What I Bought In Bali

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This trip to Bali was not about shopping.  It was a time and place to relax, recharge and rejuvenate but you know I can’t miss a chance to explore local markets and find unique global goods to bring home so I did pick a few items (wink, wink) while I was there.

We stayed in Ubud for our entire 10 day visit to Bali which allowed me days to scope out shops and markets, compare pricing and then do all my shopping at the end of our journey.  I’m going to share with you where I found the best deals and my top tips for shopping in Ubud.

Ubud is a haven for wellness, yoga and healthy living and a lot of the little shops on the main streets cater to this, selling bohemian fashion and accessories.  While I appreciated their offerings they reminded me a lot of what can be found in Los Angeles, where I live. I love to search out items unique to a destination when I travel and this wasn’t it.  I like to find items that are locally made, handcrafted and speak to the traditions and culture of the place I am visiting and the best place to find that is in the local markets, so off I went!

Ubud Traditional Art Market

Smack in the center of town, this market is full of a mix of local goods and touristy souvenirs.  There are stalls selling art, though a lot of it is the same so I am pretty sure it’s just reproductions. Not my thing.

You’ll also find stalls selling everything from masks and clothing to incense and handbags.  There is junk mixed in with some beautiful handmade items. You have to keep your eye out for magic and bargain hard.  If a seller isn’t willing to meet your price there are 20 more stalls selling the same items and you can get it elsewhere.  The amount of stalls selling the same items definitely puts the bargaining power in your hands.

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Straw bag mecca! I mean look at all those cool shapes!

 

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Colorful sarongs at the Ubud Market.

 

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I wanted them all! So hard to pick with so many shapes and designs!

At this market we picked up 3 of the straw handbags that I lusted after the entire trip, bags of incense and postcards (great gifts), some hand painted wooden bangles, a couple of Bintang beer t-shirts (husband’s purchase) and a few wooden masks.

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Incense, postcards, hand incense holder and oils I bought at a different shop.
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Hand painted bangles.
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My straw bag picks. 2 for me, one for my niece.
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Top: 2 Barong masks (He is the king of spirits in Balinese mythology, protector against evil spirits) Bottom: His and hers traditional painted mini masks to add to my collection from around the world.

Sukawati Market

We went to this market on recommendation from some locals and I really liked it.  It’s about 15 minutes drive from the center of Ubud and it just has a more laid back, local vibe.  One side of the market is more touristy with clothing, jewelry and wood carvings while the other side is definitely for locals with home goods, food items and daily offerings being sold.

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Wind chimes, puppets and small gifts.

 

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Wood carvings, masks and home goods of all kinds.
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Daily offerings in the making.
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Blessed block covered in offerings to the spirits.

We didn’t spend long here but I was able to pick up some sarongs and tops.  Keep in mind there are beach style, cotton sarongs which are cheaper and the more elaborately patterned, traditional sarongs that will cost you a little more.  I bought 5 of the traditional sarongs to give as a gifts and some for myself as well as matching cotton bolero style tops.

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Beach sarongs.
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Traditional sarongs in batik prints.
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A few of the sarongs and tops I purchased at Sukawati Market.

In addition to these two markets I wanted to tell you about a few other spots where I was able to get some great items while shopping in Ubud.

Andong Street

This is the street that travels from Ubud center to the Tegalalang Rice Terraces. It goes on for at least a couple miles with both sides of the street are lined in shops selling all types of handmade goods.  You won’t find a lot of clothing, but home goods, furniture, interior decoration, lighting, shell items abound. The shops sell wholesale and retail and it’s a great place if you are looking to purchase larger items than need to be shipped home.

I was blown away by how many shops lined the street and the variety of unique designs to be found.  We came to this street looking for a bead shop, which we didn’t find but I did find a clothing store that had a small section of beaded pieces from different tribes in Indonesia.  I was in heaven as these were pieces I hadn’t seen anywhere else in Ubud.

I ended up getting a beaded collar necklace made on Kalimantan Island in Borneo as well as a beaded collar and belt from the Toraja Tribe on the island of Sulawesi.  These pieces are so special to me because of the time put into them and the tradition they represent.  They are my favorite finds of the entire trip.

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Stunning beaded necklaces and belt from Borneo and Sulawesi.  Similar pieces can be found at “Jolly Art Shop”, Andong Street, Ubud 80571m Gianyar – Bali
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In my negotiating for the necklaces I had him throw in the tote bag which I love. The small bag I picked up at the Sukawati Market.

Hanoman Street

This street runs from the Monkey Forest to the main drag in the center of Ubud and it is lined with tiny shops.  It was here that I bought my amazing shell collar necklaces, handmade kites, essential oils and beads for my sister.

