Today’s guest post comes from Bella Figura designer Kamal – our featured designer during the month of October. Kamal recently spent a month in India, where she rang in the New Year, enjoyed festive wedding celebrations for her niece, and took in many of the beautiful sites and sounds. Today we’re sharing the first part of her journey – we’ll be sharing more later this month!
India, my beloved country, is known to the world as a land full of culture, tradition, vibrant breathtaking colors, awe inspiring textiles, a mecca of spices, warm hearted hospitality, overwhelming maternal patriotism, and a pool of forward thinking youth determined to make their mark in the world. To me, however, India simply is and forever will be the land of my father. After all, I grew up on endless nights of story telling from him, everything from his favorite sweets to his spiciest food experiments; his childhood friends to his mothers lullabies; his immense struggles to his groundbreaking achievements. It’s the motherland that nurtured his youth, prospered his adult years, influenced his thinking and has forever imprinted its love in his heart and mind. And Mine.
Traveling to India has been a part of my life since I was young, visiting my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Each year was the usual ritual: 2 weeks in Mumbai followed by a week in Gujarat, hence my 2nd dialect, Gujarati. The state of Gujarat is my father’s “home” where many of our family members still live and where my father’s most vivid memories still carry on. Needless to say, I was heavily influenced by the colors and joy of India from a tender age. So when after 13 years, I had the opportunity to travel to India, I was truly overjoyed. The most exciting part was the fact that I was traveling with my parents and my brother – just the four of us, together – like I was 16 again.
Being that my father was raised in the state of Gujarat, located in the Western part of India, its no surprise that his absolute favorite holiday was a festival called Uttarayan, The International Kite Festival – the pride of the “Jewel of the West”. The festival marks the day when winter begins to turn into summer, according to the Indian calendar. It is the sign for farmers that the sun is back and that the harvest season is approaching. Vast cities in Gujarat delve into organizing kite competitions, where kite flying starts as early as 5am and goes on until late night with as many as 8-10 million people indulging in the festival.
The awe-inspiring brilliant colors, grainy textures and leisurely way of life were noteworthy on this special day. It was like “roof-top-party-hopping”. Music was blaring in the air. People were climbing up and down each other’s roofs, drinking King Fishers, leaping and flying their kites, heads up everywhere. The entire state succumbed to a serene yet enticing buzz. It was like nothing that I have ever seen before!
We saw kite markets set up alongside food stalls, children prancing around with their vibrant kites. The Uttarayan kites are made of lightweight paper (AKA tissue paper) and bamboo, and are mostly rhombus shaped with a central spine and a single bow. Many of them are the same size and solid colors but then again, you do see a variety of massive ones, foiled ones, and of course color-blocked ones.
The kites we flew were called ‘Patangs’, fighter kites. The object was simple: try to slash each other’s string in the sky so that your kite is the only one up! May the best kite win! The strings were dyed a gorgeous pink, but were quite deceiving. They were covered with mixtures of glue and ground glass, so when dried, rolled up, and attached to the end of the kite could easily cut your fingers. Sharp and deep, like a paper cut. As we took turns, we realized the difficulty of this sport, concluding that my dad truly was a master, his passion was like riding a bike – he picked up right where he left off.
As the night came to an end, I did a 360 on a neighbor’s rooftop and saw the moon on one end being the perfect segway to the sun setting on another. I took it all in then. The sky transformed from blues and greens to a radiant pink with a breathtaking circle of orange. Just then, as the flecks of strings start disappearing, illuminated kites filled with lights and candles known as tukals or tukkals were launched creating a spectacle in the inky sky mixed with fireworks. The breath-taking sunset was only to be surpassed by the beauty of the thousands of flickering lights emerging into the sky. Moments like these are why I am who I am, as a woman, a mother, a daughter and as a designer.
I can still hear the music in the wind and clamor around me, people still dancing around with excitement. Etched in me is the memory of my dad and the thrill of his childhood, the smile on his face the twinkle in his eye. And Mine.
