One person’s collection can be the inspiration.
As a youngster starting out in the Asian/world antiques business (pre- Indigo & Ochre Design, before even Circa Trade), Sarajo and Jacques Carcanagues were the reigning stars in my self-defined field – collector/curator-driven shops I aspired to, and haunted a little.
In the late 90’s I quit my interior design job and went traveling. In Vietnam – my first touchdown in SE Asia – I began buying. Some of those purchases I sent home in hand-sewn bundles with stamps and wax seals, other I tucked in corners of my luggage and we traveled home together.
On home turf, I went shop to shop in SoHo with my Burmese lacquerware and Chinese hat boxes in LL Bean duffels.
A few kind/receptive souls purchased my wares for their stores (thank you to Distant Origin and now defunct Coconut Company) but I was too intimidated by the (to me) hallowed portals of Sarajo and Jacques Carcanagues to peddle my wares there. There, I gawked.
(This was also the wonderful era of ABC Home as blessed-mess of container loads of randomly priced Indian and Asian antique furniture, where there were still finds to be found. No doubt ABC Home makes more money now, and has a snappier inventory system, but ABC of then was a boon to the bottom feeders.)
Sarajo’s founder/owner/buyer Yosi Barzilai and Jacques Carcanagues (himself) had been buying since – it seemed to me – my own infancy. Their collections and breadth were the museums I wanted to visit – gorgeously exhibited and sometimes seemed more geared to the eager browser than the buyer.
But there must have been buyers (of course) and it was New York and SOHO in the 80’s and 90’s so they found takers. Sarajo’s thing was textiles; Carcanague’s was the larger statement piece, though his collection of lacquerware and fine Chinese furniture was reason aplenty for an extended browse.
While I was utterly cowed by both shops, I was also emboldened. It wasn’t mad to shop for Lao Backpack Baskets, south Indian stone fishing weights, Indonesian royal puppets or textiles that weren’t bedcovers. Seriously. I was attracted to the same stuff (albeit less provenanced and at a lower price point), as these guys and these guys had massive store fronts in SoHo. And assistants! And cool business cards!
Even as (my) Soho’s glory days of the 90’s waned (for others I realize it was Soho of the 70’s, or the good old 80’s – we each have our era. Probably there’s some soul out there who can’t get enough of Soho circa 2012), the Zona‘s and Pastec‘s shuttered, Sarajo and Jacques Carcanagues held on for a little longer.
In 2007 Sarajo boldly up and moved itself to Portland Me and the beautiful space above. I haven’t been but visit virtually and receive their newsletters blooming with the gorgeousness of their inventory.
(If you have time for a good read about Sarajo and the glory days of shopping in SoHo, this piece from World of Interior’s back page by Alistair McAlpine is wonderful…)
So – where does this leave us? Wherefore inspirations?
Where’s the individual eye and collector’s collector gone?