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The options are endless for these shell pieces. Though not traditionally Balinese they are handmade here.  They make an insane piece of statement jewelry or beautiful decoration.
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These are the three shell necklaces I ended up purchasing.
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Lots of cotton clothing to choose from. I bought a bunch of wide leg jumpsuits, perfect for traveling.
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Handmade kites for my nephews. I loved seeing the kites flying over Ubud everyday.
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Handmade beads from the island of Java.  I bought these and other beads at “Palito Beads Shop”, JI. Hanoman, Padang Tegal Ubud, Gianyar – Bali.
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They also had an amazing selection of beaded belts!

Be sure to pick up some of the essential oils of Bali as well. Cempaka is a flower native to Bali and the essential oil made from this flower is the most divine perfume.  Wearing it takes me right back to Ubud.

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Cempaka Flower (photo credit: bibitbunga.com)
 Lastly, Bali is known for it’s coffee and teas so we of course wanted to bring some home.  As we do in many countries, heading to local grocery store is the cheapest way to stock up on items like this before coming home. There is a small grocery store on Hanoman street right next to the Dirty Duck restaurant and we bought a variety of coffee and teas for gifts and ourselves here.

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Sheena’s Sidenotes:

~ Bargain hard.  I was told merchants start their prices at 5 times the price they actually want.  We negotiated most items down to less than half of the asking price.

~ Compare prices. Remember, a lot of the vendors are selling similar items so if you don’t get the price you want, start walking to the next stall and more than likely they’ll close the sale with you.

~ Bundling items is a great way to negotiate a better price. I did this pretty much everywhere I shopped.

~ Small items like incense, coffee and essential oils make great gifts for those back home and won’t take up a ton of room in your luggage.

~ Use cash for shopping as it didn’t seem like most places accepted credit cards.

Have you been to Bali?  Tell me what you bought when you were there in the comments below!

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Shop Stop – Double Take

After spending the morning at the International Folk Art Alliance we headed to downtown Santa Fe to check it out since it was our first visit to the city. Santa Fe is so welcoming, full of charm and brimming with boutiques and art galleries. It’s a shopper’s paradise for sure.

After we had strolled the upscale shops I thought I’d see if there were any thrift shops in the area and I found Double Take on Yelp.  We walked a few blocks from downtown and discovered this treasure of a consignment/resale shop.

The minute you walk in you realize you are not in a normal “thrift” shop.  A counter of eclectic jewelry greets you and is backed with an array of worldly handbags and clutches.  Stairs take you down into the area with women’s and men’s clothing, all very well organized, each rack set up by style, color and size.

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Super cool two piece suit, unfortunately not my size.

This shop reflects the artistic, global aesthetic of Santa Fe itself. It’s as if all the people who consign here are world travelers lightening their load for their next adventure.  I saw pieces from all corners of the globe from Egypt to Guatemala to India and beyond! The accessories are just as unique as the clothes and your wanderlusting heart would be hard pressed not to find something you love in here.

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I bought this tribal top on sale for $4.
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These are the accessories I picked up. The clutch is handmade in Vietnam (was on sale for $10), the mask brooch (on sale for $1) and the leopard wood bracelet (on sale for 50 cents).

I did two rounds around the main store (which also includes an extensive kid’s section) and then realized off the men’s section, the store continued into another room which was completely dedicated to Western wear (called At The Ranch).  A wall of cowboy boots, racks of jackets, vests and belts were everywhere you looked. It was like I fell into a fabulous Southwestern rabbit hole and I didn’t want to come out. There were so many amazing pieces to discover and try on.

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I tried on this shirt (part of a custom two piece suit)! So cool!
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I fell in love with this floral embroidered skirt from Mexico but I couldn’t bring it all home!
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I ended up buying this vest for $9.

This was my big splurge at $59!  I was mesmerized at all the detail, the beadwork and sequins! Bucking horses on the front, a thunderbird on the back, arms covered in sequined feathers and hanging beads!! UM, YES!!!  If you know me I am very frugal so this was a big purchase but I am going to rock this piece and it will always remind me of Santa Fe!

I visited the shop later in day and as I was gathering my purchases I realized there was another room (called Encore) I didn’t even get to visit that houses all their designer pieces and also an upstairs room (called Hacienda) with all the home décor and furniture!! I guess I have something to discover next time I visit because I will definitely be back!

You can find all the details on Double Take here.

Sheena’s Sidenotes:

~ Double Take has weekly colored tags that are on sale and are in multiple rooms of the store. Be sure to keep an eye out for them. There is also a sale section in the back of the store.

~ Give yourself time. This store is chock full of so much goodness.  Give yourself enough time to look through everything.  I did a couple rounds of just one room and found new items with each lap.

~ The staff is super helpful. Three different employees helped me access and try on merchandise. Just ask.

