An Elusive Czech Glass Blower

The work at Found Object is always new and exciting, forever changing, and never ending. A big part of the business is discovering new sources of inspiration for product, be it through visits to trade shows or chance encounters.

Recently, Salvo embarked on a scheduled trip to Germany for the Heimtextil show, the largest textile expo in the world. The plan was to then visit Istanbul to check on production for the NY NOW show in New York.

But in between, he had scheduled a three day sojourn with Leslie to the beautiful city of Prague, mostly to gain a bit of rest and relaxation with his wife, partly to discover new product, but also, unbeknown to Leslie, to try to uncover a Czech glass blower named Borek Sipek.

Sightseeing in Prague

Salvo picked up Leslie at the airport in Frankfurt, and the duo rented a comfy BMW X3 for their 450km drive along the autobahn to Prague. Five hours later they arrived on the banks of the Vitava river and pulled up in front of their hotel overlooking the famous Charles Bridge.1

Leslie had a full list of tourist activities she wanted to do and places she wanted to visit, and their days were filled with sightseeing and eating. In the old town, they went to a classical concert in the Spanish synagogue and meandered through the eerily crowded Jewish Cemetery.2

4In the new part of city, they visited the National Theater, the modern (1930’s) Church of the Sacred Heart, and the expansive Olsany Cemetary, known for its incredible art nouveau monuments. They often took the underground metro and above ground trams to get around.53

67They feasted on delicacies such as goulash and svickova, a popular Czech dish consisting of sirloin and vegetables, boiled with double cream.

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Famous Czech Glass

One of the highlights of this mini-vacation was discovering the ubiquitous stores selling beautiful hand-blown glassware. Goblets, bowls, wine glasses and vases – the array of colors and choices were mesmerizing. Prague is especially famous for its glass, precisely because the minerals specific to the soil in the region lends itself to an exceptional clarity to the finished product.1615

Salvo and Leslie were eager to discover new sources of glass product, especially after the great success Found Object has had with Moroccan glassware.

In Search of Borek

But all this time, Salvo had another goal in mind.  His real interest was locating one specific glassblower – Borek Sipek – whose work Jude had been avidly collecting for more than 20 years. Finding him would prove to be frustratingly difficult.19

After they discovered the contact numbers and addresses on his website were not current, they asked the concierge at their hotel, who told them about his glass factory which was over 200 km north.  No one knew if he had a local studio or showroom. They then started asking local storeowners, even knocking on the doors of private homes at his previous address, but again to no avail. They inquired at a local bookstore that sold hundreds of books on Czech design and glasswork, but again they came up empty.

Finally, after many vain attempts, they gave up and began walking out of the Old Town.  But a colorful window display drew then into one last shop. There they found a shopkeeper who seemed to know something, but was reluctant to share any info. When they asked if she had any Borek Sipek pieces, she became irritated. Realizing she wasn’t going to get a sale, she waved them out of the store and brusquely pointed to the back, indicating a small alleyway off the main street. Then she locked the door behind them.

Down the alley Salvo and Leslie ventured until they arrived at a small inner courtyard, where a lone art gallery, completely hidden from street view, featured and sold the work of Borek Sipek!

A Surprise New Friend

And the surprises continued. The gallery owner was lovely and shared all kinds of information about Borek with them. Thrilled as they were to have found his work, they selected a porcelain teapot crafted by the artisan himself in the 1980’s as a gift for Jude. But then, completely unexpectedly, the gallery owner offered to call Borek so they could meet him. Within twenty minutes, the elusive Borek Sipek arrived in the flesh.2021

They started chatting and he offered to sign a card for Jude. Before long they were at a local pub, dining on steak tartare and Czech sausage and drinking the local pilsner.

After a most enjoyable evening, they bid their farewells and readied themselves for the drive back to Frankfurt the next morning and the flight to Istanbul. Another fruitful, and completely inspirational, trip in the Found Object logbook.

Back to Early Roots — ShweShwe

Found Object’s latest creation is a colorful tabletop textile collection – napkins and runners – made from a unique selection of Shweshwe designs from South Africa.

This fabulous collection will be presented at NY NOW, the international gift show that begins in early February at the Javits Center.

From Humble Beginnings

Shweshwe has a most complex and interesting history in South African culture. The presence of indigo cloth dates back to the 17th century when the Dutch brought back samples made in India. As its popularity grew, French missionaries are said to have presented Mishoeshoe 1, then ruling leader of a large clan in present-day Lesotho, with a gift of printed indigo cloth.banner1

A strong appeal was soon established, hence the name shoeshoe or isishweshwe. Over the years, the working women in South Africa adopted Shweshwe as part of their everyday clothing. The intricate patterns and designs became a highly visible part of the culture that still exists today.

