Katheryn Kebe and David Fast formed Kebe and Fast Company in 2001, bringing together backgrounds in art, design, business, and a long familiarity with travel throughout South and Southeast Asia. Our goal was to take the time to source India’s astonishing hand-loomed textiles as close to the point of production as possible, and design and manufacture bedding and decor sale in Canada. It is difficult not to be impressed by the scale of the craft tradition in Asia, and the skill of the artisans, and inevitably we expanded our product line to include art, jewelry, and accessories. In order to get around the standard methods of sourcing in Asia—the trade show and the middle man—it takes time. We have structured our business accordingly, spending six months retailing and six months sourcing. Going beyond the accepted paradigm of a brick and mortar storefront, we take our goods on the road throughout B.C.’s Gulf Islands, Sunshine Coast, and Vancouver Island, setting up a four-day sales event in a temporary space such as a community hall. Having established ourselves in the great tradition of the world’s second oldest profession—traders on the silk road—we have developed communities around the world, and it is our privilege to promote friendship and understanding, artistic appreciation, and economic development by sharing our stories and by dealing in objects of significance and beauty.
About Katheryn Kebe
Conception-ally speaking, I’m Brazilian. After four years in Brazil my family moved home to Calgary, while my mother was pregnant with me. My father’s family arrived in Vancouver as stow-aways on a ship from Cerknica, Slovenia. He financed his engineering degree at U.B.C. as a lumberjack in the mighty forests of British Columbia. My mother’s side left Ireland 7 generations ago. My great grandmother, a widow at 45, took her nine children across Canada to homestead a quarter section in Gunworth, Sask. My parents met in Rosetown Sask., married, had my three sisters, and lived in various parts of the world.
I, seemingly, was born with wanderlust. At a year old, on the day my family moved into our new house, I was found a quarter mile away, eagerly exploring my new environment. From then on, they could never keep me from wandering off.
My mother is an artist, an expert on the chronology of clothing, and a skillful tailor. Through her I absorbed an education in textiles, art, and learned to spot the patterns in colour trends. After the required schooling and studying in arts at university, I began the nomadic lifestyle that suits me still. Moving to Vancouver in 1986, then onto London in 1988, I was invited to house-sit a luxurious Bloomsbury flat belonging to friends—for fifty pounds a month! I soon found living in a foreign culture more stimulating than in my native one. With a love interest in Paris it was my very own “Tale of Two Cities”. After two years I returned home for Christmas, only to be thunderstruck by culture shock. I immediately ran away to Acapulco to work as an illegal immigrant, selling boat tours and teaching scuba diving.
Back in Canada my career as senior server in the dining room in Le Meridien Hotel commenced, followed by 100,000 years serving tables in high-end restaurants. I attempted to launch an art career as well, staging 13 exhibits of my paintings. The flexibility of serving provided a few shorter travel opportunities until 1997, when I embarked for my first year long trip to Asia. Initially intending to backpack the region, I was invited by an Indonesian artist, Agus, to work with him. I stayed in Panangdaran, West Java and painted the better part of the year, studied Bahasa Indonesian, built a gallery with Agus, and had an art exhibit. Agus’ Australian wife, Christina, who ran the Gecko guesthouse where I lived, warned me early on that the cue that I was no longer safe would be when people start rioting for basic food stuffs.
They rioted in Jakarta for cooking oil the day before the show. The next day I rolled up my paintings and fled to the nearest place with an international airport, Bandung, where as rumours flew, violence broke out and the currency continued to collapse. The dictator Suharto seemed to be loosing control of the military. Within the week I was on a flight out. Two months later Suharto’s government fell. It was my “Year of Living Dangerously”.
Three years later David and I, on our first date, decided to travel to India together for six months, in six months’ time. Returning to Vancouver, our relationship having thrived on the trials of traveling on a motorbike in India, we set about establishing our new business idea of importing textiles and designing high end bedding. In mid 2005 I hung up my apron for good (I hope and prey), and we both committed ourselves full time to the business as it is now.
I feel there is another odd point I must bring up. Largely due to finding many of my closest friends from within the gay community, I have lost an unusually high number of people over the years. Between friends and many family members there have been more than forty people who were close to me die. It’s a hard lesson to see friends fall so young, but all of it made me realize there are no guarantees, and we better be living our lives to the fullest, in case we do not get that long. This is not a dress rehearsal, people!
About David Fast
I was born in Elkhart, Indiana, USA, but I was on my way to Indonesia by the time I could walk and I haven’t been back since. My family crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Mary, and then traveled on a Polish freighter through the Suez Canal to Singapore and onto Surabaya, Indonesia. Three of my first four years were spent in Java, and maybe that is why I feel a sense of recognition and homecoming whenever I return to Asia. We left Asia in 1965, as Sukharno’s left leaning government fell to the military regime of Suhaurto, and the usual suspects—the Christians, the Chinese, and the foreigners—were being targeted. Even before I finished high school I was back on the road, traveled around Europe with my friend Doug at the age of sixteen. I was back the next year, hitchhiking around the Mediterranean, and spent my 18th birthday on a bus in the desert near the Moroccan/Algerian border. When I was 18 I hitchhiked west out of Winnipeg, to the coast and Baja California, and island-hopped through the South Pacific to New Zealand and Australia. I worked in Perth long enough to replenish my funds and in 1982 returned to Indonesia for the first time in seventeen years. On that trip I backpacked through Bali, Java, and Sumatra, crossed into Malaysia and went out to Perhentian island when it was still uninhabited, Koh Samui in Thailand while it was still inhabitable, Khao San Road in Bangkok when it only had four guest houses, and Burma before the military stifled the aspirations of that beautiful country.
Twice I had been on my way to India: in 1979 I ran out of money in Istanbul and thought better of it; and in Bangkok I was bogged down by ill health and forced to return to Canada. I finally made it there in 1985, on a trip that took me overland through central China to Tibet, then across the Himalayas to Kathmandu, Nepal.
The first thing I saw when I crossed the border into India at Saunali was a bicycle in the back of a rickshaw. The second thing I saw was the bicyclist dead in the middle of the road. It is this intensity of experience that makes India unlike any other place, and I was fascinated by it. On that trip I spent three months studying Tibetan Buddhism in Dharamsala, and when my visa expired I trekked around Pakistan and the Hindu Kush for another three months.
Many more trips to India and other parts of Asia have followed, and they have been especially enjoyable since meeting Katheryn and traveling with her in 2001. I now have the great good fortune of what I love with the one I love. May we all be so lucky.