~ They have a frequent shopper card if you plan to visit often and you can earn credit towards a future purchase.

~ This shop is a block from the train depot so it’s totally worth a visit if you are staying in Albuquerque.  The train is $10 roundtrip ($9 if purchase ticket online) and in an hour and a half you can be shopping at Double Take!

Shop Stop – Coast to Coast Vintage

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Coast to Coast Vintage is a mobile vintage shop on wheels serving up men’s and women’s vintage pieces that are sure to start a conversation!   I found CTC on Instagram a while back and fell in love with their unique, colorful pieces and wild prints.  Based in L.A., it was about time I go visit Baby Girl (CTC’s lovingly converted vintage camper a.k.a. the coolest shop ever!) down at the Melrose Trading Post, where she can be found most Sundays!

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CTC is curated by Jaimee and her partner Adam, who have a love for vintage and traveling the across the U.S.  Each item is hand picked by these two and their selection does not disappoint!! I mean, can we talk about this Ah-Mazing outfit my girl Jaimee has on! She has a great eye for design and her shop is full of one of kind pieces like this.

Outside the camper, you are greeted with colorful garment racks, fun accessories (ice cream tattoos, rainbow pins and killer sunnies) and quirky shoes to complete your look.

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Of course, keeping it California cool!

Once you step into the shop your greeted with an even greater selection of vintage treasures from polka dots to floral to tribal and if you’re in need of a mini rainbow piñata they have you covered on that too!  There selection is based on the season as well, so you can find the perfect Spring dress right now and a fabulous coat in Winter, making your shopping that much easier!

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Flanked by their signature palm trees, CTC is a kick ass spot to add something awesome to your wardrobe. It is for sure, a must stop shop!

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Which one is your favorite?

 

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Selection of men’s shirts. Find something for your Boo too!

 

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This is one of my favorite parts of CTC. Each tag shows you where your piece was found and the journey it took to get to you! Love this!!

I asked Jaimee, Founder and Curator of Coast to Coast Vintage, to share a bit more about the shop the below.

Q:  How did Coast to Coast come to be?
A: C2C came to be after I had saved up a good amount of money and was officially over my retail job! I was living in NYC at the time and feeling both trapped and suffocated by the city life. I had been making trips out to California more and more frequently and could totally see myself living there! Owning my own vintage shop had always been a dream of mine, but seeing as I had zero experience buying or selling beforehand, I thought a mobile shop would be a fun way to test it out before committing. Some might have just gone for an Etsy shop to start but I like to think big 🙂 I bought the trailer in 2012, and one year later Coast to Coast was born and we were on the road and off with a bang!

 

Q: Do you have a background in fashion?
A: I do! I went to FIT for Fashion Design. I decided after completing the program that I didn’t love it enough to put my all into it, and that I really just loved appreciating clothing that was already made. And even more so, the concept behind personal style and how people put pieces together! I then went into a Visual Merchandising career in retail that spanned 7 years and focused on the science behind what makes people buy certain items and why? So all of this combined helped in the creation of C2C 🙂
Q: Do you have any favorite designers that you seek out?
A: I love anything Diane Freis, Flora Kung, I.Magnin, Liz Claiborne (and all her subsidiaries), Silkscapes, The African Village, Josefa, Catherine Ogust..the list goes on and grows everyday as I learn of more!
Q: You have an amazing selection of prints and color. How do you pick the pieces for your shop?
A: Thank you so much! The best way to explain it is that I select the pieces that make my brain go “!!!!”. I like to find items that are conversation pieces, as well as items I haven’t seen before. I mix in quite a bit of vintage basic or subtle pieces for our in person events, but it’s all the vibrant stand out pieces that make it onto our web site so it really pops!
Q: Can you share a memory of your best vintage find?
A: Oh wow, there are so many!! I once found an amazing mint condition Cross Colours printed and semi-rare two piece shorts set on a super rainy and miserable day in NYC that ended up bringing me a pretty penny.
Q: Without giving away too much, do you have a favorite city to treasure hunt in?
A: We love shopping out here in LA, as well as anywhere in the Midwest!
Q: Do you sell all over the U.S.?
A: Technically, because I have an online shop, I sell all over the world!! 🙂 In person, we have currently sold in 14/50 states to date and are always looking to add more to the list!
Q: What’s your favorite part of having a mobile shop?
A: Having a mobile shop reduces my overhead while giving me maximum control! Plus, it’s a fun way to meet people and to stand out at events when everyone else has tents 🙂
Q: What is your go to accessory?
A: My go to accessory is a three-way tie between a silk scarf of bandana, a pair of statement sunglasses, and my red lipstick! 🙂 
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Where ever you are in the world you can visit their online shop for one of kind vintage pieces!
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To stay up to date on what city Baby Girl is in, make sure you follow their journey on  Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

What I Bought At The Melrose Trading Post

In an effort to get out of the house and get some sunshine, my husband and I decided (ok, I decided and nicely asked that he accompany me!) to visit the flea market yesterday.  The Melrose Trading Post (MTP) has been around for a while here in Los Angeles and I have never visited so it was time to check it out.