From the Townships to the Runway

Starting in the early 1980’s, after a considerable British investment, Da Gama Textiles, one of the oldest factories in South Africa, began printing cloth with the unique patterns in earnest.  A decade later it purchased the sole rights to produce the known Three Cats range of designs and had all the copper rollers shipped out to its factory.7Sign1

Da Gama is now one of South Africa’s last remaining textile producers as so much of the printing business has moved offshore to China and India. Headquartered in Zwelitsha, an area in the impoverished Eastern Cape, Da Gama has made a significant imprint with its three most prominent brands, namely Three Cats, Three Leopards and Toto 6 Star, all of which are authenticated by a back-stamp on the fabric.banner2

One of the company’s biggest and most recent forays has been in the world of fashion. It has collaborated with and sponsored several up-and-coming South African designers to showcase the Shweshwe collection. Over the years, the patterns and colors have expanded greatly to become a very contemporary, hip and cool fashion statement.

A Blast from the Past

Jude and Salvo were very drawn to the original prints and textiles as part of their heritage growing up in South Africa.

About a year ago, during a trip to Cape Town, the duo ventured to Bellville, an urban enclave of Cape Town that is home to many retailers offering the Shweshwe fabrics. It was there that they were mesmerized by the full spectrum of colors and patterns available, from luscious pinks and oranges to warm browns, and of course, indigo. Salivating, they grabbed a host of samples in varying patterns and colors and brought them back home to the Found Object warehouse.

Their idea was to make a range of pillows and table linens, namely napkins and runners. They soon discovered that the table items were a huge hit with customers, and it was Leslie who then had the bright idea to create a range of product with bright colored trim.

Shweshwe on the Table

After the initial success, Found Object decided to import a few hundred meters of indigo fabric in a wide assortment of designs. They then created a line of napkins and table runners trimmed in bright pink.

Just last week they received a shipment of four different designs each in pink, green, orange, turquoise and indigo, with which they plan to create a whole new batch of napkins and table runners, again accented with bright color trim.Banner3

Many items in the Shweshwe collection will be available at NY NOW which opens February 2 and runs through February 6.13

The Wholesale Launch of a New Jewelry Line.
THE CHAKRA COLLECTION

Jewelry is not new to Found Object’s extensive list of individualized products, however, a cohesive brand that has found its way into the wholesale market is entirely novel. For the first time, the company will sell its jewelry in a wide variety of boutique stores around the country, rather than solely online.

Introducing the CHAKRA COLLECTIONPostcard2

The Chakra Collection is made in Jaipur for Found Object. Named for the healing properties of natural stones, the pieces are very feminine, characterized by gems such as labradorite, golden rutile, green amethyst and prenite.Banner3

All the stones are set in gold plated brass and are cut individually to fit into each of Found Object’s designs so there is complete flexibility to select the type and color of the stones.

In addition, many of the individual pendant pieces can be removed from their chains allowing anyone to mix, match and add pieces of their own. The line is light, playful and highly affordable – many of the pieces retail between $75-$100.Banner4

The Hard Work Pays Off

The inspiration for the new collection came from three sources:  Jude’s personal jewelry box, ideas that had been in her mind for years and jewelry that was already on offer in the marketplace that she believed could value from Found Object’s spin and expertise.

Prior to NY NOW, the huge wholesale home, lifestyle and gift show held this past August at the Javits Center, Found Object sold its jewelry online. The goal had always been to wholesale pieces to specialty boutiques, so early this year, when Jude and Leslie traveled to India, they decided to develop several collections for the New York show.

They carefully and personally developed a palette and painstakingly selected stones. They worked with their jewelers – stone cutters and setters – in Jaipur to fashion pieces that were befitting of Found Object’s aesthetic. After months of hard work, they saw their project come to fruition with a new line, the CHAKRA COLLECTION.

The collection is now available at a variety of specialty stores throughout the United States. Please contact us at 212 254 1515 for further details. You can also visit our website at foundobject.co to see additional pieces available for sale.

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.

After the Fire…..

About a month ago, the Stoch family was awakened very early one morning by the smell of smoke and the sound of fire engines outside their apartment in lower Manhattan. A fire in the commercial building next door was the culprit.

The following morning, the family was brusquely woken once again, this time by firemen with hoses and lots and lots of water. Another fire next door, and this time the roof had collapsed.

