We really, frankly, went a little overboard with the inventory this last trip. Normally we send an air shipment from Nepal, a large surface shipment from India, and then fill up our baggage allowance (70 kg) with goods we find in Thailand, Bali, and points beyond. This year, apart from these regular purchases, which have arrived, we have:
- couriered duvet samples from India (just arrived)
- 2 large surface orders of new duvet covers (yet to come)
- 2 posted boxes from Thailand (here!)
- a surface shipment from Bali (grrr.)
As anyone who has spent any time talking to us knows, going to Asia and doing the sourcing and the purchasing is the fun part. Shipping is like a stick in the eye. The production is always late and different suppliers need to be coordinated with the shippers who then have to pack and deliver the goods in such a way that they arrive intact, on time, and as ordered. This, of course, never goes according to plan. And that’s before Canada Customs gets a hold of it. Why then, with more shipments, have we made things even more difficult for ourselves?
Simply, we fell in love. Often. As readers of our blog Wonders of India: The Warehouse of Mr. Negi may recall, we are push-overs when it comes to interesting, unusual, quality things of beauty. And having re-filled the coffers last year – thank you, gentle customers! – we set off with a budget to blow.
It all began in Sikkim. (For more on this marvelous place, see the blog Under Kanchendzonga). We were unwilling to tolerate the restrictions that the Chinese put on travel in Tibet, but in going to this neighbouring, culturally related state in India we discovered where even the Tibetans go to do their shopping. We did all of our purchasing only to realize that while the post office was open until 4 pm. that day, the counter for sending parcels closed at 2, a deadline we missed. Subsequently, the massive bag full of multi-coloured valences called sambu, banner-like prayer flags, ceremonial scarves, door curtains, very cool hats and all the rest of it was hauled by jeep, train, rickshaw, taxi, plane and in and out of hotel rooms all the way to Bangkok via Calcutta. The things we do for love…
Meanwhile, in the course of chasing down a lead in Jaipur (that we never did find) we came across the block printing of Mr. Vikram. Oh, yes, love at first sight! Those were heady days, full of promise and promises! But as you know, after the romance of buying comes the heart-break of shipping. Why can’t men listen? Yes, it was a large order, and yes, you might say the delivery instructions were complicated. I can change my mind, can’t I? But then, but then… The couriered box of the first 3 styles of duvet covers arrived today, and it’s love all over again. A shipment of the other 3 should be here (cross your fingers) in time for our first sale with the balance arriving, oh, sometime. Vikram, we want you, why must you be so cruel?
With our massive bag of Tibetan goods in tow we came to Thailand. We stored it in Bangkok, and went north to Chiang Mai. There, on the streets of the fabulous Sunday market, our eyes fell on… aprons! Handmade by the adorable Pilue, we couldn’t resist. And over there we saw Sirimar’s etchings, and over there beautiful hill-tribe purses! Out came the wallet; we were smitten. And the morning after, at the post office, will our heady romance once again turn into the crotch-scratching ogre of shipping? No, not this time! Oh, Thaipost, we love you! If only all shippers could be like you… And the next time as well, when we started to get serious with those wonderful rosewood massage tools, and some gilded lotus wands, Thaipost said they would deliver, and they did!
But in between was, sigh, Bali. Yes, I would prefer to just forget the promises, the lies and move on, but sometimes it’s better to talk about it, isn’t it? We have always loved the sarongs from the Denpassar cloth market, and last year the ceremonial flags (umbul-umbul) we brought in were a big hit. Our agent sent them by air, and while very pricey, there seemed to be a good relationship developing. This year we were ready to take things to the next level, to get more serious. Then we met Virginia, and when our eyes met her Timor masks across the room, we felt lost, our hearts raced, and our palms were sweaty. Well, it was 35 C. However, before jumping into a new commitment we discussed it with Teguh, our shipper. I should have seen the warning signs when, according to Teguh, we should delay the departure date because he could move things so fast that the shipment would arrive in Vancouver before we did! Let’s just say that it’s still not here and we have now broken up. At least we now know where the shipment is, which for a long time we were mis-informed about, and the masks should be in by the start of our sales.
We are very excited about the goods that we found this year. For those familiar with our sales, the new things from Kalimpong and Timor will give our set-up a different look. Inflation throughout Asia was a significant factor this year, but for the most part we have kept our prices the same as last year (they are, in fact, virtually unchanged over 9 years!). Other cultural and economic shifts that we have seen developing over the years are now becoming much more apparent, a good example being the finely-woven silk scarves from Varanasi. The number of weavers making these masterpieces has been steadily diminishing. This year there were less than 10, and with a 30% increase in the price of silk, this is the last year that we will carry them. We remain committed to supporting the amazing hand-crafted traditions of India and the rest of Asia, but conditions are changing. With inflation rising and supply shrinking, this may be your best year to find the range of goods we have at the price that they are!
Some technical meltdowns have conspired against us this year, but lots of our new stuff is up on our web site, and more is coming all the time. Drag your cursor on the above images for product information, and check out http://www.kebeandfast.com. Then spread the word and come and see us when we are in town!