We’re back with another round of our designer travels series. This week Bella Figura calligrapher Sarah Hanna is sharing her photos and stories from a recent, impromptu trip to Marrakech, Morocco. We’ll let Sarah take it from here!
Hand-made lanterns in Morocco One of the great things about Europe is how easy it is to country-hop. In the US, you might treat yourself to a weekend trip to New York, or tailgate two states over. Similarly, if you are in France, you could hop over to Marrakech, Morocco for the weekend. A carry-on and an hour and a half later, you could be strolling through a spice market….
….or watching artisans make leather bags, or carve stone in the traditional way that has been passed down for generations. Patterns abound. And the calligraphic influence in the stonework is something to behold.
Scenes from the streets of Marrakech.
Coffee break at the YSL gardens in Morocco The gardens of Yves Saint Laurent are in Marrakech. A perfect rest from the bustle of the city and place to be inspired by nature and YSL’s own artwork.
Henna artist in Marrakech I definitely did not ask this henna tattoo artist in the square to paint a bracelet on my wrist. But she worked so quickly, she was done before I could say ‘no thank you.’ Instead, I thought, “Wow. I wish I could work that quickly to fill my Bella orders. Then it wouldn’t matter from WHICH time zone I was working.”
Little sorority girl tip: Nail polish remover can take anything off.
Climbing a waterfall…in flip flops. The trip was a surprise. I did not know where we were going until we arrived at the airport. I packed for Italy. Oops. C’est la vie!
A brilliant natural fridge The waterfall pours cold water over the bottles and keeps everything cool. This is at one of the many cafes built into the mountain on the climb up the waterfall.
A restaurant built into a mountain in Marrakech
Rooftop lunch in Marrakech – grilled meats and vegetables. Tap water is not a great idea, but a coke with beautiful Arabic calligraphy is!
We’re back with more of Sarah Hanna’s travel adventures today! Sarah is an incredibly talented calligrapher who is currently splitting her time between California and the beautiful village of Cassis, France. This week we’re taking a look at French cuisine as part of Sarah’s day-to-day in Cassis.
The weekly market Every Wednesday and Friday is a farmer’s market in the center of town. You can buy everything from produce to flowers to bikinis….life’s essentials.
Left: the window of a local patisserie. Right: market day in the center of Cassis, France.
Absinthe Restaurant in Paris There is another form of art in France – food. I was a very happy girl at Absinthe Restaurant in central Paris. Petits raviolis in a langoustine cream sauce? Oui, s’il vous plait!
A message to the chef It was all so delicious, I had to write a message to the chef in what was left of the langoustine sauce!
Eating at home – French style But you don’t have to eat out to dine elegantly. It’s true – the French are worshipful about their plates. Here are two examples of what ‘eating at home’ looks like in France. Food is art in France.
The children’s cooking school at La Tête à Toto boutique The owner Marie said that if I was going to take photos, I had to be a student the class. Twist my arm! We are making potato croquettes and home-made nutella….which was so delicious that I can never buy nutella again.
Many thanks to Sarah for sharing another glimpse of her life in France! Next week we’ll share Sarah’s travels to Morocco!
Bella Figura calligrapher Sarah Hanna has been sharing photos and stories from her adventures in France, where she’s currently spending time in the gorgeous village of Cassis. Today we’re sharing a few of the projects that Sarah has been working on in France – starting with La Tête à Toto boutique in Cassis, where Sarah calligraphed all over the walls!
La Tête à Toto boutique in Cassis A children’s shop owner in France (who happens to also be a chef featured in Vogue Europe) asked me to help with décor for her new venture. She was transforming the back space into a children’s cooking and art school, and she wanted me to letter on the walls. Cooking? Art? French? Where do I sign???