The Stoch’s had no choice but to leave. Their apartment was completely water logged, walls were badly damaged and everything – from clothes to furniture – reeked of smoke. Plus, the city issued a mandatory evacuation order, effective immediately, until the building next door was demolished, and a structural assessment of their apartment was determined.

First Things First

Luckily, Jude was away in Cape Town, so she missed all the chaos. But Salvo, Leslie, the kids and their dog, Blue, swiftly mobilized to a nearby hotel.

The first issue of the day was shopping for clothes. They had none but the items on their backs. Next on the list was packing up the apartment in order to get everything cleaned, and then shipping everything into storage for the duration of the ordeal. Finally, they had to deal with insurance and finding a new place to live. At this stage of the game it became clear that moving back into their apartment was out of the question for at least three to four months.

Found Object to the Rescue

After about ten days of hotel living and with Jude soon to return home, the Stoch family was catapulted into a pair of temporary digs in very different areas of town, both of which were mighty short on furnishings.

In true Salvo fashion – he who is never afraid to take the opportunity to get things done on the fly – a truck was hired, the Found Object studio was raided and two homes were decorated in the blink of an eye.

Two diverse landscapes, two opposing elevations – both equally beautiful abodes after the Found Object makeover.

Apartment One – Sky High

The view to the west.

Window seat in the sky.
Silk velvet ikat pillows and cube. Vintage central Russian serving bowls.

Indi happy as a clam in her new pad.
Suzani upholstered sofa and cube. Silk velvet ikat floor pillow and vintage central Russian bowl.

Jasper in his new bedroom.
Vintage Kantha stitch blankets on white damask embroidered quilts. Micro-fleece plush throw blankets, and cork wall/floor tiles used as bulletin board.

Sophie’s bed and her homework, waiting to be started.
Vintage Kantha throw blanket with white cotton damask embroidered quilt and sham set.

Apartment Two – Street Level

The view to the west.

Jude’s new living area. Seating for 6.
Vintage hand embroidered Suzani ottoman, cube and chair cushions. Silk and velvet ikat throw pillows. British colonial cane chairs. Teak Indian long bench with kuba cloths from Zaire.

Zimbabwean Reed Basket filled with rattan pod beads, African dinka ring and carved camel bone amulets.

Tea time at Jude’s.
Moroccan hand-etched tea glasses with vintage central Russian teapot.

A Little Visitor.
Eating almonds in a bowl, from Granny Becky’s tea set.

The Thrill of the Find

It’s true that the thrill is in the find. What’s even more true is that the find can be where you least expect it – at a corner store in some remote land or even at an outdoor market right in your backyard.

On a recent trip to Cape Town, Jude uncovered some exquisite hand-woven baskets in a very serendipitous way.

While strolling the streets, partly as native, partly as tourist, she spotted a giant basket hanging on an office wall right next to a corner store. The intrepid shopper that she is forced her to hit the local street-side market to uncover its origin. She quickly discovered that these special baskets are fabricated from river reeds found in a remote and hard to access village called Binga, which lies in Northern Zimbabwe on the shores of Lake Kariba, close to the border with Zambia.

Without haste, she grabbed her nieces, Louise and Jessica, and the trio ventured to Green Market Square in central Cape Town where they were approached by vendors in all directions plying these Zimbabwean beauties in a grand variety of sizes. Some carried them in feed sacks or hemp bags, others stacked piles in their arms, all hoping to make a sale.

Selection was tough because each basket had a wonderfully individual design and quirky nuance.

Through a series of crazy and colorful coincidences and introductions, Jude and Louise met Lorraine and her sister Margaret. Originally from Zimbabwe, the two regularly make the three day slog from Cape Town to Harare, buying baskets so they can bring them to market in Cape Town.

The final choices came down to size. They only selected those that were easy to ship back to the US and that the Found Object team would be able to group into sets of three, photograph and make readily available for future sale.

Sadly enough, baskets more than 18 inches in diameter did not make the cut and had to stay behind for someone else to discover.

Found Object’s Fresh Face

Found Object is always on the hunt for talented people. So, this past summer when Jude and Salvo ran into their cousin’s daughter, Gaby, who had just finished her studies in interior design, they were thrilled to have her join the team for a three month stint during the busy holiday period.

As luck would have it, the deal worked equally well for Gaby as she faced the decision between a Master’s degree and an internship.  The choice was not really that difficult since at this early stage in her career she was craving the practical experience that only working at a company could provide.

