The majority of what I buy when I am travelling are presents for people. Even though I feel as though my luggage has expanded by double, like always, what I have actually bought for myself only takes up so little room. I feel as though getting the experience of travelling is a gift in itself.
However, wherever I am in the world, the one thing that I like to buy myself is artwork. There is something incredible special and personal about art. Each unique piece has a little bit of the artist in it. It is almost impossible to buy artwork for somebody else, because each person interprets it in their own way and is attracted to the most bizarre things. I once bought a metal giraffe from a market made by some women in Africa because I fell instantly in love with it. Up until then I had never shown particular interest in giraffes, but I knew I just had to have it. Now, I am looking for a giraffe oil painting. Weird, right?
I have watercolours from Salzburg, oil paintings from Paris and Vinyl prints from Germany. For me, bringing artwork home feels like bringing a piece of the city home with me.
Whilst I had already bought an oil painting from a local artist who I stumbled across painting lanterns in the back of his studio on my first day of exploring in Hoi An of two sisters holding hands, today I fell in love with another piece of artwork, and, to be honest, the two artists in whose studio I found it.
Patrick Wal and Tu Xuan are a couple living in Danang, about 30 minutes drive from Hoi An. Patrick is from France and Xuan was originally from Laos. Not only are they possibly two of the kindest, sweetest people you will ever meet, but the pieces that these two jewellery designers create are truly remarkable. My aunty, who has always been one of the most uniquely fashionable women that I have ever met, has had several pieces designed over the time that she has known them. And I can understand why.
The first time that we went to their home, tucked away in the back streets off the main road from Hoi An to Danang, I was completely blown away. Upon our arrival we were greeted by both Patrick and Xuan who had ready for us cold water, cut up fruit and an incredible banana cake (which I am definitely going to make when I get back). With 12 other women there, it was a completely overwhelming experience (in the best way possible), as we all took in the intricate beadwork and amazing designs in the studios. Although it was complete excited chaos, I did manage to leave that first visit with a stunning pair of earrings. They have been a talking point every single time I have worn them here since.
What makes their work unusual is that they do not use any metal to hold together the pearls, semi-precious stones and beads. Instead, they use copper wire, nylon and ribbon. They do this to support movement of the wearer and to give a touch of poetry to their designs. What makes it unique, is their talent. I have never come across anything quite like it.
Today we returned with only 4 of us. Once again we were welcomed with open arms. However this time, I managed to really appreciate the work. Although most of the jewellery is hung up on display, on the first day, I found a piece tucked under a few pieces of paper on the computer desk (because, as everyone knows on a treasure hunt, you have to look beneath the surface). Today, the crush that began on the first day turned into a full on love affair.
The piece is truly a statement. But it will be something I will wear occasionally and display permanently. With pieces like this, you become part of the artwork. I love the concept of wearable art for exactly that reason.
You can contact Patrick and Xuan at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or visit w-a-l.net to see more of their designs (created by a Japanese web designer, the website is incredible in itself).
Finding the hidden treasures of Vietnam continues.
At least this one won’t blow my baggage allowance.