One of the things I love about travelling is the “loot”.
I was fortunate to do a considerable amount of travelling with my family when I was growing up. My mother, an interior designer with a sharp eye, taught me from an early age, to chose one significant memento rather than a bunch of crappy souvenirs. As a result I have, what I like to think of as a treasure trove of artifacts from around the globe. I like to think of them that way but I do recall someone saying once “Peg, you have such an interesting collection of junk.”
The first thing I ever purchased on my own was this silver and Lapis parrot jug when I went with my parents to Mexico City from Australia when I was 19.
One persons treasure, another’s junk. I don’t care, I look at all the “junk” and it conjures up wonderful memories of where I was when I acquired it or who it was who gave it to me – most likely my mother or my grandmother.
One my absolutely favourite pieces is this carved rosewood desk that my mother brought from Asia and used as her writing desk. It was always piled high with bills, letters and other papers. I can still see her little dilapidated book of phone numbers in her scratchy handwriting.
There are 4 sibs in my family, some male and some female, but we ALL, without exception, inherited our mother’s love of artifacts, and even junk. In addition to the things we inherited from her we have all added similar things to our own collections. Bizarre things. Opium scales from China, headdresses worn by Uzbeki horsemen,
Tibetan prayer wheels, Matador costumes from Spain, carved wooden water lilies, Javanese bamboo snuff containers, intricately woven baskets from the Sepic river of New Guinea, jewel encrusted Kalaga’s from Burma, shell spoons with inlaid handles and antique Tibetan change purses. You name it, we got it.
I have lugged home massive, heavy things in my suitcases, obviously in years gone by when excess baggage rates were not prohibitive. I couldn’t bear to ship as I didn’t want to part with my treasures for too long. I wanted to arrive home and bond with them immediately. I don’t need big things anymore so I tend to purchase smaller, more manageable items. Occasionally I make mistakes – getting things home and scratching my head in wonder, but on the whole I still cherish each and every item.
Then of course there are the beautiful things I inherited from my mother and Grandmother. My grandmother immigrated to Australia from Scotland and my mother also collected things on her travels. I often look at things in my home and realize they have arrived in North America via Australia and before that Scotland, or purchased in Asia, shipped to Australia and then on to Canada as was this pair of “Ancestors”.
Getting rid of things can be problematic if not heartbreaking. Our lives have gradually shrunk, at least in terms of material possessions. At one stage we owned a 5000 sq ft house as well as a ski cabin – a total of 8000 sq ft of living space all filled with “junk”. When you downsize, shit has to go – to kids, to friends, to the junkyard. One thing I know, I make good “pickings”. Whoever gets to the junkyard right after I have dropped off will think they hit the jackpot.
Two of my favourite things are these wonderful Suzani embroideries that I purchased in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul. There is usually a story to tell, and through a friend, interior designer Patty Neilson, I was put in touch with Catherine Mortensen, an antique carpet and textile aficionado who spent a day with me and took me to all the back rooms of the Bazaar. It was a magical day wending our way through this rabbit warren, drinking endless cups of apple tea from exquisite hand painted little glasses and meeting the friendly Turkish vendors. Thank you Catherine.
And of course there are also the wonderful components I collect for my jewelry like these carved, gold-plated beads from the Jokhang market of Lhasa Tibet. For more jewelry go to www.pegsteley.com