Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Treasure chest

Yes, there is quite a lot of good that comes out of moving despite how much I have grumpled on recently. Oddly--and this might be surprising--I rarely think on the garden apartment in the rue Truchet. So firmly the page has turned. And it has been delightful to rediscover so many objects that just weren't right for that very specific, very Provençal space. No more so than what I call the treasure chest, la malle aux trésors, which was, by necessity, tucked underneath a swivelling stone staircase where it was promptly ignored. Truth be told it is just a linen chest, one bought years ago as Remi's initials happen to be scribbled in iron across the top. But, oh, the happiness once the lid is lifted. Not only that wonderful waft of cedar, but lots of little packages, tied up tight. These are largely pieces that we brought home from our travels, though not exclusively. Fabrics, like spices, are a wonderful souvenir as they are light to pack and the pleasure they offer both immediate and enduring. 

Unfolding a crinkly brown paper takes me back immediately to an incense-filled shop in Samarkand, where we ignored the suzanis in favor of a long wave of finely woven pink and gold silk. One hundred years old. We tested its authenticity by burning a thread. Clean. Just underneath, a blue and white ikat found in a seaside shack in Candidasa. The Balinese woman who greeted us had worn hands that grabbed on to mine and wouldn't let go while she explained the effect the bombings had on her family. The next day, she sent us off with a bunch of gangly bananas from her garden.

And then there are the pieces that have not yet found their use, tucked away on a mini Island of Forgotten Toys. Two bolts of Nina Campbell fabric shipped from England for projects that I can't yet afford to finish but inspire as baroque only can. More ikats from another trip to Bali, not our colors but irresistible nonetheless. So lovely in the hand. Red sarongs bought at the Russian market in Phnom Penh for a photo shoot on the Toum Teav as the Mekong rolled by. 

Alas, there is no room in our new apartment for the treasure chest. Emptied of its goods, it sits in the attic, amidst the lanterns for a garden that we will hopefully have again. Once I am more settled, I will look forward to taking down these wonderful fabrics, one by one and trying to find a use for them. I have a feeling that some of these pieces were bought in the past for a future life, as we sometimes do, projecting ourselves to where we want to be. Certainly, something will fit perfectly for where we are right now.

I wrote this little post with someone in mind. If you don't know of Debra, from Acquired Objects, please take a gander as she is one of the most supportive ladies on the blogsphere. For her, these fabrics might have a more specific appeal although they aren't from the 15th century, like her usual fare!  


  1. Imagine my surprise to see one, you mentioned me thank you, but two you have ikats???? Want to sell any blue pieces? I have a client looking for some and believe it or not they aren't as easy as you might think to find. Email me if you have any you would like to sell. What a wonderful chest I have one and like sitting on the floor among my treasures. They don't even have to be old if they bring back past memories and since you've choosen to hang on to these pieces they were good memories. Thank you for sharing your hide treasures fun going through someone elses dreams.

  2. Hello Heather:
    This is indeed such a box full of treasures and, even more importantly, treasured memories. Never once, before now, have we considered the purchase of fabric as a reminder of places visited but now, reading this, it seems to be the most wonderful of ideas and something which is so easy to put into practice. Planned trips, although not immediately, to both Venice and the Black Sea will make for good starting points.

    The chest looks far too interesting to languish in an attic. Would it not serve as a coffee or sofa table?

  3. I love the idea that sometimes we purchase or aquire things/objects that may be for another life. You may love them but they don't quite fit into your world right now. Lovely.

    ~ Clare x

  4. How funny!As I was reading I was thinking of DEBRA cause we had an exchange via e-mail YESTERDAY!Small it!I loved how she has hung some textiles on her office walls!Perhaps, you too could do that.Peek at her blog of yesterday!

  5. Hello there and thank you for the kind responses. The heat has completely cotton-candied my brain, leaving me incapable of writing! Only the rosé is bringing me back to life. :)

    Debra, unfortantely I am not willing to part with any of my Ikats. They were bought in 2006 and 2008 and even then it was very hard to find "real" ikats. The new ikats were created with chemical dyes. The two that we bought were old and from the family--sold, unfortunately as they needed money. The same can be said for a magnificent brown and orange ikat that we bought in Sidemen (an area home to great ikats). The blues are usually from Sumba and not Bali--if that info is helpful to you! Remi and I are longing to go back--if we do, I'll keep you posted. :)

    Jane and Lance, oh my, I can only dream of what you can bring back from Venice! Antique Fortuny panels for example? And the Black Sea, well, that intrigues me. Azerbijian? Yes, there is wonderful material there as well! As for the chest, I whole heartedly agree--it has the most remarkable blue patina but alas it is not flat on top, making it useless as a table!

    Yes, Clare and who knows what you have in front of you? Perhaps you should buy a print of the Hollywood sign. :)

    And yes, Elizabeth, it is small on the net and that is one of the things that I love about it! I had seen Debra's post but mine has been in the planning since before my move...

  6. Lovely sentiments, as usual. So often, material things -- while some may say they are only things --can generate good feelings and wonderful remembrances that feed the soul.
    Warm regards,

  7. Heather it is so beautiful a piece that it breaks my heart to think of it in the attic. If it is not flat on top, which I see from the photo, could you instead stand it up on its end (ie so it is tallest) and use it as a side table, or tuck it against a corner, perhaps in that wonderful corridor you have, as a base for arrangements of whatever takes your fancy, like the fresh lillies.

    And I was amazed, but not surprised, to discover that we share a love of collecting fabrics from travels! My husband just shakes his head, whenever I open the cupboard and it all falls out. But then he trots over, despite himself, and reminisces as to where and when we purchased the pieces. Most of them I cannot bear to turn into anything, for it will involve cutting them up and maybe leaving them behind in a house that we move on from, so they stay as wonderful folded piles of memories.

    Virginia x


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