Found Object recently embarked on a buying trip to Turkey, traveling by car, bus, plane and boat to uncover a trove of goods. Luggage was lost twice en route, but the many rewards the country has on offer – colorful markets, beautiful bazaars, hidden gardens and restaurants, intoxicating aromas, delicious food, quaint towns, turquoise coves and, of course, warm, welcoming locals – made up for any inconveniences.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Last year at the Paris trade show, Salvo and Jude bought Moroccan tea glasses and bowls that were a tremendous hit in the U.S. So, they decided it would be best to go directly to the source to uncover new product.
On the trip to Morocco, Salvo brought Leslie, hoping they could mix a little pleasure along with business. While they did manage to squeeze in one day of fun, they spent the first four days from dusk until dawn shopping and meeting with suppliers.
Baskets, rugs, teapots and more
In Marrakech, the duo worked diligently with a local guide and his assistant to select among rugs, blankets, textiles, glasses, ceramic bowls, metal trays, teapots, leather bags, poufs, slippers, kitchen utensils and wooden cutting boards, fossils and geodes, woven baskets, brass hardware and many other treasures they encountered as they traveled through the city.
One day, they went to the warehouse of a basket supplier who Salvo has been working with for more than ten years. Just outside of Marrakech, in a modest building with a bleating goat tied up at the entrance, was a wealth of creativity stemming from basic palm leaves – baskets, hand bags, and furniture.
The workman was incredibly weathered looking, but his demeanor was gentle and he was obviously proud of his hard labor over the years. He shared techniques for braiding baskets, cutting leather handles and stamping leather trim.
Inside the Medina – not all work
When they first arrived, Salvo and Leslie hoofed around town, soon realizing they couldn’t really cover enough ground. The solution was the motor scooter – perfect to navigate the market and its crazy, crowded maze of narrow streets and corridors, jam packed with people, donkeys, horses and carts.
They found the locals to be incredibly welcoming and warm, the city safe and clean. The food was a slice of heaven; varied, delicious and abounding in exotic flavors – tagines served in traditional bowls, delicately spiced keftas, aromatic mint tea, luscious dates, and freshly squeezed orange juice.
It seemed they always ordered too much. Despite the fact that a tagine is made mostly of vegetables, the dish is unbelievably filling. Likewise was the case with many of the other local delicacies. It took until the last day before they finally learned portion control.
Despite such a hectic shopping schedule, Salvo and Leslie did go on a couple of tourist outings. The first was to a dam about an hour outside the city. Along the way they cited some interesting sculpture on the side of the road.
They also made a trip to Jardin Majorelle, an exquisite indigo outdoor garden with a varied collection of trees and exotic plants. The museum there houses many pieces depicting Berber culture, as well as the full collection of Yves Saint Laurent’s “Love” collages and designs, which were used as his annual New Year’s cards.
The duo also had an interesting encounter with a snake charmer. Salvo posed and gave Leslie his phone, rushing her to “take the picture! take the picture!” Nervous as she was and afraid to get too close, she fumbled with the phone and shut it off. As she waited for the phone to turn back on, the snake charmer became inpatient, got up, left all his snakes with Salvo, and took the picture himself. All the while, Salvo stayed still as a statue with snakes squirming on his shoulders and hissing alongside him.
Many of Salvo and Leslie’s finds in Morocco will be available for sale in the upcoming months. Please plug in to our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/found.object.co for a roster of upcoming sales and events.
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.
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.
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.
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 Silk Road was once the source for much of the world’s luxury goods, from precious stones and jewels, to spices, gold and ivory. Not to mention, textiles. The stunning ikat fabrics awash in bold colors and vibrant patterns simply awed traders back in the day. From the moment material traveled west, ikat became a major influence on the design world and still does today.
The textiles from Uzbekistan are especially alluring. Thousands of individual threads are tie-dyed in intricate patterns, then untied and woven into fabric on very narrow looms. The finished material is so elaborate that designs are often mistaken for prints. The dazzling patterns have since woven their way into many facets of design and fashion, such as bedding, linens, curtains, porcelain, clothing and upholstered furniture.
Jude has long been awed by these Uzbeki gems, especially ikats made from silk and silk/velvet. Through Found Object, she has created pieces that take full advantage of the wonderful colors and patterns.
Jude and Salvo typically purchase fabric in Turkey from suitcase wielding couriers who they encounter by way of their vast connections. The material is then shipped to the Bronx where workers sew the patterns together to make pillows, cube ottomans and totes. The process is not simple due to width limitations, especially when crafting larger pieces.
On one family visit to Turkey, the luxurious fabrics were even a hit with Indi, Salvo and Leslie’s two-year old daughter. The trio plus Jude were brought to buyers on the outskirts of Istanbul. In a small building, they passed through room after room until finally they hit on the mother lode – a space full of material exploding in color. Intoxicated by the visual overload, Indi jumped from pile to pile, beaming with delight.
Revel in the world of ikat at our upcoming sales:
ikat and leather bags on Fab.com, starting June 11th
ikat silk and velvet pillows on RueLaLa.com, starting June 20th
ikat silk pillow collection on Fab.com, starting June 30th
ikat silk pillows on Gilt.com, starting June 30th
Our recent vintage ikat porcelain sale was a huge hit and pieces sold out quickly!
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 Bengal, India. The variety of products they create – quilts, bags, scarves and shawls – are nothing short of spectacular.
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.
May 29 Kantha Weekender Totes US sale on fab.com
June 10 Kantha Scarves US sale on foundary.com
On a recent trip, Salvo and his wife, Leslie, visited the Andean highlands of Peru. While Lima was home to a bustling trade show, some of the best pieces the couple uncovered were found in a small village near Cuzco.
But all was not smooth sailing. One day while traveling with a local driver, their car broke down. Surrounded only by lush grasslands, grazing alpacas and the snowcapped Andes, it seemed likely they would be stuck a while. Save for the odd native passerby, not a soul appeared providing assistance.
When the engine finally started humming again, they headed for the nearest sign of human life. Soon they stumbled upon a tiny hamlet and some of the most exquisite rugs and textiles encountered the entire trip.