It is officially summer and hopefully many of you will be travelling, if not this summer then sometime soon.
“Travel once a year to someplace you’ve never been before.” – Dalai Lama
I recently returned from a week in Mexico with my oldest daughter Tyla. We took the trip to celebrate her 40th birthday. It was wonderful to spend time with her one on one. She is a busy grown up with a family, a job and home of her own and this quiet uninterrupted time we had together was delightful and a treasured memory for us both.
While Tyla and I were enjoying another perfect day in paradise we met a beautiful woman named Joanne and (as you do while floating around in a pool half naked and mellowed out) we started to chat about travel and where we are from, Joanne is from Arizona. Later in the week we ran into Joanne at the silver shop as we were trying on gorgeous Mexican silver jewelry. Later we were excited to see what she had purchased which led us to a delightful chat about memorable things we have collected on our various trips and adventures. Joanne shared a story about a plaque she bought on a trip several years ago, she said how much she loved it, how it spoke to her when she chose it. So in a stroke of genius, during her recent kitchen renovation she had it installed as a feature in her tile backsplash; a brilliant idea and a perfect way to incorporate a precious memory into her home. It reminded me of a similar application on the Hotei project where we reused the handmade tiles that were originally on the boat and had to be removed for the renovation. They were created by a White Rock British Columbia artist in 1985 for our client’s mother. I am so pleased they are reinstalled for the next generation of her family to enjoy.
My dear friend Marni is a world traveler and she has the best description for knick- knacks I have ever heard – she calls it “Shelf Shit”. While I agree with her that most trinkets and plastic oddities are worthy of that description I know she would also say that it is important to commemorate meaningful trips with something that reminds you of the place and what it meant to you. Her home is a breathtaking homage to her many travels.
My first choices are almost always textiles. I find textile souvenirs the easiest to transport home. They are usually sturdy and durable and once you have them home they are the most useful and therefor easiest to justify purchasing. Most cultures have a textile history and I find them rich and thrilling.
During my trip to Bali last summer I had the great good fortune to meet the artist David and then to visit his batik studio, David Bali ,in Pejeng Village. David shares the studio with the batik artist Tjok Agung Pemayun of Batik Pejeng. I was able to see firsthand the traditional methods of the art of Batik. David’s designs seem to me more modern while Batik Pejeng’s are more traditional in style using the canting tool to draw the designs in wax. The method of using stamps called ‘a cap’ is what David uses on all of his designs. Combining vintage stamps with others he designs himself, the textiles are true works of art.
Textiles reveal so much about a culture. While in Ubud, Bali I visited the Threads of Life Centre where local people are working to save the diverse weaving and dyeing methods of Indonesia. It is an inspiring project to create financial security while recovering and retaining the rich cultural identity of the many islands of Indonesia. It was beautiful and moving to absorb how much meaning and heritage is in the weaving and dyeing of the fibres.
Art is of course a perfect memento of a trip. Not always simple to put into a suitcase but worth the contortions and coordinating it takes to get it home. A painting I have in my bedroom is a precious reminder of one of my last trips to Mexico with my husband Thom. We were staying in a little rental villa in La Manzanilla, we wandered into a small beautiful gallery and both of us fell in love with the piece. It was large and fabulous and we were determined to get it back to Vancouver with us. Which we did in a huge length of 8” PVC pipe – the kind you see on large public sewage and drainage projects! We did not imagine this pipe when the young woman assured us she could take it off the stretcher frame and roll it for us to take home. The memory of that trip and the fun we had juggling to get the sewer pipe and our art home fills my heart each time I look at it.
One of our clients is a passionate adventurer. She had traveled extensively through northern Canada as a nurse and had compiled an interesting collection of First Nation’s art as well as pieces from the many trips she has taken outside of Canada. We unified her selections by re-matting them in white while keeping most of the original frames and creating a salon wall in the living room. I know that she was pleased that her travel memories could be handsomely displayed for her enjoyment.
Rugs are a perfect functional souvenir. While buying a dress in Brisbane Australia the woman who was helping me asked me what I did for work. When I told her I am an Interior Designer she spent the next fifteen minutes describing the rug that she just bought in Turkey. It was a great story featuring her and her husband navigating the markets and negotiating less with the vendors and more with each other about value, patterns and size. She was animated and radiant as she told the story. I felt like I was with her in that Turkish market and it was wonderful!
On our last trip to Mexico Thom and I went to an artist market with our friends who we were staying with in Las Ayala. While having a fabulous, bright and fun day we chose to purchase the least colourful rug I had ever seen in Mexico, we loved it for its natural mostly undyed wool and simple pattern. The artist and his family created the rug from the ground up, raising the sheep, carding, spinning and dying the wool before weaving it into our rug. We had a wonderful time meeting him while spending a memorable day with close friends in a unique and very special place. I use the rug in my front entry hall and it is a welcoming daily reminder of that last trip together.
Pottery and glass although fabulous can be tricky to get home safely. I use plate stands to prop the two unique bowls that Thom brought home for me on two of his motorcycle trips to the South Western United States. He would lovingly fit gifts he thought I would enjoy into the nooks and crannies on his bike, how I do not know because space was at a premium and one of the plates is big! When he got home he would giddily tell me all about the trip and the artist and what inspired him to choose these pieces in particular. I love these bowls not just for their beauty but because to me they are treasures of the heart.
It is important to find a way to incorporate your travel treasures into your home. They give a depth and dimension to your living space. They are portals for you to time travel. They tell a story of you and your journeys and offer a way to share the richness and beauty of other places with your friends and family.
“Traveling, it leaves you speechless – then turns you into a storyteller.” Ibn Battuta