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What I Wore: Skirt/Top/Bracelet/Earrings/Thrifted, Shoes/Bag/Target, Hat/Santee Alley

 

MTP is located on the grounds of Fairfax High School on the corner of Melrose and Fairfax and is open for business every Sunday, 9am-5pm, rain or shine. Well, the sun was definitely shining on us as we perused the various stalls of global goods, vintage finds, antiques, furniture and handmade goodies.

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My thrifting adventures are a solo activity for me where I get in the zone of treasure hunting but shopping the flea market offers the opposite experience.  Yes, I am still treasure hunting (always) but it’s such a social experience and I get just as much pleasure from talking with vendors, meeting different people, learning their stories and the history of the items they are selling as I do from actually buying. It’s a more connected shopping experience and the MTP did not disappoint with an interesting crowd.

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Bright patterned pieces from Coast to Coast Vintage. I’ll be sharing all the details on this quirky and colorful mobile vintage shop in an upcoming “Shop Stop”.

 

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Mini masks by Kenyan artist, Ngene Mwaura. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview on his creative process and his art.

 

Compared to other flea markets in Los Angeles, the MTP feels very curated. Each vendor has selected their items with a theme or style in mind, offering a quality selection. There are antiques, plants, lots of clothing, textiles, beads and handmade jewelry. I am of course always drawn to the global elements found at any market and there are plenty here.

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Global hodge podge of Indian pieces, Buddhas and Indonesian masks.

 

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African beads, baskets and textiles. I especially liked the hand painted barber signs!

 

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Clothing, bags and pillows from Central America. Yes, please!

 

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Beautiful textiles!
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Leather and textile bags

The market is small and definitely manageable compared to some of the larger markets in L.A.  I personally like a bit bigger market to explore but this was a good way to spend a couple of hours.  There is parking onsite but it is limited. We arrived at noon and were able to get a spot. There is also street parking available.  The entrance fee is $3 and supports the school. There is live music and a small food area you can enjoy as well.

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Stunning beadwork from West Africa.

 

I actually did not end up buying much at the market. This trip was really about checking it out.  I did fall in love with these small, very unique bags but they wanted $30 each and that was too pricey for me.

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The only item I ended up buying was this amazing straw hat from Madagascar. The bold colors and super wide brim sold me. I purchased the yellow one and I am so happy with it! It will get a ton of use in the coming Summer months.

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Sheena’s Side Notes

~ In my personal opinion, the clothing items at this market were a bit overpriced.  It could be the thrifter in me or the area of Los Angeles we were in, but a lot of the clothes, while unique, could be found at thrift stores or estate sales for a lot cheaper. If you aren’t into the hunt for things this is a great place to find unique pieces if you’re willing to pay for them.

~ There was an eclectic selection of antiques, from old movies reels, to candelabras and vintage bar carts. Perfect to find that unique item for your décor.

~ If you are looking for a rug (think Moroccan, Turkish) there were a few vendors selling these. I have amassed my own rug collection from my travels and have run out of floor space. If not I would have purchased one of these. They were all drool worthy!

~ Plan to have lunch in the area. If you are visiting Los Angeles, there are a lot of iconic restaurants in the area, within walking distance that you can try out.  There are also lots of other shops in the area, down Melrose and down Fairfax if you need to get more of a shopping fix while you are in the area.

What I Bought in Panajachel

Panajachel is a small town, nestled on the banks of Lake Atitlan, just a few miles down a winding road from Sololá.  We stayed five nights at Hotel Atitlan which is a two minute tuk tuk ride from the heart of Panajachel.  Santander is the main street in Panajachel where you’ll find most of the shops and restaurants. Cars are not allowed (though bikes and tuk tuks are) which allows you to stroll the street freely.

The cobblestone street is brimming with shops of all kinds, selling clothing, paintings, shoes, jewelry and so much more. It’s a few blocks long and can be visited in a shorter amount of time, though we spent hours there over a couple days really enjoying the atmosphere and all the things to see.

You can take a break from your browsing and have a latte or a scoop of delicious coffee ice cream at one of the cafes or a full meal at the many restaurants that line the street. We spent our time not just buying but connecting with the artists and vendors, learning about the handmade items, about their families and Guatemala itself.   You can create the opportunity for learning and connection at any time, in any place if you allow yourself to be open to it. People want to share their stories. You just have to show you care enough to want to know them.

