Category Archives: Home Furnishings

The royal marriage is moving merchandise in the U.K.

Royal Wedding commemorative tankardThe minute the engagement of Prince William of Wales to commoner Kate Middleton was announced to the public back in November, souvenir manufacturers were clamoring for a piece of the action. T-shirts, thimbles, stickers and mugs (among other trinkets) are all widely available in tourist shops all over the United Kingdom, but the only officially sanctioned souvenirs are bone china commemorative items offered by the royal family itself.

On a visit to Windsor Castle last week, the commemorative plate ($62) and pillbox($38) were sold out. “We can’t keep them on the shelves,” the shopkeeper told me. There were still a few tankard mugs ($54) available, so I picked one up for the Souvenir Museum collection.

Made in Staffordshire, which has a long history of producing highly prized ceramics, the exclusive design shows intertwined initials in gold and silver with the coronet of Prince Williams and the wedding date of April 29, 2011. Each handmade piece also features a decorative pattern of doves, white ribbon and silver, gold and gray hearts set against a pale gray-striped background. The pieces are individually finished by hand using 22-carat gold and presented in a blue box wrapped in white tissue paper printed with designs inspired by the wall hangings in the Clarence House.

The items can be purchased at gift shops located at the royal palaces and residences, such as Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace, or online at royalcollectionshop.co.uk. Profits go to the upkeep and conservation of the Royal Collection, one of the largest collections of paintings and works of art in the world built up over five centuries by successive British monarchs.

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Want your own fine china to commemorate your own special occasion? Hudson and Middleton, one of the china manufacturers tapped to produce the royal wedding souvenirs, will create personalized china starting at $199 for a five-piece place setting. According to the company’s website, “personal logos, crests, initials or tasteful works of art portraying your dog, car, house, yacht or horse can be supplied.”

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Filed under Art, Authentic, England, Europe, For Her, Home Furnishings, Souvenir, United Kingdom

One person’s Mexican sugar mold is another’s bludgeon

Before becoming a favorite home décor item, wooden molds like this one were hard at work creating cones of brown sugar in Mexico. But as I found out when I tried to get one home on an airplane, a sugar mold isn’t just a great souvenir; it turns out one person’s Mexican sugar mold is another’s bludgeon.

Too large for my checked luggage, I affixed a rope handle and then slipped it only the belt of the x-ray machine. In a pre-9/11 world, little thought would have been paid to my travel find. But with post-9/11 goggles on, security told me that it would not be allowed as a carry-on. “It could be a bludgeon,” I was told.

Luckily, I had plenty of time to get back to the check-in counter and check the mold through to my final destination. However, with a tight connection, you can kiss that puppy goodbye. USAToday travel writer Laura Bly’s recent travels sidelined a precious memento. Read the saga here.

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Filed under Authentic, Home Furnishings, Mexico, Uncategorized, Wood Carving

The one that got away

I found this lovely souvenir in a market stall in Bakau, Gambia. It stood out among the animal woodcarvings and batik fabrics. The seated wooden figure is covered with sead beads, conch shells and amulet bags.

When I asked the price, that stood out, too. It was my last day in the country and I only had a few delasi left, so I walked away empty handed. Later, I found a similar figure at a market in Dakar, Senegal.

Does anyone out there have any information about this bead covered wooden statue? Any information would be appreciated. I did a Google search and all I came up with was an ebay auction for two figures listed at $1,000! And the closest thing I’ve found would be beaded wooden Namchi dolls from Cameroon, but they aren’t quite the same thing.

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Filed under Africa, Art, Bakau, Home Furnishings, Souvenir, Statue, The Gambia, Wood Carving

Help for handicrafts in the Holy Land

Each Christmas, Christian pilgrims make their way to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity, believed to mark the spot where Jesus Christ was born. Due to its location in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, travel has been rendered more difficult, especially since 2001, and souvenir shops in the Old City are hurting, according to recent news reports.

“Tourism has picked up lately,” Shibly Kando, owner of Kando Store in the West Bank, told the Detroit Free Press. “We can say that it’s a little better than before, but still if we compare with how it was before 2001, it’s still not 10 percent of that yet.”

Kando’s store feature antiques, jewelry and gifts made in the West Bank, such as nativity scenes carved out of olive wood — one of the most popular purchases.

Nearly 1.5 million people visited Bethlehem in 2008, and the number could reach two million this year, according to the Palestinian Tourism Ministry. However, the majority of visitors come on a half-day tour from Jerusalem, leaving little time for shopping in Bethlehem and leaving West Bank vendors out of the economic equation. As reported by Global Post, Palestinian Tourism Minister Khouloud Daibes says “seventy percent of all tourists to Bethlehem return to hotels in Israel, while Palestinians receive a mere five percent of total revenues from those visiting both Israel and the West Bank.”

fair-trade products from Bethlehem

In the village of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, Raja Bannoura and his family hand carve nativities from pruned olive tree branches. This fair-traded product retails for $24 at http://www.tenthousandvillages.com.

There are organizations trying to change things around. The Fair Trade Development Center at Bethlehem University has called for the establishment of “fair trade in tourism” movement to promote a different picture of Palestine and its people as an attractive and friendly tourism destination and to promote Palestinian goods produced under fair-trade principles. And Catholic Relief Services, the official humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic Community, has supported artisans and farmers in the Holy Land. Last year, it awarded $18,000 to the Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society for market development efforts.

The message is clear: Bethlehem is worth the effort to visit, but if you can’t there, then Bethlehem will come to you via fair-traded products.

According to the non-profit organization SERRV International, “fair trade is growing in Palestine, and farmers and carvers understand its benefits.”

“It’s very clear with fair trade that we get a fair wage,” wood carver Naji Abu Farha told SERRV. “We get work … and we always receive an advance and prompt payment…. We get the price we ask for. We get good orders.”

Until stability returns to the region, fair trade may be the best way for handicraft suppliers and vendors in the West Bank to survive.

So, after the holidays, when you’re stocking up on Christmas décor that’s 50 or 60 percent off at Walmart, consider making a special purchase that will have an impact in Bethlehem instead. It gets to the heart of the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

Better yet, book your trip to the Holy Land and send us a souvenir (purchased in Bethlehem’s Old City) from your visit.

In the meantime, happy holidays from the Souvenir Museum.

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Filed under Bethlehem, Home Furnishings, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Replica, Uncategorized