I want to take a minute to talk about the best gift I have ever received, and believe it or not, it was from total strangers.
Ok, not total strangers, but close enough. Let me back track for a moment; a few months ago I was studying in the south of France in a tiny little village named Lacoste. At the end of the term we displayed and sold our work in a large gallery show open to the public. After months of slaving away in the middle of summer with no air conditioning (I admit that I am completely spoiled, after all who needs a/c when you’re in France???) I had put together a pretty decent collection of work. My collection included 6 framed work (a mixture of free motion embroidery portraits and collage) several small, unframed work, a felt sculpture and about 12 small felt bowls.
The show was exhilarating and exhausting. We ran around from gallery to gallery, either talking to guests and customers or taking cash and receipts to the main office. Southern France is a very hilly region which gets to be very hot in the summer time with temperatures in the 90’s (F) in August. As you can imagine, this didn’t help the exhaustion level the student body was experience, not to mention many of us had been pulling all-nighters in order to finish our work and study for our exams. None the less, the exposition was a wonderful experience.
By then end of the exposition I had sold one large framed piece, my felt sculpture (both to wonderful SCAD professors) several of my small unframed works and a few of my small bowls. Not a bad haul considering the threat of rain (very rare for that time of year, in fact it only rained twice the whole summer we were there) had frightened many of our patrons away. I had just finished my shift and had headed down to the terrace (with the absolute best view in Provance) to enjoy the closing reception. After I finished my drink and enjoyed some of the entertainment provided by my fellow students my professor approached me to inform me that there was a couple who wanted to speak to me in the Blue Gallery.
I rushed down the cobblestone street to the gallery where I found a Belgian couple looking at the remaining felt bowls that were on display. They explained that they had seen my felt bowl sculpture that I had on display in the other gallery (which had already been sold) and wondered if I could create another for them using the remaining bowls. (The first bowl sculpture was also comprised of small bowls stitched together, see above) We discussed the possibilities and their preferences and I agreed to the commission. I handed the a card and we set a time and place for them to come by and pick up their piece, 5pm the following day outside of the SCAD boutique. I have to admit, I was a bit flustered. After all the intense process of creating and displaying and selling, I was exhausted and overwhelmed. And on top of everything else, I had never sold a single piece of work before in my life. I didn’t know quite how to react.
The next day I stitched arranged and rearranged, sewed and resewed the bowls together, attempting to create the perfect composition. I fretted the rest of the day, afraid that the couple may not like what I had created. Finally 5 o’clock rolled around and I sat on the steps to the boutique with my creation in my lap, waiting for my patrons to return.
The bell tower chimed, echoing against the walls of the ancient limestone village. “Five o’clock on the dot!” The man said as the couple approached. They explained that they were from Belgium and had lived and worked all over the world including the US and Indonesia and that they now lived in Provance. They told me that they had driven an hour to meet me there. I presented the sculpture, they were thrilled. I posed for a picture with the sculpture and couple. They then presented me with a bag a brown gift bag. They explained that they had visited my website and viewed by blog. They had noticed that I had posted a video of Indian block printing and wanted to give me a little something.
I unwrapped the beautiful copper stamp you see pictured above. I was absolutely speechless, my eyes started to tear up and I stood with my mouth gaping as they explained the beautiful piece of art was an antique batique stamp from Yagjakatara, Indonesia. It depicted the story of Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit epic. I thanked them reverently as I gawked at the most beautiful gift I’d even received.
Along with this gift they gave me a beautiful handwritten note with their address. They asked me to write them some time. Unfortunately in between my trip to Stockholm, my travel back to the states and my recent move to Hickory, North Carolina (for my first real job!!), the letter went missing. Here is hoping they will check back with this blog and understand just how touched I was by their beautiful gift! - If you are reading this, please know that I would love to stay in touch and please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
** UPDATE, I did hear from my wonderful patrons! They corrected a few points in my story concerning the origins of the stamp. I’ve corrected the details above (I suppose I was so amazed I couldn’t remember all the facts about this wonderful gift).