The deep ruts of the lane lead us along a golden rye field and away from the trucks and traffic of town. Marek is driving me to his aunt’s house because he thinks I will like her collection of pottery. As we bounce along in this Soviet jalopy I am struck by how pure the farmland looks: yellow fields rippling under a clear blue sky, with dark green trees specking the landscape here and there.
The farmhouse has a heavy thatched roof and white-washed walls and two horses eavesdrop by a small barn. Alicja is a small old woman with a round smiling face. “Wejdź, wejdź.” she says and ushers us inside. Alicja pours us tea while Marek shows me the plates and saucers and teacups, all patterned with cobalt blue and creamy white circles and dots. He picks up a plate and explains, “See, the clay comes from right here in Silesia and it is very good clay. See, it is very beautiful.” “Oh, it’s so beautiful!” I agree.
“What is her favorite piece?” I ask. “Która jest twoim ulubionym?” he asks Alicja. She fetches a lone plate from a shelf by the sink and places it carefully in front of me. It is rimmed with rows of blue circles with googly rust brown rings in each one. She is telling Marek a story, her face smiling, but tears start to trace down her cheeks. When she is done, Marek translates for me: “Her favorite aunt left for America when Alicja was seven years old. She was very beautiful and Alicja loved her very much. These plates were a gift and she packed them to bring with her. The night before her aunt left, Alicja took one plate out of the suitcase. She thought that when her aunt got to America and found that a plate was missing, she would have to come home to get it!” Alicja smiles and shrugs sheepishly at the failed plan. I smile and nod, sniffing back tears. I tell Marek, “Please tell her that I think it was a great plan.”
This is an excerpt from my book, Global Style Jewelry. Written like no book I’ve ever read, Global Style Jewelry features 25 original jewelry designs inspired by 25 distinct design traditions from around the globe, all set into a fictional narrative. The book is filled with gorgeous photos, clear instructions, while a sweet story weaves together the context for each piece. It’s a jewelry-maker’s travelogue. Travel with me as we visit a traditional Mayan weaver in the highlands of Guatemala and watch African paper bead makers craft an income from just paper and hard work.
It’s a loving homage to global artisans and their work. Written in the style of the J Peterman Catalog.
How cool is that?