Bangkok to Boston. It’s Friday @ 94° and sunny, T-shirt and sandals … and then it’s Saturday in the middle of a raging winter storm, power outages and two feet of snow. Dressed in everything down-filled that I own and still shivering.
We all know life can be like that - dramatically different in just the blink of an eye-and though the extremes in weather thankfully were not life-changing drama, the magnitude of the contrast gives me pause.
I pause in gratitude for one more opportunity to be immersed in and inspired by some of the world’s most creative and beautiful cultural craft, but even more gratefully, one more opportunity to surround myself with extraordinary Asian connections forged over half a lifetime. These connections, when added to those of my wonderful family and many amazing people here at home are the very best part of sixteen years that has been Out of Asia.
I am honored to have a small part in connecting the most talented artisans in Asia with those here at home through finely hand made (with the skill and soul of many generations) heritage craft. I delight in the web of support spanning the globe, provided by those of us here at home who love the uniqueness of handmade items-with-provenance and the luxury of one-of-a-kind. This delight helps to sustain our world’s heritage arts, the artisan master makers, their children and families and their villages.
Halfway around the world and with different customs, different languages, different architecture, foods & dress, all the people I’ve met share many of the same hopes, dreams and aspirations. They often outshine me in hospitality and generosity.
A great many of the artisans that I work with are women. Without exception, these women with a steady source of income use it to care for, to feed and to better educate their children. Their efforts not only raise their children and families up – but collectively they raise entire villages up as well.
In a world where so many advertisements tell us that the ultimate status symbol is something from Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel or Hermes, I disagree.
The ultimate status symbol is to cherish something beautifully handmade, which makes use of the skills and knowledge of many generations and is infused with heartfelt human energy. Something sustainably produced that provides a livelihood to an artisan and her family, helps to preserve literally centuries of the world’s creativity and allows the fortunate owner to be the very best version of her own unique self.