The Insane, Circuitous Voyage of a Package of Scarves

Many businesses go through shipping nightmares from time to time, and Found Object is no exception. The company receives multiple packages daily from all over the world, so it’s expected to witness a few snags along the way.

But none was as hairy as a recent shipment of scarves that finally made it to the warehouse with only hours to spare before a projected sale event. Panic, angst, fear – only a handful of the emotions experienced recently by the entire Found Object team.

The story of how a package of scarves managed to travel the world in the period of a week really sheds light on the realm of shipping and how product miraculously makes it to market.

Scarves finally at our warehouse.

A Moment of Panic

It all started last February, when Jude and Leslie were at the Noida, India trade show. They happened upon a beautiful selection of cotton and linen blended scarves they thought would be wonderful for a spring and summer collection.

When the duo returned home, they offered the scarves to a particular online site that, with only rough images and detailed descriptions, agreed the pieces would be perfect for a Summer Pool event slated for early June.  The scarves were ordered, production was scheduled and delivery confirmed.

All good, except the scarves didn’t arrive until 18 hours pre-sale!  Typically, Found Object and its online partners need a three-week lead time to photograph, edit and upload product images, so one can imagine the sense of urgency the week before the items finally did arrive.

Frantically pacing the warehouse, Leslie was at the forefront of the panic-stricken week, checking online tracking hourly, stalking the FedEx delivery guy every day as he made his rounds.

Leslie was closely monitoring the situation.

From Kolkata to Brooklyn

The shipping debacle began May 28 at 7pm, when the package was received in Kolkata. On Thursday, May 30 a tracking message stated “a delay beyond our control” and the package remained in Kolkata. By Sunday, June 2, the package had traveled to New Delhi. It was then in transit finally arriving at Paris, Charles de Gaulle, on June 3.

June 4 and 5 were busy days for the package, with multiple postings on the FedEx tracking site. On June 4, tracking indicated the package was in transit in various locations – first Paris, then Munich, then Lombardo, Italy. At 10:32pm the package was still in Italy, but then managed to clear US customs, arriving in Memphis, Tennessee at 12:32am June 5 (the sale was slated for June 6 – less than 36 hours away!)

It took all the wee hours of the morning before the shipment moved out of the Midwest and made it to Newark. The package then arrived at the Brooklyn FedEx facility at 9:56am and was finally delivered to Found Object at 2:11pm on June 5. Phew!

Quite the tracking history.

The beautiful scarves were all unpacked, photographed, edited and uploaded just in time for the event.  And, as both partners in the sale had hoped, they sold very, very well.

A selection of scarves from this shipment.

From Artisan Tool to Objet d’Art

Jaipur, India has been home to the art of wood block printing for hundreds of years, producing textiles with some of the most elaborate patterns and colors. Over the years, automation and computerization has taken its toll, but the craftsmen in this region still vie to keep their art alive.

On a trip to India, Salvo visited a few of the local artisans, greatly admiring their work.  He was particularly fascinated by the actual wood blocks themselves – intricately carved pieces depicting certain motifs and patterns, many specific to the royalty that once thrived in the region.

He noted that many of the older blocks, those that had lost their sharpness and were no longer usable for printing, were in great abundance and pieces of art in their own right. True to the message of Found Object, he decided to collect them and display them in a way that could be sold as decorative art.

In the Days of the Mughals

The practice of block printing most likely originated in China about 2000 years ago. The art traveled to Rajasthan in the medieval period where the Mughal artisans began printing and dyeing cottons for royal processions and festivals.

Jaipur is one of the great centers for this style of printing, the process of which is intricate and extensive with more than one hundred specific designs that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Despite the advent of digital printing methods, a handful of local artisans have rejuvenated the craft of traditional hand block printing to a level of popularity that has made its way to the forefront of today’s interior design circles.

Repurposed at Found Object

The wood block is a relief matrix – areas that will depict “white” are cut away while the images that will depict “black” are left intact at the surface of the block. Ink is then applied and either stamped or rubbed on a piece of cotton cloth. For color printing, multiple blocks are used, one for every color.

Over time, about 10-20 years, the wood blocks wear out and do not form an even print. At this time they can no longer be used. Enter Found Object.

Many of the pieces Salvo discovered had been discarded and were covered in print ink. The team decided to mount some of them on metal stands and apply paint to the fronts to highlight the intricate patterns.

They decided to stack some of the big collections of wood blocks. Others were placed in various colorful containers – vintage egg baskets and brightly colored carved wooden bowls that had begun to fade.

These curious wood blocks, each with a unique history, have come full circle – from their humble beginnings as artisan tools to the hands of Found Object, where they have been repurposed, redesigned and elevated to veritable objets d’art.

Mastering the India Trade Show

The trade show is a business necessity for a company like Found Object, and the dynamic trio – Jude, Salvo and Leslie – frequently traverse the globe in search of fresh product and new supply sources.

A recent trip by Jude and Leslie to Greater Noida, a booming industrial town two hours south of Delhi, India, was special in that significant progress was made on the buying front.

In the early days of Found Object, visits to major shows posed certain difficulties: meeting reliable suppliers, fulfilling minimums, selecting product that would sell, as well as making new, trustworthy contacts. This time around Jude and Leslie knew exactly whom to see, thanks to countless visits in the past by Salvo to secure suppliers and resources. They reconnected with trusted sources and were able to purchase goods in bulk due to the business’ increased distribution network.