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I have been collecting masks from my travels over the last 15 years and I have come across these carved, bright colored animal masks a few times in different countries. Of course I was told they were made locally and I bought a few on my last trip to Isla Roatan.  Come to find out they are handmade in Guatemala!! I already had a small collection going so I added to it with the masks I purchased below.  They also had mini masks which I am going to use as ornaments on my travel themed Christmas tree.

I really love the bold colors and varied prints and patterns.  Each one is unique and a beautiful collection of them now hangs in my living room.

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Off of the main Santander street you will find all these little walkways, leading to more shops and courtyards with treasures to discover. Definitely take a look down these little off shoots as these vendors may be more willing to bargain as they aren’t on the main drag.  At the end of one of these little walkways is where I met Majuana and her sweet children.

We spent quite a bit of time with them, her eldest daughter translating for us, while she shared her shop’s blouses and belts with us. She taught me how Guatemalan women traditionally wrap their heads in the most beautiful way. We got so much joy out of connecting with them that we went back and visited them a few days later.

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These are a few of the stunning belts that I purchased from Majuana, that can also be used as head wraps.

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Along Santander you’ll also find many stands and booths selling traditionally beaded jewelry, from earrings to cuff bracelets to bold collar necklaces, the choices are endless.  Guatemalans truly have mastered the art of intricate design, bold colors and patterns and that beauty is reflected in all the items they create. My turquoise and copper necklace and earrings below are still one of my favorite purchases I made.

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Down another one of those side walkways was an open courtyard lined with shops on each side. This is where I found the most amazing Huipil (traditional woven Guatemalan blouses) shop brimming with every color and design you could imagine. Just when I thought I found the perfect one, I found another and another that took my breath away. Each region has a specific design and weaving technique that lets you know where it is from.

I spent a lot of time among all this beauty, not really wanting to decide on just one blouse.  Again, we had fun bargaining with the shop owner and came to a deal for the four blouses you see below. One recommendation I can give is to try them on for size. Many of them had small neck holes and my head didn’t fit through them.  A couple tops I bought were too small in the neck but I just let out the seam a bit and can now wear them.

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I also picked up a few woven leather belts and a super cool fanny pack (wait, do cool and fanny pack even go in the same sentence?) that I thought would be useful for future travels.

We visited Santander a few times in the five days we stayed on Lake Atitlan. Each time I discovered something new and it really is a pleasant stroll through the center of town.

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Sheena’s Side Notes:

~ Definitely pick up some roasted nuts from the gentleman selling them out of a wheel barrel. They were the best peanuts I’ve had and we snacked on them our entire trip. A decent sized bag was about $3.

~ Eat the freshly roasted corn from the grandma selling it on the sidewalk. I know, I was apprehensive to eat street food but covered in lime and salt it was so delicious and for less than $1 you can’t go wrong!! I’ve tried replicating it at home and it is not the same.

~ There are a lot of shops selling similar items, so bargain.  If you can’t make a deal, you’ll probably be able to down the street with someone else.

~ Beware of machine made embroidery. It is usually found on cheaper items, like bags.  The more you look around you’ll be able to spot it pretty easily. It does not have the fine workmanship of the handmade embroidery and the price tag will usually reflect that.

~ When you are buying, be aware that most items in Guatemala are made by hand, taking hours or months to create. This art is how people feed their families and make an honest living. Be fair in the price you negotiate so that everyone walks away winning.

~ If you follow Santander to end you will end up at a platform overlooking Lake Atitlan. It offers a stunning view of the vista and is a great spot to take photos. Below is one we took while there.

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ChiChicastenango Market

One of my must visits on our trip to Guatemala last year was the famous Chichicastenango Market, held every Thursday and Sunday in the mountain top town of Chichicastenango (known as Chi Chi for short).  We drove our rental car from where we were staying on Lake Atitlan, which took about an hour. Beautiful forests, road side stands and small villages dot the drive along the windy mountain road as you make your way to Chi Chi.

As you head into town, you can feel the energy in the air change.  The verdant trees and calm breezes morph into the sounds of church bells ringing, chickens cooing, pigs snorting, footsteps pounding, buyers haggling, shopkeeper’s hawking and cameras clicking. All the while the fragrance of fresh blooms, hot tortillas and fried chicken float in the incense heavy air.  When you get there, you know you have arrived some place magical.

We parked our car on the street and found a local guide to show us around. Our first stop was the 400 year old Church of Santo Tomas which is the centerpiece to the market. This Catholic church was built on top of the platform of an ancient Maya temple. Today, you will find vendors selling their flower bundles atop the steps leading into the church.

Chi Chi Church

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Stepping out of the church, the stairs are sprinkled with offerings.