Gaby of All Trades

When she arrived in New York in November, Gaby remembers her fond first impression upon setting foot in the warehouse – the size of the space as well as the large quantity of goods.

She initially worked with Jude on patterns, textiles and colors, matching fabrics to pillows and jewels to chains, with the goal of creating a collection for sale. Although Jude and she have distinct ways of looking at design, they soon discovered that their differing aesthetics complimented each other favorably.  Because Gaby understands the lifestyle genre and color palette, in addition to being well traveled, she has become a great asset, especially when it comes to bouncing ideas around. In fact, in some ways she has become Jude’s right-hand woman.

During this three month period, which is quickly nearing its end, her primary role has evolved to the area of photography, an area crucial to a business so geared to image and design. If an item doesn’t “pop” on the screen, it just won’t sell as well. Gaby uses her keen eye to stylize photo shoots, as well as edit, and crop, cut or silo every photo that is part of the Found Object realm, from flash sales to the scrapbook on the company’s website.

From time to time, she also works with Salvo on computer design projects.  She has developed invitations to events, created patterns for porcelain, and put together a catalog for a line of kid’s furniture.

A Fresh Set of Ideas

Gaby brings a certain kind of freshness to Found Object. Over the course of the past three months, her training and aesthetic have blossomed. The types of textiles – ikats, suzanis, swatis, and bukharas – were completely foreign to her and the vast array of products, colors and designs has really opened her eyes to new ideas.

It doesn’t hurt that she is also living in New York City, a world capital in art and culture. The wealth of fascinating museums and captivating architecture provides a stimulation that cannot be beat.

Before coming to Found Object, Gaby had worked at an interior design office, mainly in computerized drawing. The experience at Found Object is vastly different than a traditional office job because there is the opportunity to gain a glimpse of the complete life of a small company. She witnesses first hand everything coming full circle, from creating a collection, to imaging and sales. She doesn’t do just one job, but many and she has thrived in the fast paced, high energy environment.

At just 22 years of age, she is part of the younger generation that is naturally computer literate, able to quickly adapt to new applications and technologies – a boon to a company that thrives in the online world. And she has learned the workings of Found Object in the blink of an eye. With no prior background in photography, nor any knowledge of the mecca of flash sales, Gaby now works side-by-side with Kristen to set up the myriad and plentiful images required for everything sold by the company.

Plus, everyone in the office adores her. With only a couple of weeks before she returns home, Gaby wishes she could continue working at Found Object a bit longer. So do Jude and Kristen.  She has been a valuable and appreciated talent and everyone will be sad to see her go.

Found Object’s First Anniversary: Managing Growth

It’s hard to believe only a year has passed since Found Object opened for business. So much has happened during the past twelve months. And it’s not just increased sales, which have grown from just two flash sales to approximately 20-30 each month.

Product lines and inventory have expanded exponentially, encompassing so many more tastes and styles. But so have expenses. Business is booming, but it’s not been without many expected and some unforeseen growing pains.

Product and Sourcing Expansion

In the beginning, Jude and Salvo were focused on Suzani textiles and ways in which to convert them to a range of products. Creations included poufs, pillows, bolsters, ottomans and cubes.

Over the course of the year the product assortment has expanded to include jewelry, furniture, apparel, accessories and more. Found Object has also extended its sourcing destinations, encompassing almost every inch of the globe, from Turkey, India and China to Peru, Morocco, South Africa and many countries throughout Europe.

The newest line, just out this month, is weekender luggage made of cowhide leather sourced from India. Leather poufs, pillows and cubes are other innovations, and Salvo and Jude have been working with suppliers to develop a line of leather iPad covers and journals.

Other fresh items include Indian Chakra jewelry and African inspired pillows, as well as olive based soaps from Morocco, peshtemal towels from Turkey, and beautifully detailed wooden candlesticks from India.

Found Object always strives to stay true to Jude’s aesthetic as Salvo points the way and watches trends. These days the duo is traveling a lot more, but the buying has become much more focused. No longer are they going to the markets and simply looking at what’s available, but rather they go directly to the source – the network of suppliers they have built over the year and which continues to grow – and specify what they want to develop, based on past trends and future forecasts.

Riding the Learning Curve

Another decision-making matter relates to determining which lines sell best on the myriad flash sale sites. Certain sites are more geared to home décor, while others focus on apparel. Some cater to luxury lines while others are tailored to lower priced goods. Needless to say, it’s been a huge learning process recognizing how the many different communities respond to each line of product.

