Day 168 / 365
For the past two years, my husfriend and I have been quite committed to vagabonding around, hopping back and forth between a VW van, various Airbnb’s, a subleased apartment, and family member’s guestrooms. It was as spontaneously glorious as it was energetically exhausting, and this summer we put it to a temporary halt.
We decided last winter to stay in Paris long enough to nest for a while (and wait out the US Elections), embracing with a certain excitement our very own apartment in Paris’19eme.
Both of us have been living in Europe for the past 10+ years, but recently, a sense of home has been calling us. He’s San Antonian and I’m Winnipesian, two cities, two countries apart, mirroring one another in many ways, a straight 24-hour drive between them. If we went to one of our homes, we’d never be far from the other. But after spending our entire adulthood thus far in Europe, it’s sometimes confusing where home really is.
Where the heart is, they say.
With thick panelled hard wood floors like my mother’s house has, skylights which make the back end of the house feel like a sailboat, and big wide open windows at the front which let a sea like breeze float in, this place feels like home..
It’s small, as most places in Paris are, 32 square meters. Not much space for two people who both work from home, but it’s cosy, and it’s ours. It sits atop a hill in a quiet neighbourhood hidden up a flight of ivy-lined stairs, with a vineyard, community garden and tranquil community of kind people. Most Parisians have never been up here. It feels like a small village hidden away from the crowds and noise below.
Magically, when we moved in, we discovered that the furniture we already owned fit perfectly. As if it had been made for the space. We bought a desk second hand, a vintage coffee table, and a few worn carpets. There were, of course, some pieces from Ikea, despite my despisal of them – you can’t live in Europe without their GRUNTAL storage solutions. Apart from the Ikea nonesense and those few pieces found second-hand, each item we've gotten new has been carefully chosen from sustainable, ethical companies. And it hasn’t cost us anything in style.
One of my favourite new pieces is a quilt, which was sent to us by The House of WanderingSilk. Like in North America, quilts have a long history in India; from the koudis of Karnataka, and kanthas of Bengal, to the ledras of Jharkhand, and gudris of Rajasthan. It is the age old domestic art of upcycling, repurposing tattered bed sheets, outgrown clothing and old dresses into patchworks of perfection. The final creation is a specimen of fine art, each one infused with creative energy, like any other art. This fine but fading skill has been passed down through the generations since the ralli quilts of the Indus Valley Civilization of the Bronzed Age. The richness of ralli quilts showed the family’s prosperity back then, and women would sit before their wedding for months to create a piece representative of their story. In India it is a tradition rife with spiritual significance and folk meaning, whether made for ones self or given as a gift.
Our quilt was produced by a women’s self help group based in Himachal Pradesh, in Northern India. The collective provides members with regular employment, living wages, training, and flexible working conditions, allowing women to work from home should they choose. Each quilt is made from beautiful sari remnants left over from the production of The House of Wandering Silk’s kathna sari scarves. The artisans iron, cut, place and sew the small patches together, then hand quilt the finished blanket. The results are stunning, a million heartfelt stories stitched together into its own unique tale. Not since I was an infant and slept under a pink rainbow quilt my Aunt handmade for me have I ever had such a love filled creation cover me while I dream.
In many ways, keeping artisan skills alive, keeps meaning alive. We will never look back at that H&M, Target or Urban Outfitter's blanket and find any depth. It's just a thing. It's empty and void of the tales the skills artisans hold can tell. You can encourage and support the growth and continuation of these heritage skills by voting with your dollar and supporting artisans who are paid fairly to keep the spirit of substance among us.
You can find the beautiful creations HERE , they let you choose your own unique design when you purchase, selecting from the completed colour combinations available. Pure magic :)
Photos: Shane Wodoward