 

It was so interesting to visit the church and learn that both Catholic services and Maya priests perform rituals in the same sacred space. Down the entire center of the building are Maya alters that lay parallel to paintings of Catholic saints along the walls.

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After visiting the church we made our way into the maze of the market.  Chi Chi is bursting with color and pattern.  It is not just a feast for the eyes, it is a veritable buffet for the senses.  Shopkeepers are trying to grab your attention while your eyes are scanning the stalls trying to make sense of it all.

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You can turn left or right, go up and down and the stalls are endless, brimming with handmade textiles, jewelry, traditional Huipil blouses, bags, musical instruments, kitchen items and the list goes on. Chi Chi is a market where indigenous groups from various towns come to market to sell their wares which results in a stunning array of items to choose from.

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This was our first shopping experience while in Guatemala so I didn’t have a gauge on average prices for things which helps me when bargaining. I had no idea if the prices I was being quoted were reasonable or totally inflated so I was apprehensive to pull the trigger on much. I ended up only purchasing two necklaces and spent the rest of the time taking it all in. In retrospect, after visiting other cities and shopping spots, the prices quoted at Chi Chi were reasonable though there is always room for some bargaining.

After walking through the “tourist” section of the market we visited the part of  the market where the locals purchase food items and supplies for their weaving.

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I loved all this colored yarn which is used in the traditional weaving.

 

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On our way out of the market we passed more stalls worthy of making a rainbow jealous!

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Overall we spent a couple hours exploring the church and the market which felt like enough. For our first visit, it was a lot to take in. I am sure with subsequent visits, I would linger longer.

At the very end of our visit, headed back to the car, my husband popped into a shop to buy a calling card and this sweet man caught my eye from across the market.

I crossed the road to get closer and felt myself compelled to introduce myself.  He didn’t speak English and I spoke broken Spanish but our smiles shared feelings that needed no words. His smile radiated with warmth and his eyes were filled with such a deep tenderness.  Just being in his presence set my heart aglow. Joy danced across my face from the fleeting moment of our connection, a moment of being completely present in connecting with another soul.  We may never see one another again but I will never forget him for he left such a tender imprint on my heart.

This is Pedro and his smile was the perfect ending to our visit of Chichicastenango Market.

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Sheena’s Side Notes:

~ Definitely bargain when you are buying but know that some vendors aren’t willing to negotiate. I think with all the visitors to Chi Chi, if you aren’t willing to pay the price they ask there is another buyer right behind you that is, so they’ll wait for them.

~ If you get lost in the maze, always ask where the Church of Santo Tomas is and you can find your way out as it borders the edge of the market.

~ Grab some amazing, freshly made tortillas, being cooked throughout the market!

~ Stop at a fruit stand on your drive home and pick up some snacks. We did and the fruit was delicious!

~ If you’re driving, go slow, the road from Sololá to Chi Chi is dotted with massive speed bumps and tight winding roads. Going slower will allow you to take in all the amazing scenery along the way too!

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Into The Arts – Casa Otomi

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Color abounds at Casa Otomi!
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I love the shape and brilliant colors on this one of kind bag!

Casa Otomi is an artisan company located in Coyoacan, Mexico that specializes in hand embroidered heirloom Mexican creations. From clothing and handbags to home décor such as pillows, bedspreads and tablecloths, each piece is made for those with discerning tastes for exquisitely crafted original art.

I fell in love with their beautiful colors and handmade details as soon as I laid eyes on them. I especially love the unique shapes of the pillows and handbags from Casa Otomi. The embroidered designs are crafted from original art created by owner and artist, Sandra Renteria. I asked her to share a bit more below, about the history of her business and the creative process involved in bringing these one of kind pieces of art to life.

Q: What is Otomi?

A: Otomi is an indigenous culture and an endangered MesoAmerican language. This particular cultural group is known for their Tenango embroidered pieces also known as Otomi.

Q: How did Casa Otomi come to be?

A: I used to own a Fair trade Folk art gallery for close to a decade. I have a passion for indigenous antiquities and spent my gallery years travelling the world and visiting global tribal groups as a personal passion and a means of survival. I have always envisioned myself living away from the crazy grind of USA life and was finally able to get away from the rat race. I wasn’t sure how we could survive in Mexico but I knew we needed to try. Casa Otomi came to be when I was interviewing for jobs in Oaxaca. As a curator for museum or gallery assistant, I was offered positions that paid about $6 dollars a day. Which, we could have lived on. But….I decided to try to work with the locals to sell their wares and see if we could make $12 a day. Abel, my partner, could also make $6. It was an uphill climb and we lived on rickety buses for close to a year to pull it off, but we managed to make our $12 to $15 per day and reinvested all of our money. We started with only $100. The first piece we purchased took close to two years to sell. Glad we didn’t base the future on that one piece. I noticed that certain pieces would not sell because of the figures, so I started drawing new contemporary figures and those pieces had wings. Now I see my drawings all over embroidered pieces all over the country. Quite surreal.

