E is for…
I have mentioned my particular inclination towards paper and packages, so when I came across the profession of an expressman I felt a certain closeness to it. Perhaps I’m adding a little too much romance to this early postman or courier, but the image I’m conjuring has a certain ruggedness attached. The duty of an expressman was to see the safe passage of a train’s gold or currency, so they’d accompany the cargo in a specially allocated car. Add into the mix that the expressman would often have to memorise the safe’s combination and sometimes armed himself and I’m sure you start to understand the mysterious allure of this character. Of course today, perhaps some of that mystery has diminished from the postman’s job description, but I feel like there is still a glimmer of intrigue that goes hand in hand with sorting & delivering the mail.
I lived in Tribeca & Chinatown for 10 years! Thankfully, in that time, the coffee game picked up, so now you can enjoy flat white to your heart’s content!
If you’re not already super-excited about an upcoming New York adventure, download ‘Empire State of Mind’ by Jay Z and Alicia Keys and rock out! PLAY IT LOUD! It’s the most exciting, energy-filled city in the world.
These are my rules for shopping/exploring New York City:
1. I detest backtracking in NYC. This is a habit I picked up while styling, so I created ‘loops of interest’ from start to finish. These allow you to pick up where you left off or, if you are fast-paced like me, complete in one day,
2. Food for me is fuel and part of the NYC experience. Fuel stops must be included in loop of NYC (slash every long-form international shopping destination) as shopping can become exhausting.
3. Every day must begin with a coffee and snack for me. After years of the worst coffee in the world, NYC has picked up its game and has a few fabulous baristas in town, thank God!
4. Take notes on the architecture, manholes, graffiti, shop signage and general street life and personalities. It is all part of the process and there are endless NYC experiences.
P.S. There is nothing wrong with a long, boozy lunch…
My love of stories of sailors & pirates lead to the NbyNW palette – I delved into the world of seafarers from a ships paraphernalia, weather predictions, famous travel tales, handy knots and the maps, charts & signals one needs when on the high seas for YEARS!
In Etcetera I list the ‘Skills that Sailors had Other than Sailing’ : sewing, tattooing, birdwatching, whittling, scrimshawing, training pets like monkeys, parrots, crickets, dogs, musical instruments, making games of quoits & balls, dancing jigs & singing sea shanties, reading (most ships had a library), basketweaving, and palm&leather braiding, collecting specimens, botanical drawing, cooking, shooting&skinning specimens, herbal remedies, rope&net making, bone carving of buttons, needles & gambling chips.
Shop the NbyNW palette here.
Travelling companion: my Dad
From a past trip to Italy, I have a fantastic handmade souvenir of Venus standing in a trip of scallops. I love these sorts of holiday mementoes. In the old parts of Naples, you see so many tiny workshops, making anything from musical instruments and inlaid woodwork to sandals, but along the nearby coast you find handmade ceramics, shell cameos, old-fashioned souvenirs of bottled boats, shell-encrusted frames and snowdomes from your grotto adventures. La Minervetta, where I stayed in Sorrento, had an amazing collection of boxes, frames and general paraphernalia.
I found the motif of the scallop everywhere, painted on church floors, in reliefs of marble & plaster, and in shields & crests. It was originally a pagan symbol of pilgrimage, particularly for fertility. I love these icons and even have a shield as the symbol for The Society Inc.
Zoology museum and Caravaggio
On a trip to Florence, I came across a huge Caravaggio exhibition and fell for his story, and beautiful still lifes of fruit and vegetables. I’d heard there was a hidden Caravaggio in a church in Naples, which was part of the reason I wanted to go there. Due to a poor map, though, I didn’t find it. However, after much up-and-down stairs through the University of Naples Federico II, I found the purpose-built zoology museum, almost as good as my favourite one in Paris. Sometimes, not finding what you’re looking for when you’re travelling means you stumble on something better. Keep an open mind.
Years ago, I picked up a fold-out double concertina book The Theater of Nature or Curiosity Filled the Cabinet by one of my favourite artists, Mark Dion. It contains line drawings of famous cabinet of curiosity collections both past and present, including the famous 17th Century Imperato Museum. Even though the Museo Zoologico is not quite it, the skeletons, eggs, shells, nests, stuffed birds and animals collected in the 1800s are impressive.
Road trip with my Dad
I wanted to do this Amalfi Coast road trip with my Dad, Peter. I believe he was perhaps Italian in a past life, and not just for his sweater oh-so-casually tossed over his shoulders. He took to the Naples morning peak-hour traffic and the hair-raising coastal road with style, expertise and a sense of humour (I had very tense shoulders!).
I love travelling & hanging out with my Dad– he’s really funny and enjoys the finer things of life, so this coast was perfect for him and his linen loafers.
You can look into so many people’s lives through the street eye-height windows. Soap maker, woodworking shops, instrument makers, tambourines, weird grotto things, religious icons, taxidermy, booksellers.
Modern art litters the walls and is scattered throughout – a mix of new, IKEA and falling-apart furniture.
The appearance and placement of shrines in all sorts of nooks & crannies, everyday shrines – an image, a bit of a saint and a few plastic flowers.
Mountains fall into the sea.
The consideration of the vista. The glimpse of a garden, cloister, view through a window. What happens at the end of a room.
Tune in next week as I tease out the colour palette that so vividly presented itself to me during my travels through Italy.
noun /ˈamjʊlɪt/ 1. an ornament or small piece of jewellery thought to give protection against evil, danger, or disease.
Most cultures incorporate a dose of superstition into their daily lives, including a need for protection against the ever-present evil eye. Across the ages, amulets and talismans have been imbued by their wearers with the power to protect and bring good fortune. Ancient Egyptians were strong believers in the power of amulets to benefit both the living and dead; a small carved deity to fulfil a wish, or an inscribed piece of jewellery to grant the mummy a safe journey to the afterlife.
Amulets take many shapes and forms; amongst the souq in Damascus, one can find entanglements of sea creatures and parts of exotic animals: pelts of small cats, turtle shells, small crocs, sharks and puffer fish, starfish, stuffed birds, antlers and horns, crabs, porcupine quills, wolves teeth and other strung pods, bark and spices. For a while I flirted with antique Chinese children’s clothes and although I did not pursue this collection, I love the idea that if you dressed a child up in clothes that looked and smelt of animals (such as ears on hats and tiger shoes with animal fur hidden within), the evil spirits would confuse it for an animal, and leave it to live a long, happy & prosperous life.
As any good traveller knows, you need a little extra protection when embarking on a new adventure. I wear two amulets, both made from leather, with various items stitched inside them to keep me out of harms way.
A string of bone beads that I picked up in a Sevillano flea market hangs on an old wire coat hanger with a carved bone Chinese talisman my mother gave me. Place on a nail, pride of place or back of a door, a nice way to display your strung things (even jewellery) and an easy way to change as regularly as you like.
Shop our collection of amulets and talismans
D is for…
I could wax lyrical about my love of indigo for days, but the dying process is also of great interest to me. Looking back, to think that geographical location determined the colours of fabric is amazing. These days, synthetic dyes are the norm, but early dyes were made from insects and plants. The rich red of British soldiers’ jackets was in fact derived from insects that live on prickly pears. A trip to India definitely piques the interest in dyeing, as you see the incredible work of textile makers here, there and everywhere. The spectrum of colours is seemingly endless and the richness is just so beautiful.