Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Countdown to the Heirloom Keynote

That's me wearing my Aunt Ella's aquamarine knuckle duster in red
 and yellow gold.  It's been in the family for a long time.
Well, I've put the ancestral bling away in the bank security box. I fished it out for inspiration while working on my presentation for PEI. I can't keep the ring and its matching pendant at home safely and although I am tempted to wear them to the Heirloom conference I won't.  I've lost an antique pearl and ruby ring and earring set once in Europe and that taught me my lesson.

I have been working hammer and tongs on my presentation.  At first it was a casual gathering of anecdotal material, which I always enjoy because it pushes me outside of my own narrow scope of experience and expectation.  And frankly people love to talk about themselves, so why not give them the chance.  I've always said to my son, "talk to strangers and you will learn something.  Just don't get in the car with them."

When I work on a topic it is as if I become a magnet for information about it.  Articles, experiences all seem to drift into a pile like wind-blown autumn leaves.  Yesterday, the new issue of East Coast Living landed in my mailbox with a feature story that I had written about Teresa Kachanoski's heritage home.  Ned Pratt did the photography.  Héritage is the French translation for heirloom.  For my presentation I tried to define the essential attributes of an heirloom, what makes it different from say a souvenir or a collectible, and then to illustrate those traits with the narratives people had so generously shared with me.

This photo was snapped by Teresa, which we sent to tempt
 the editor Janice Hudson.
I was also interested in how heirlooms accumulate meanings through successive generations and how that changes.  For that I used an example from my own life: how I had inherited my grandmother's Victorian drinking glasses, which my Austrian mother then put in Russian tea glass holders and I use to serve Turkish style mint tea.  In Turkey, I was fascinated by the chai boys who would materialize out of thin air upon being summoned with a clap of a merchant's hands.  (At the time I was haggling for kilim, flat weave Turkish carpets.  Craftspeople would rework salvaged pieces into carry bags and purses.  Was I a carpet bagger?)
 To my consistent admiration, the chai boys would come running with their trays.  I used to like to watch them round corners at high speed.  Somehow, no glasses got broken and a drop was never spilled.  I sweeten the tea with sugar that I ritually collect on vacation.  It is the only time I add sugar to a beverage.  I make the tea in a special Chinese teapot.  Significantly, my teenage son has his own handmade teapot.  It makes me hopeful for the future of craft.

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