Q: What made you get into the world of textiles?

A: As a collector, the easiest pieces to drag around the world are canvases-unstretched and textiles. The textile world is bliss for me. My daughter was raised taking naps on top of textiles in bazaars all over the world. It’s all she knows. It’s natural to her. Now she is 14 years old and she runs the tally and books when I buy. I point, drool, stare and grab. That’s what I do. Abel inspects. Serena runs the numbers.

Q: How long does it take to make a single blouse or dress?

A: This depends on the piece. We have some blouses that take close to a year to make. They are hand laced, embroidered and crocheted. For these pieces we have close to a 3 year pre paid order wait. Collectors are quite serious about these heirloom pieces. I have two of them. I wear each one weekly. It’s my standard uniform and I love how they feel so I understand. The piece you are wearing is a lot quicker. It is embroidered only one side and the fabric is hand-woven. These pieces take a few months. QUICK!! Ha…in the world of handmade that is speedy.

Q: How is the art of embroidery learned?

A: I think it’s something everyone is born into. It used to be a vanishing art form. Since we started the prices have gone up 200 to 400% and that’s pretty incredible. In fact our new collection is currently at a pause. The embroiderers have demanded a 100% increase and I’m at a loss. We are scared we cannot afford it. We have agreed to 20% and now await the results. It’s odd to be on the other side of things. It’s terrifying and also kinds exhilarating to see how they are empowered. It’s a double edge sword that I just deal with on a day to day basis. I used to freak out, but now I see that we manage despite it all.

Because of the increase in prices, groups have formed all over the country and we are able to get embroidery work faster that we used to be able to. Of course, now that the prices are soaring, it’s becoming a more desirable profession to enter. It’s a rare career that allows you to stay at home with the littles and embroider when there is down time. Most of the women who work for us embroider about 1 to 2 hours a day. After chores, food and everything is done and they are relaxed and the embroidery circle is pulled out.

Q: How does sharing this art form and handmade work with the world affect the local community?

A: I feel like we are empowering women and now men are entering the art form as they are seeing fiscal results from a more “feminine” position. It’s become a family venture for everyone. As I explained above, embroidery prices are soaring and we are along for the long haul.

Q: In sharing Mexican traditions and art with the world, what do you want people to know?

A: I think it’s important for people to separate the difference between exploitation and teamwork. Although we appear to be a large company we are a 5 person team with hundreds of embroiderers. We cannot change the lifestyle that we lead because our sales are getting stronger. We have people to invest in, we cannot invest in material possessions and luxury items because if we do, our network dissipates. Remember, we used to live on $12 a day. Obviously we no longer live on that salary but we have not forgotten how we started. At all. But still…It’s important for us to explain how we function to people so that we are better understood.

We have become the “bank” for many of these artisans and although it used to be stressful, now we understand our role and position. I’ve always been a champion of the underdog and have always believed in the principles of fair trade, but now I don’t just believe in the them-I embody them. Any time something within our community base goes wrong, we feel it. We are constantly being asked for loans and advances and we give until it hurts. We now survive on sheer volume. We sell the absolute highest quality for the lowest prices possible. We have markups as low as 30% on many of our pieces in order to keep a continuous ebb and flow. We could make higher markups on these pieces but it means we would have to lower our quality standards and we have no interest.

Most of our clients are repeat clients who are in awe of our quality. If you go to our Etsy store you can see our 5 Star rating. Not easy to do these days. People are more discerning than ever and expect quite a bit from their online orders. We jump thru hoops for our clients, but we always put our team first. We know that we cannot live without our clients, but we will not rush our embroiderers or put undue stress on anyone demanding things of us that we cannot provide. A client can come and go but our team is here. This is our daily life. We eat with them, we hang out with their families, we are them. They are not an email from hundreds of miles away that will push us to create under a pressured boiling pot. We live and create in Mexican time and amazingly, most of our clients are willing to wait for our pieces because of the quality that we produce. Once things are in our hands, we work in first world time. But….that moment can take a year or two of hard work to get to us.

It’s been a roller coaster ride and a beautiful woven dance that we live in. Each day brings us high highs and low lows, but this is our life. This is currently who we are. We have been approached by a couple of large companies that have tried to buy us out, but we have refused. After our meetings, we have noticed that they expect embroidery teams under factory conditions pushing and creating on slave labour levels and we would not succumb. As a stay at home mom, I value the importance of being home when my daughter gets home from school and being available at all times to her. Every piece that you see in our shop has that same energy around it. A family member working from home being able to greet their kids when they enter from school or wake up from a nap. There is no price for that feeling and that luxury. We have built an entire brand on that philosophy. Stay at home moms and dads.

