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On care

Care is such an interesting word. In our fast world of clicks and likes and 26-hour work days, I'm not sure whether that word actually has a significant place in our vocabulary. It feels too delicate, too intense. It implies time, a depth of feeling. In the last couple of years, we've talked about "care-givers", as most of us learned to nurse our loved ones. We've said "take care" at the end of every conversation, to the extent that it has lost all meaning and become just one of those platitudes that seem appropriate for the times without having to think too much about it. We send "care packages", and we advocate "self-care".  But handling something with care implies fragility. Most of us probably feel that way, especially now. But as we chase the "new" (or is it really just the old?) normal again, and thank goodness for it, have we left any space for fragility? For healing from an experience that left marks that won't g

A journey into fragrances with Dina Tsiknia

I interviewed Athens-based solopreneur Dina Tsiknia about her brand, Bloomey Handmade, which encompasses skin and body care products as well as home fragrances crafted with natural, fresh and unconventional ingredients. Read the excerpt below for an olfactory experience – I'm getting a whiff of that Lemon Pie body butter all the way here! Hi Dina! Tell our readers what first inspired the idea of a business built around fragrances. How did you acquire the skills to start your own line of products?  The idea behind my brand of home-made products stems from my desire to always know what the beauty products I use contain and how safe they are. The inspiration came during a period when I had tried many products in the market but felt that none of them really met my needs in terms of the texture, the hydration they provided, and the quality and intensity of their scent.  Around the same time, I came across an ad online for workshops on making skincare products with pure ingredients. Tha

3 ways to get started with your family history research

When I tell people about my genealogy project and my interest in family history, the most common question I'm asked is "Where do I begin?" Despite a strong interest – or at least curiosity – in ancestry and family lore, it often seems like unfamiliar territory. There's good news, though; researching family history isn't all about travelling to faraway towns or chasing missing documents (although that's part of it).  I wrote about three ways you can start your research at home in a time when travel can be challenging and online research can only get you so far. The chances are that you already have access to a lot more information than you thought you did. Below is an excerpt. 1. Start a tree   You know the drill – make a family tree by adding your name, your siblings, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and so on. You'll be able to fill in many names, especially in your immediate family to begin with, and as you move upward and outward, you'll know

Sounds from a May morning walk

Birds talking  Dogs barking  Water spraying Trains rumbling   Footsteps falling  Husband coughing  Airplanes whooshing  Conversations floating This poem was (mostly) written on 1 May 2022.

Past lives – and an interview

I've been living in the past a lot lately. It started, perhaps, with looking back to find out what had always mattered to me, and reorient myself a bit. Moving onwards is inevitable, but sometimes the past provides answers about the future. Perhaps it was also a little bit about the reality we now live with. We're more careful with our future planning; there's a lot of "let's see" and "fingers crossed" than there was pre-pandemic. For a while, it was too hard to envision anything about the future, even the near future. No wonder then that the past became a refuge. ( And  I've also been working on two personal projects that deal with history.) Sometimes I can't believe that I'm the same person who travelled, had adventures of a sort, that feel like a lifetime ago. Yet I recognise that somehow, I'm living many of the lives I'd hoped for. Not all of them, but that's mostly okay. I do lament the others at times, but I don't th

Orchids (and women) in art history

Heads turn as I scroll across to the garden. Only a couple of the faces I pass, somewhat hurriedly, are familiar. I wander over to the flowerbeds. How surreal it is to be viewing an exhibition halfway across the world a few days after it has ended. There are activities, videos of what went on behind the scenes, additional resources — far more material than I will actually look at, but I feel strangely reassured that it's there. I'm drawn to botanical art, I've written about it before , and there's something so wholesome about creating an exhibition and events around the contents of a garden. I'm slightly envious of those who get to see it in person. Maybe someday.  Leaves dance, as though lulled by a gentle breeze that I can almost feel, in Angela Mirro's contemporary piece The Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve . Below, Sarah Drake's accurate botanical rendition of Galeandra baueri reminds me of a glorious peacock, a cascade of pink petals flowing downward.

Motions, emotions: Q&A with Chiara Della Santina

For a new series of interviews with artists and creatives entrepreneurs, I reached out to my friend Chiara Della Santina, owner of ClaireLune Ceramics , whose work never ceases to amaze me. Chiara Della Santina makes small batch, handmade ceramics centred on mindfulness and slow living. At her home studio in Capalbio, Tuscany, she creates unique cups, mugs and plates, decorative items including vases, planters and incense burners, as well as customised, one-of-a-kind pieces for her clients. Here is an excerpt. Image courtesy of Chiara Della Santina What first drew you to the medium of pottery and ceramics, as well as the minimalistic aesthetic of your pieces?  Since I was a child I was always very creative and curious. I was naturally drawn to anything that pertained to the world of arts, such as drawing, dancing, playing music and any type of craft I may have been exposed to. My hometown was originally an Etruscan settlement, and as part of our primary school curriculum, we had a fe

The pleasures of reading "Object Lesson" by Teju Cole, or some characteristics of meaningful criticism

A title that intrigues, that doesn't quite prepare me for what is to come, yet feels just right  Nuance, not ambiguity, in the handling of a serious subject  Elegant turns of phrase, deliberately poetic to make the next point: Is it news? Is it art? Is it someone’s pain?  — “Organized disorder", "backdrops of smoke, fog or falling snow"  Finds a way to reach out through familiarity before presenting the new and unfamiliar  Situates works within history, contemporaneity, criticism, collective consciousness  Asks questions that evoke engagement and wonder  — "Who bought those tomatoes?" "Whose blood is that?"  Holds images, editors, curators accountable, not just the artist  Walks the line between sharing an opinion and leaving room for interpretation  Describes artworks through a perspective, rather than objectively  — "It is a still life, but it is in utter disarray"  Offers space for learning, sources, artworks, contexts  Explores large

A jack of all trades is better than a master of one

Truly fascinating phrase, isn't it? I was made aware of this twist on it through an Instagram reel, of all things. Apparently a similar phrase was used to dismissively refer to Shakespeare, and then to all "generalists" – people interested in and fairly good at multiple things, who chose not to narrow their focus – and this second line seems to have been added on more recently. One of my favourite K-dramas,  Hometown Cha Cha Cha,  features a man who holds a whole assortment of qualifications. Known simply as Chief Hong, he's taken courses in everything from painting houses and being a realtor to fruit plating and entertaining children. (At one point, Yoon Hye-jin actually wonders if he's a certified dentist too, and doesn't seem surprised at the prospect!) We see him speak Russian, read Mandarin, communicate via sign language, repair a boat, make soap, make wine, make coffee, make a jewellery box, cook, patrol, take photographs, read poetry, collect records, f

The most ideal (luxury) handbag

Just before Otis was acquired by, they commissioned me to write a list-style article on the most sought-after Birkin bags . I jumped at the opportunity – I always enjoy researching new subjects, and I was somewhat familiar with these luxury bags from my auction house days.  Never underestimate the amount of time and effort it takes to research and write a "listicle"! I found several similar ones that were full of glaring errors, so I structured mine based on actual (re)sale prices at auction that are publicly available. I also clubbed together the various types of Birkins; it didn't really make sense to make a list of similar bags in different colours (or "colourways", as the world of luxury would say.) Side note: I also read Bringing Home the Birkin by Michael Tonello for less commonly known insights, but can't say I got any.  Read on for an excerpt from my article . Image courtesy of Otis In 1984, the Executive Chairman of the legendary French l