It's been a little while since I've been able to do the traveling. Before we had children, Danny and I loved traveling together. We really feed off each other's enthusiasm and a lot of ideas are born on these adventures. Unfortunately, these days we have to travel separately so that one of us is always available for our children (it would be a very difficult trip for all 4 of us!!). For the last few years, I've had to stay at home with our 2 young children, Jonah and Sari, and have attempted to communicate with Danny through video chats. This is challenging at the best of times, even without the constant internet disruptions and poor connectivity, but it's been the easiest way for us to communicate and make decisions quickly. Now that Sari is at an age that I no longer need to be around ALL the time (breastfeeding can be quite demanding!), I didn't hesitate to put my hand up to volunteer for the latest trip to China to hand pick our newest shipment of Chinese furniture, antiques, and one-of-a-kind pieces. I had missed it so much and couldn't wait to head off!
The above image shows how some of the cabinets arrive at the factory for restoration. You can see the piece standing on its end has a top opening (padlocked) and is quite wide. The front panels are fixed - just one panel - no doors, drawers etc. Just a single panel. Typically these are used to store food, grain, flour etc. Our suppliers source these from different provinces over China and bring them to their warehouses to restore. The cabinets are basically reduced to a 45cm depth and the front panels are cut out, cut in half to make swinging doors. Colours are restored, or in some cases removed (blonde pieces). The top panel is fixed in and finished off for us.
Hearing the news that I would be travelling on my own (even though I have done it several times before! My last trip spent on my own was to Germany for 3 days!!!), worried my Dad a bit and he insisted that he tag along with me. I think it was just an excuse for him to say he'd like to come along. He hasn't traveled very much at all, and I think he's always been curious as to how things work and the places we visit, so off he went to get an express passport! I didn't mind at all if anything I was so happy to have my Dad come with me. What a great opportunity to spend time together and a special experience for both of us. I couldn't wait to show him all of the things I'd often talked about.
The above images show the work required to restore some of the 'floral' cabinets. Most of the red paint is removed - and replaced with a white or pastel paint colour. There are so many 'layers' of a piece of Chinese furniture. Layers of paint, processes, and history...
It was only a few days after the Sydney Trade Fair that we had to leave, so it was a very hectic time! Danny hadn't been able to even come to the fair as he'd developed a weird case of severe vertigo, so he had stayed at home and basically became my PA! Ha! I must be moving up in the world! He booked our flights, accommodation, and transfers - and did a very good job at that! My Dad was officially booked in for the 'cotton wool' trip to China!
This trip really reminded me how far we'd come. In the early days or our travels, we definitely did things the hard way. Turning up to foreign countries and not knowing what the hell we were doing - it was tough - and a very steep learning experience. This trip was different. Everything went smoothly and to schedule (must have been Danny's very organised planning!). I know it's a small thing, but when you are on such a tight schedule (we had 1 day in Vietnam to see what we could find and 2 days in China), it's such a relief to know where you can get good food! It makes it so much easier!! And having done this trip several times now, I knew exactly where I was headed for dinner! I was surprised - Dad was pretty open to exploring the food street and even considered eating scorpions on a stick... although his excuse was 'Maybe if I was here for a few days longer and there wasn't so much pressure to get everything done on time I'd try one'. Haha! Yeah right. But you know, he probably would, I've seen him chew on a cicada before...
Not everything on our trip was familiar to me. We were exploring a new supplier, as a lot of our existing suppliers have had to shut shop due to the government forcing them out of the city so that China will have 'blue skies'... and unfortunately many of them could not afford the move.
To get out to the factory, we caught the fast train. It took about an hour and a half, but next year it should only take about half an hour, as the new train currently being built will travel at a speed of 360km/hour.
This new supplier was the only supplier we have found that has secured a number of old Tibetan Bed cabinets. These pieces are amazing and are extremely scarce and very difficult to source. None of our other suppliers have been able to find any of these old pieces for at least the last year, so we are extremely lucky to get our hands on these! Restoration of these pieces was done at the factory, so I had to go out there to check them all and choose the pieces we would take... it was a successful day, and one of the new experiences for Dad (squat toilets and the like!)...
The next day we had a full day scheduled, as it was our last day (we never generally get to spend a lot of time on our trips - always in and out and to a schedule!!) and we needed to ensure that we go through everything that needed to be done. It was freezing! Walking through the warehouses on such a cold day got pretty torturous by the end. I ended up with so many layers and 2 big jackets! But we got it done! And some beautiful pieces were selected. I can't wait to get them home!!!!
It was a successful and enjoyable trip and one I will never forget. Although, I think Dad may just have the travel bug now... he's off to India with Danny for 2-3 days on the 17th April - now THAT will be interesting!!!