 

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Beautiful Handmade Table Runner
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One of the many pillow designs available in her shop!
Below is a dress and blouse from Casa Otomi that I had fun styling! They are super comfortable and by request, Sandra is working on having larger sizes available for her customers.  Both of these styles are now available in her Etsy shop in a variety of colors.
Disclosure: I was gifted this dress and blouse from Casa Otomi in exchange for me styling them. I chose to write and share more about the company as my goal with this blog is to honor the work of artists around the world and share their stories with you!

Shop Stop -All Things and More

I have recently renewed my love of thrift shopping in the last few months and have been on the hunt to discover new spots to go treasure hunting.  I came across this shop, All Things and More, located in Sun Valley, CA, in my searching and decided to check it out a few weeks ago.

The reviews online prepared me somewhat for what to expect but it really is a place that you have to visit to fully appreciate.  As you enter the small doorway you are greeted by the owner, Zach and his mother. They invite you in as if you are visiting family, offering you water or coffee and graciously give you the layout.

The entrance building is filled with dishware, smalls and delicate items as well as the most amazing selection of vintage earrings and jewelry. The jewelry wall of your dreams times 10!! Bracelets are $1, earrings are 2 pairs for $5 and necklaces are $3 each or 2 for $5.

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Oh,  I had so much fun looking through the fun selection and ended up with the pairs below. I also found some amazing tassels to make into earrings which Zach gifted me with, but more about that later!

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I’m not going to lie, even for a seasoned shopper like myself, this shop was a bit overwhelming. I think it was just a matter of getting oriented and I did not look in every nook on this first visit.  All of the clothes are outside, covered with tarps and I will say I visited the day after it rained and some items were wet and the smell of cat’s visiting the property was pretty strong.  That was the only thing that made shopping here a challenge. Everything else was so amazing that I can look past it.

So, as I first walked outside the print of this jacket caught my eye and I went straight for it. Talk about the thrifting gods looking down on me!!! This dragon print, reversible jacket from Japan was in immaculate condition and was my size! Hey now!!! Oh, and Zach gave it to me for $3!!! Say what!!

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There are a bunch of different sections out back, each filled with racks, shelves and bins to search through.

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I admittedly did not search through every bin though a scarf peeking out of one of the bins caught me and I did end up finding all these cool vintage scarves in the one bin. They were each $1.

I am usually pretty systematic in my approach going through a thrift shop so I don’t miss anything but that wasn’t happening here.  I found myself looking in one corner for a bit, going somewhere else to look and then coming back. I visited this one section about three times and found something new with each pass by.  I found all these vintage pieces for $1 each!!!

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I also found an amazing floral print belted vintage coat for $5 that I didn’t get a photo of.  I did visit on a Thursday, as I had read that Tuesdays and Thursdays clothing was $1.  Most pieces were with a few exceptions, but an amazing deal was found on everything I bought.

We ended our visit going through all the jewelry and chopping it up with Zach, who is so cool! He is super funny, welcoming and made us feel like long lost friends!  I told him I was going to make a pair of earrings out of the cream colored tassels (which were marked $6 each) and he said “if they would make me happy, he would like to gift them to me!” So kind and fun!

The ridiculously good finds were wonderful but it is the owner and people who work at this shop that make it what it is. It’s a damn good time which makes you happy to spend your money there. I spent a total of $30 and left with a huge bag of amazing finds!

Details on the All Things and More can be found at here!

Sheena’s Side Notes:

~ They accept cash and cards and there are no dressing rooms!

~ Tuesday and Thursday most clothing is $1!

~ Make your rounds a few times as you may see something new the second or third time around.

~ Definitely take your time discovering this place and leave time to chat with everyone there. It was the best part of my visit!

~ There is another thrift shop next door and few more down the street so you can visit a few more spots while you are in the neighborhood.

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Forever on Safari

“You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions.” ~ Karen Blixen, Out of Africa.

Take me back to where my soul resides, bathed in the calm of swaying reeds on the savannah, deep in the heart of Africa.

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{Dress/The Plus Bus, Shoes/Lola Shoetique, Belt/Ross, Bag/Thrifted, Bracelets/From India, Necklace & Earrings/Handmade by me}

Beware Of The Dreamer

“All men dream, but not equally.  Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous, for these may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.” ~ T.E. Lawrence

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{Jumpsuit/Torrid, Shirt/Belt/The Plus Bus, Shoes/Lola Shoetique, Necklace/Handmade by me, Sunglasses/Earrings/Claire’s, Purse/From West Africa, Bracelets/From India, Kenya & Philippines, Ring/From Tibet}