From Simple Hobby to Complex Corporation

Probably the most difficult issue has been dealing with the wealth of changes that result from transforming a hobby that simply embraced the love of shopping to a company that now has a responsibility to growth.

In the old days Salvo and Jude would travel to a country with a couple of empty suitcases.  Now, shipments arrive regularly by courier, air and sea freight. Last week 29 boxes of fabulous wooden candlesticks were delivered to the warehouse.  All of a sudden the business has to deal with customs clearance and freight consolidation, as well as duties, tariffs, and freight forwarders, namely all the intricacies of global trade.

With the increased inventory also comes increased expenses – warehousing, shelving, packaging and shipping supplies, and staff, to name a handful.  Found Object has gone from three employees – Jude, Salvo and Leslie – to a full-time staff of five, as well as a host of part-time sewers, upholsterers and shippers.

New On-site Showroom

One additional facet – what to do with items that aren’t offered in online sales – has led to the formation of an on-site showroom at the company’s warehouse in the Brooklyn Army Terminal. Customers and curious shoppers can now make an appointment to see many items, some offered online and many exclusive to the brick and mortar showroom, in a coordinated retail setting. It’s a great way to truly experience the Found Object aesthetic, as well as the wide range of products for sale.

If you’d like to explore the Found Object collection in person, please call 212-254-1515 and speak with Jude to arrange a visit.

Keeping the Art of Suzani Alive

Some of Found Object’s favorite finds are vintage suzanis – intricate, hand-embroidered textiles made in many of the countries along the Silk Route in Central Asia. Jude and Salvo have been admiring and collecting pieces for many years, often reworking them into pillows, ottomans and furniture.

A couple of weeks ago, Found Object received a beautiful collection of about 60 suzanis that were custom ordered. Approximately 18”x18″ in size, they are being refashioned into exquisite, sophisticated decorative pillows for an exclusive sale on Gilt.com on October 11.

The idea was conceived last April on a trip to Turkey when Salvo and Jude saw some very small vintage suzanis they fell in love with. They decided they wanted to create a unique pillow line. Rather than searching for individual vintage pieces for pillows – a very time-consuming process – they negotiated with local sellers to develop a line of suzani embroideries in the size and colors they preferred.

An added benefit of ordering the custom work is that it encourages an artisan tradition that is slowly disappearing. Over the last 20 to 30 years most of the female embroidery workers have moved to the cities to take higher – paying jobs. A variety of charities and NGOs have stepped in, helping to set up cultural production centers to keep the women sewing and this art thriving.

Jude actually thought she had ordered the pieces as finished pillows, but the suzanis, sewn on solid blue, black, gold and natural silk backgrounds, were delivered as individual textile pieces. So, Jude made an impromptu trip to the garment district in New York City to source silk dupioni fabrics that would form the backing of each pillow. She bought gorgeous silk plaids, ginghams and stripes that would add to the unique look of each finished piece. 

Sewing has started, and zippers, feathers and down cushion inners have been ordered.

Photography has also begun and will continue as the pieces are completed and made ready for sale.

Custom-designed Suzani Pillows will be available on eu.fab.com on October 7.

Found Object at NYIGF: Introducing Velvet Ikats

The New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF), which runs August 18 –August 22, is one of the largest of its kind, offering an enormous range of product from 2,800 companies across the home, lifestyle and gift spectrum. The event, held twice annually in January and August and open only to the trade, draws 35,000 attendees from all 50 states and more than 80 countries.

Found Object is excited to be part of the program, exhibiting a new collection of velvet ikat products, including pillows, fabric by the yard, cubes, ottomans and bags.

The Fair is a crucial event for Found Object as it is a time to make lots of valuable, new contacts and also to take new orders for product. At the event six months ago, suzani products were the focus and were a big hit. New customers included Calypso and Wynn Hotels.

This time around Jude called upon her son, Lucas, for assistance. Work began at the crack of dawn Friday as they waited to rent a truck to haul their goods to the Javits Center. The time consuming task of setting up the assigned Found Object booth took the better part of Friday and Saturday. Because the event is very tightly regulated, union workers had to be hired for all their needs – lighting, tables, chairs, even waste baskets.

The booth happens to be in an odd location – prime for visibility, not so prime logistically. In a corner near the back loading dock, set up and break down are a nightmare as dollies and forklifts constantly run through the booth. On the other hand, the booth is in the center of the Fair, very near the food court.

Finally, the booth was arranged and stocked, ready for opening day, Sunday.

Found Object’s booth is open Sunday, August 19 through Wednesday, August 22 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York, New York. Our booth number is 7885.