The Chaos that is India

Still, India is always a jolt to the system no matter how often one visits. Upon arrival there is a palpable culture shock and a blow to all five senses at once. Drivers generally don’t speak a word of English and maneuver like madmen, expertly avoiding every possible form of movable life – cows, dogs, goats, chickens, countless kids – not to mention bicycles, cars, trucks, buses, carriages, and rickshaws that jostle for space on any given street.  As one passes by, there is a sense of an invasion of privacy, as the daily routine is witnessed firsthand – families eating, children playing, others bathing, styling hair, shaving – living life right out on the streets.

Developing New Product Lines

This particular visit consisted of three days of intense product development – meeting with suppliers at the show, selecting and creating new items – as well as two days visiting potential new suppliers in Delhi and Jaipur.

Jude and Leslie worked diligently, putting together new lines of product for Found Object. Their choices promise a whole host of creative ideas for the year ahead.

Scarves have been very popular selling items.  Previously, product had been sourced in wool, but they’ve added beautiful new pieces in silks and cottons to the collection. Blankets also sell well. Mohair product in multiple color blends were selected as well as pricier items made from lamb’s wool.

Other purchases consisted of napkin rings in carved wood, resin, bone and shell; wooden bowls, cake stands and serving trays; blue and white ceramic mugs, plates, teacups and saucers; linen napkins, table runners and kitchen towels; decorative accessories, such as tassels in cotton, jute and silk to hang on door knobs or tie back curtains; drawer knobs made of glass, metal, ceramic and wood, and men’s bags in burlap and jute to add to the popular leather collection.

A special favorite find was paper product, namely origami birds, as well as beautiful handmade designs that Jude and Leslie plan to transform into a holiday paper collection – wrapping paper, colorful twine and special scissors.

Also new to the collection will be intricately wood-carved wall art that ranges in size from 6 to 36 inches.

Last but not least were the trove of gems selected for three new jewelry lines: Bridal, consisting of pearls, gold, white quartz, hand-cut crystal, white topaz and Indian diamonds; Spring/Summer, which will include a variety of blue and green stones, golden rutile and chalcedony; and Fall/Winter, featuring darker beads, such as ruby, amethyst, tourmaline, prenite and labradorite.

The Chaos Comes to an End

By the end of five lengthy days, the mayhem had turned into a certain kind of normalcy, at least as normal as can be expected in India.  And Jude and Leslie had amassed a trove of treasures for Found Object.

The show closed with ceremonies in full pomp and swing.

For their sendoff, Jude and Leslie were donned with a couple of ornamental pieces – a “small” diamond necklace and a trinket in Maharajah style, both of which unfortunately will not make it into the Found Object collection.

As they departed for home with their bags full of samples, notes and purchase orders, they kissed India a sweet goodbye for now. They both know many more visits lie ahead to this wonderfully, chaotic land.

Finding a Home for Found Objects

Even before she started the business, Jude was already an avid collector of “found objects” she would discover during her day-to-day excursions and overseas jaunts.    Many of these exotic trinkets – wart hog tusks, antique rings, rattan pearls, colorful stones, silk tassels, African glass and bone beads, Ethiopian crosses – all of which desperately needed a home, have wound up in handmade necklaces.

An interesting, global story often lies behind Jude’s discoveries, rendering her jewelry all the more alluring and appealing.

Take wart hog tusks for instance. Jude found the first one on a key chain at a mall in Cape Town. She scoured the city and soon had access to as many raw, hollow pieces as she wanted. However, they needed to be trimmed, filled and capped if they were to be fashioned for a necklace. She tapped a jewelry artisan in Turkey, who was excited to take on this handmade project.

Buddhist sandalwood beads soon became one of the primary vehicles for many “found objects”. Likewise, colorful glass trade beads from Africa. In Turkey, Jude found hand painted silk tassels, which she now has custom made to combine with the glass and sandalwood beads.

Ethiopian crosses made from low grade silver have also made their way onto many necklaces. Jude found Coptic crosses available in all sizes, from tiny pendants to enormous table tops.

A dealer in Turkey sold her enough vintage African bone beads for three necklaces.           To incorporate them into a necklace each bead had to be knotted in between, like pearls, so they wouldn’t rub against each other. That same dealer then cast six replicas of Ottoman seals, which were added to the pieces.

Other great discoveries include vintage and replica Ottoman rings from Turkey. Many are made from oxidized silver and polished brass and inlaid with low grade gems, such as rubies. Wooden Indian Bodhi beads inlaid with brass, as well as sandalwood beads, are often used to display the rings.

Many of Jude’s pieces are available for purchase.

To see a calendar of all Found Object upcoming sales, please click here.

The Art of Kantha Embroidery

Of all the exotic textiles that emerge from Asia, possibly the most exciting and intricate are those that incorporate Kantha embroidery – the decorative running stitch motifs used by the rural women in Bangladesh and West BengalIndia. The variety of products they create – quilts, bags, scarves and shawls – are nothing short of spectacular.

Like many things “made in India,” work is typically initiated as a social project to earn extra money. Women from the local communities gather together while the men are out working.

The process begins as two pieces of fabric, generally vintage silk or cotton saris, are intricately sewn together by hand. The particular motif used depends on tradition that is passed down from mother to daughter over the generations.

Since each product is intended for someone in particular, the recipient gets to infuse his or her mark by choosing the fabric for the top layer. Other distinguishing details, such as beads, sequins, initials and special knots interwoven into the fabric, are often evident and further add to the personalized touch of the finished piece.

As one can imagine, the process is arduous and time-consuming. However, each resulting creation is not just exquisite, but completely unique.

Found Object has been collecting Kantha pieces over the course of many years. The latest finds are a result of a recent trip to India. With the assistance of Kishur, a local connection, Jude and Salvo were able to pick up a wonderful selection of pillows, bags and scarves – all available for purchase.

Our upcoming sales:

May 29 Kantha Weekender Totes US sale on

June 10 Kantha Scarves US sale on