Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Something to Talk About...or To

One of the things that Embassy employees love to do is visit each others houses and compare notes on who has the better digs. To date, we have learned the following from our numerous visits:

1) Our yard is a joke (as opposed to the football field sized yards of nearly anyone else not living in an apartment)
2) Sometimes a pool is just a large, unheated hot tub
3) Garages are non-existent
4) All furniture is EXACTLY the same and comes in cream, green or red (we have green, the most subtle and kid-friendly of the three)
5) We know exactly one person with a dish washer (it's not us)
6) In terms of interior materials, our house is by far the most beautiful (original hard wood [mahogany] flooring and staircase, marble, wrought iron etc.)
7) Wealthy Peruvians favor gaudy and tacky over tasteful and refined (most Embassy housing is rented from well-to-do Peruvians)
8) Decorating with things purchased in Peru is extremely common, and frankly, perplexing

Which brings me back to my current entry. Time and again as we visit friends and acquaintances I am struck by the amount of Peruvian stuff in their houses - art, crafts, weavings, figurines, leather goods, silver whatever, clothing, reed baskets and on and on and on. Initially I thought that they were just first time posters like us and, like us, had little in the way of decorative objects and so went to the craft markets and went a little crazy to compensate for that. But, more and more I am realizing this is just not the case. We are talking about folks who are in their 4th and 5th countries. I wonder, do they also have whole households full of objet d'arte from previous posts as well just sitting in their massive storage unit in Maryland waiting to be joined by the Peruvian clutter when the family next moves to Thailand or Mali? Really, I am totally perplexed by this. And, don't get me wrong, there are some lovely things to be had in Peru, but, frankly, not that much!

Our approach to accumulating what I like to lovingly refer to as "Peruvian Crap" has been to shop around, invest in some high-quality, very traditional pieces and leave our walls blank for future acquisitions from other locales. In that vein, our trip to Cuzco earlier this year yielded two such pieces. Both have become conversation pieces for anyone visiting from near or far. The first is an example of traditional Andean weaving using fine alpaca thread, dyed with natural dyes. Examples of this weaving technique are available all over Peru, but there are only a few places where you are guaranteed that what you are purchasing is genuine (and be prepared, you will pay for authenticity). These weavings take many months to complete as just a foot of cloth is produced each month. Our piece is roughly 5 feet long and represents about 5 months of the weaver's life. We thought is was beautiful and as soon as we come up with an appropriate means of display will, I'm sure, be even more thrilled with our purchase.

Our second purchase is a replica of an Inca mask thought to be worn by the Inca elders and royalty during the 14th and 15th centuries, before they were conquered by Pizarro. It is plated in gold and decorated with the semi-precious stones that are native to the mountains of Peru, lapis lazuli, red coral, Andean turquoise and serpentine. We just got it back from the framers and I decided it was blog worthy. It is definitely a source of conversation even though is it currently propped up in the dining room and not yet on the wall. An added bonus of having acquired the mask is that Caleb has taken to talking to it. Full-length, highly animated conversations between him and the mask. I get the impression that in some way or other the mask is responding because Caleb will finish what he is saying, walk away and then abruptly turn around, come back and say something very pointed to the mask. At this point, I am inclined to leave the mask where it is until I can figure out what "they" are talking about. The pictures don't give you an idea of scale, but with the frame it is about 3 feet tall and 2.5 feet across. One final note, being the frugal, deal-loving person than I am, I am thrilled to report that framing in Peru is practically free. You may notice from the picture that the mask is double framed and sports a double mat as well. Cost: prepare yourself...$50! Needless, to say, we are walking around the house thinking of anything and everything that might need to be framed. I have had to draw the line at post-it notes and church programs!


Adrianne said...

My expierence in life has taught me that VERY FEW people have taste. Those with money just buy taste in the form of decorators. My mom brought back aboriginal masks from Australia. I was afraid of them. I'm glad Caleb has made friends with his mask!

Kristy said...

I have never understood the swimming pool the size of a hot tub, either. Who uses those?

Since being home I have become even more happy with the purchases we made there. I love my peruvian tapestry (similar to yours), the water color painting I purchased in Cusco, my nativity (thanks to you guys)and our hand-carved calabasa which is a great conversation piece.

I really like your Inca mask and the frame is beautiful. I am glad you found a good framer. I find the fact that Caleb has conversations with the mask highly amusing. How is my little buddy, anyway? I need a Caleb update!

Nate and Sina said...

You may be leaving Paris with several items to be framed!

Heather said...

Wow! What an honor to have been given honorable mention in your blog. You can come use our dishwasher anytime!

Heather, Carlos and Sebastian


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