi (pronounced chi), and it’s the newest business on Saipan, offering an eclectic and rare selection of antiques and objects of art that can extend the wonderful multi-ethnic, multi-cultural experience we have on Saipan.
Walt: How did you discover Saipan?
Ashley: “I first came to Saipan in December of 1996. Some friends I had met in Europe suggested I meet them for Christmas here on the island. The moment that I stepped off the plane and set foot on the island, I felt as if I had come home. I felt a strong connection to the people, and to the land that I can’t explain. I didn’t know anyone here, but I felt as if I belonged.
“After that first trip, I looked into the possibility of spending more time here. As a corporate art consultant, my job each year is usually finished by November, since companies usually are not buying any more art for their offices from Thanksgiving until February. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 12 years: spending three months of every year on beautiful Saipan!”
Walt: Now for the most important question on my mind. What on earth are Fu Dogs and what’s the Qi connection?
Ashley: “Fu Dogs are the symbolic guardians of temples. They are referred to as temple dogs. They can be dragons, dogs or the lions that you often see in front of state buildings or large homes. I became fascinated with Fu Dogs about 30 years ago, when they kept popping up in my life. There are many stories about them. They are mythical beasts who protect and guard, but also return lost items.”
Walt: …And Qi?
Ashley: “Qi is energy. Qi is one of the alternate spellings of the Chinese word for the life energy that inhabits all things. My husband is a naturopath who works with energy in the body and uses natural products in his healing; products that are not typically available here—you can find him here at the store sometimes. So, when I was thinking of a name for the business, I thought the Fu dogs and qi was a nice marriage of the things that I was passionate about.”
Walt: How did you get into art and antiques?
Ashley: “I came to art and antiques through a really amazing path, which allowed me to touch and feel pieces growing up rather than just see them from behind a rope.
“My grandfather, Edwin Broun Fred, was a famous scientist who was born and raised in Middleburg, Virginia. He got his Ph.D. in Germany, then in the U.S., moved himself up to professor, dean and eventually president of the University of Wisconsin
“As a child, I was always fascinated by the artwork in the homes my grandfather would take me to visit. One lady in particular would sit me down and let me hold a Ming vase, a Rembrandt, or take me to see a Chippendale chair. She would teach me things about each particular piece she owned.
“My grandmother was also a collector of fine things. When my grandfather was president of the university he would get these remarkable gifts from the visiting dignitaries from all over the world.”
Walt: What’s your passion? Are you an artist?
Ashley: “I am not an artist but I have a lot of appreciation for it. If I had had a degree, I probably would have ended up working in a museum, because that’s what one does with a Ph.D. in art history. But that was highly confining and limiting to me. I don’t have a degree. I didn’t finish, but it has helped me go in my own direction, and create a life that is right for me. What I really always wanted to do is travel the world and find beautiful objects, and now I get to do that.
“What fascinates me is the passion of the people who created these objects. Not the historical significance necessarily, but the passion. Art imparts some of the people’s energy who have had them, their soul. That’s what appeals to me.”
Walt: Why an art and antique store here on Saipan?
Ashley: “I truly believe that the soul of a country is found in its art. Even if you can’t grasp the symbolism, you can feel the soul of the person who created it, the families who owned it, and the countries from which they came. We have a very unique cultural mix here on Saipan. People from all over the world pass through, but may never get more than a surface appreciation of the other countries. Now they can discover so much more about what life was and is like in many of our residents’ and visitors’ countries. It’s really fascinating.”
Walt: Where do you get these unique pieces?
Ashley: “For many generations in China, families buried a lot of their treasures with the departed to keep them safe. Since China has opened up, one of the things that’s happening is that families of the departed and others are digging up the graves to find them. As a result, many pieces are coming out and being made available at reasonable prices; amazing pieces of art that haven’t been available to the world at large until now.
“The pieces from China are from the Ming Dynasty [1368-1644AD] and the Qing Dynasty [1644-1911], but I don’t try to broadcast that anything is a Ming or a Qing. It’s more about the emotion that it elicits. I am not selling things at the thousands and thousands of dollars that they are worth. I bring in beautiful objects that are easy to love whether they were made 600 years ago, or last week. But, in case you want the same thrill collector’s experience, all my pieces do have an official seal or a stamp on the bottom which indicate their authenticity and which dynasty they are from.”
Walt: So, what else can people find at Fu Dogs & Qi?
Ashley: “Primarily Asian antiques, but we have textiles, art prints and we’ll be getting furniture soon. We have beautiful temple bells and kimonos. [They also have prints from 19th Century Japanese artist Hiroshige] The Asian antiques are from China, Japan, Korea and Tibet. Many things were carried out of China and into Tibet.
“A lot of the pieces were made from precious metals, but because they were buried underground, they look newer than they might otherwise.
“Sometimes a piece looks better with many years of wear on it, and sometimes it looks better polished. I polish up many of the pieces to restore them to show them in their best light.”
Walt: Who’s your target audience?
Ashley: “Interestingly, I’ll tell you something. We’ve been open unofficially for a few days now. While Marlon [Marlon Regaton, store manager] and I were arranging and organizing the store, lots of different people have wandered in. I’ve been surprised by the range of people who’ve taken things home. It’s been lovely. Everyone. We’ve had tourists, locals, expats, contract workers, business owners. I hope people stop by and take a trip through Asia by walking through the store. We have things that anyone can be passionate about!”
Walt: So, why should I consider owning art and antiques?
Ashley: “Beautiful art feeds your soul; it brings sweetness to your life even in hard times. You can look at something beautiful and take yourself away from the stress. Personally, it makes me feel very wealthy when I own a beautiful piece of art. Even if it isn’t expensive, it makes me feel good that I can still surround myself with the finer things in life.
“The right piece for you might be something that you put in your home or office—something that can be a focal point for the space. Or, it can be a loving gift. With the holidays coming up, it’s a unique thing to share a valuable antique with someone you love. Or, it might be the perfect symbol to commemorate a birthday, a wedding, or honoring a friendship—an antique is a piece of beauty that has survived many ages.”
Walt: Tell me about the grand opening.
Ashley: “This Thursday, Nov. 6, through Saturday Nov. 8, from 11am until 8pm every day, we’re offering a special discount of 15 percent off every item. We don’t work on a high mark up because we want to keep things affordable.
“I’ve also been an art consultant and interior designer, so I am available to help people make a good selection of the right art to help all of the elements in their home or office work together in harmony.”
Walt: Finally, what advice can you give to other passionpreneurs?
Ashley: “Do what you love. Because I’m so passionate about antiques and furniture, I knew that I wanted to find them, and be around them as much as I could. So this business seemed the most natural way for me to live. It allows me to be surrounded by the things that I love and to share them with others.
“No matter what your passion, I believe that your joy at being able to do what you love will be contagious, and that’s always good for business!”
[You can reach Fu Dogs & Qi on Saipan at 670 235-9996; It’s the second store on the left as you enter the building]
Note: For more tips on overcoming your fears, acting on your ideas, changing the game, and creating a passion-centered lifestyle, visit www.passionprofit.com!
Until next week, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!