Dr. Seuss Enthusiast
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Dr. Seuss Enthusiast

Ofer Ayal steers his whimsical collection in Chamblee off the beaten path.

Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.

Ofer Ayal carefully selected framing to perfectly suit “Self Portrait of a Young Man Shaving,” a favorite piece of Dr. Seuss art.
Ofer Ayal carefully selected framing to perfectly suit “Self Portrait of a Young Man Shaving,” a favorite piece of Dr. Seuss art.

Ofer Ayal, his wife Kristin and their son Harry live in a light-filled contemporary home in Chamblee. The cheerful ambiance is the perfect setting for Ayal’s curated collection of whimsical Dr. Seuss-related items, many of them rare, all of them delightful.

Treasure Trove by Chana Shapiro

Ayal was born in Jerusalem and his family moved to Atlanta in 1978. He attended The Epstein School and graduated from Yeshiva High School in 1989. After attending Tulane University, he started “a 25-year love-hate relationship with the restaurant industry,” in which he spent most of that time as a chef in the Atlanta area.

One of the culinary stops along the way was Pastis Roswell. Some close friends had visited family in California and came back with three pieces of Seuss art from “The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss” collection. Ayal was enthralled and “very jealous!” At that time, he was not financially able to buy art, but he loved the idea of owning one of these valuable pieces.

Seuss collector Ofer Ayal, with wife Kristin and son Harry.

One day during the restaurant’s afternoon “siesta,” while walking around downtown Roswell, he found Ann Jackson Gallery selling pieces from the same collection he had admired.

“I soon befriended the gallery curators-owners,” Ayal said. “The Seuss collections were meaningful to me: they were gorgeous, intrinsically valuable, and had great nostalgic impact because my parents read all the Seuss books to me as a child. Acknowledging my love of the art and my longing to own one of the pieces, the gallery owners allowed me to put a small amount down on the art and pay it off, while letting me hang the piece in my house! My first piece was ‘Sawfish,’ and I was off to the races!”

“Turtle-Necked Sea Turtle:” This table sculpture is one of the seven witty marine sculptures in a Dr. Seuss collection called “Marine Muggs.”

Fifteen years later, no longer a chef, Ayal is now a residential real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway. More financially secure, he owns three sculptures and 18 framed pieces, which he considers his most treasured possessions. He gets regular updates on new releases, and “if they affect me, I find a way to make them mine. I would love to have them all, but finances and wall space limit my collection.”

Every piece is numbered, and each release is regulated by the Seuss estate. More than 150 pieces have been released by the Seuss estate, offering a wide variety from which Ayal can select favorites.

“Wisdom of the Oriental Cat”

Ayal generally limits his collection to pieces without the more recognizable characters/images such as Cat in the Hat, Lorax, Horton, then adds his own input with framing choices, which he calls “another whole rabbit hole! Most framed pieces have come together with excellent results; only once did I feel the need to reframe a piece,” he said. “I especially love the pieces in which my own framing style works with the art of Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss’ real name).

“I have several favorites within my collection: my first purchase, ‘Sawfish,’ and the one I consider my best combination of art and framing, ‘Self-Portrait as a Young Man Shaving.’ The ones that have appreciated the most, both in my personal connection to them as well as monetarily, are ‘Wisdom of the Oriental Cat’ and ‘Green Cat with Lights,’” Ayal continued.

“I recently added two pieces from the illustrations of Dr. Suess, with more recognizable characters and images from the books. With those, the sculptures, and pieces from the ‘Secret Art of Dr. Seuss,’ I am VERY happy with the way my collection has grown.”

Ayal does not collect as an investment, has no plans to sell his pieces, and will never purchase art for the sake of pure acquisition then store it in a back bedroom. He slowly grows his collection, still allowing for a new piece that has special meaning to him. He enthusiastically sums up his collecting experience: “There is hardly a better feeling than carefully deciding how to frame a special new piece and then taking the framed piece home to enjoy every single day!”

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