Children’s cooking school (before)
Hand-lettering at Tête à Toto It was great fun and a solid French lesson (thanks to Google translate). Up until now, I do most of my French vocabulary training at the grocery store….or when I get home from the grocery store and say, “Oh. I thought that was chicken.”
The finished product
Fashion meets function under the sink
The cooking school (after)
Hand-illustrated correspondence cards In keeping with the ‘fait à la main’ style, this year, I am launching boxed sets of hand-painted correspondence cards. The paper I am using is Fabriano. It is the oldest paper mill in Europe and a favorite of Michaelangelo. Ooh la la!
Customized children’s lullaby I have a sweet spot for all things classic and creative for bébé. I have started to take lullabies and customize the words to fit the new family (for example: ‘If that Crimson Tide won’t roll, Mama’s gonna buy you a fishing pole’ for an Alabama grad mom and a dad who loves to fish). I ask a few questions about the couple and word-smith the poem myself. Then I hand-calligraph and illustrate the piece for the nursery. It’s a perfect gift.
Baby shower + lullaby photographs courtesy of Lauren Louise Photography.
Bella Figura calligrapher Sarah Hanna is always on the move doing the most amazing things. Lately, she’s been splitting her time between Sonoma, California and the beautiful village of Cassis, France. Sarah was kind enough to take us on a virtual tour of her day-to-day in France – take a look!
Port of Cassis When I am in France, I live in the ancient fishing village of Cassis. It is a gorgeous town that sits on the French Riviera. This is the port of Cassis. My art studio is on the other side of these buildings.
Cap Canaille, the highest sea cliff in France
The ocean is just 100 yards from my studio. Every day, I stop working in the afternoon to walk out on the rocks and watch the sunset. Then I pick up a baguette from the local boulangerie and head back to the studio. It is surprisingly easier to work 6 hours ahead of New York than 3 hours behind (in California). I’m not going to lie…both locations are fantastique! In Cassis, my favorite restaurant is La Villa Madie
– spectacular food and pinch-me views of the Côte d’Azur. Just a quick 20 minute drive (or motorcycle ride if you are feeling Euro), and you can be at the Relais Magdeleine
– which is possibly the most charming hotel and restaurant on the planet.
Morning boat rides on the Riviera
Daily walks to Les Calanques
On morning walks, I head to Les Calanques
, the stunning rock formations in Cassis. Fun fact: the stone base of the Statue of Liberty comes from Cassis. Merci beaucoup, France!
Fisherman’s statue next to the lighthouse in Cassis
A classic, old world street in the village.
Hand-lettered sign outside of a restaurant ‘Fait à la main’ (English translation: ‘made by hand’) is an integral part of European craftsmanship. Whether it is perfectly-balanced sauce or a gorgeous pair of shoes, things that are made by hand hold value. Many of the menus and store signs are hand-painted or hand-lettered.
The Guerlain flagship boutique in Paris
The world is can be a very small place. From California, I work with the amazingly talented Lucas Somoza
. He is an elegant-in-every-way American stylist and event designer who splits his time between Paris and New York. Lucas had a Bella Figura client getting married at the Four Seasons George V
in Paris. We met at the newly-renovated flagship Guerlain boutique on the Champs Élysées to exchange Bella Figura menu wraps. It was haute couture week in Paris, and Lucas was able to meet between attending the Elie Saab show and a style shoot at Guerlain. I am STILL giddy with excitement over it all! Look at the Guerlain sign. NOT a font. Don’t you just love France?
Lucas Somoza is just. so. delightful.
Sennelier atelier in Paris Just across from the Louvre is the Sennelier atelier. This fine art supply store is a Paris staple and an artist’s dream. Sennelier has created custom pigments for the likes of Picasso and Cezanne (unknown artists at the time)…so I feel as though my new museum-quality watercolor pencils must have a little magic in them.
Many thanks to Sarah for giving us a peek inside her life in France! We’ll be back next week with more photos from Sarah’s travels!