Thursday, 31 March 2011

Meet the expat: Fabrique Fantastique

The lovely Jan runs two Etsy shops, Fabrique Fantastique and her gorgeous new shop, Boutique Fantastique.

I love looking at her scarves, they're so pretty. She also sells quilts and sari fabrics amongst other things. Her new shop specializes in vintage clothing and the wedding dresses are exquisite.

I believe, Jan, with her inestimable energy is planning to open a third shop on Etsy in the fall. I can't wait to see it.

Jan likes to call herself the 'dinosaur' of the team and exclaims (on occasion) that she needs technological help. But for a dinosaur her blog looks really awesome!

When I asked her if she's willing to be my subject for our Meet the Expat post this week she was full  of reservations. She thinks she's the oldest person on our team (she'll be 70 next month) and she's lived in Toronto for 45 years. So wasn't sure whether she can validly call herself an expat.

I, of course, disagreed. I believe that's exactly why it's so interesting to talk to her about her experiences as an expat. For some of us, after all, that's our future. To become naturalized citizens in whichever country we reside.

Jan was kind enough to answer my questions and give me a bit of background on her life.

I am an English publicans daughter and always lived 'above the shop'. I was washing glasses by age 14 (that was the legal age to be in licensed premises then).

I went to Canterbury College of Art and worked in London after wards. I have 3 grown children, the eldest reversed the situation by marrying an Englishman and lives with 3 children in Yorkshire.

I pursued my art inclinations, working with textile arts, showing at small galleries and a little teaching.

When my youngest started school I fell into a lovely sales career in the publishing industry here, lots of fun!

Austerity Britain shaped me and I always was an enthusiastic collector of vintage textiles so when my publishing career came to an end I started to deal in this area...still love it, especially the thrill of the chase.

Why did you move? 
I came to Canada for the usual reason...I married a Canadian.

We met in Spain, married in England and came to his home city because, at that time, Canada had a very good standard of living - central heating, supermarkets, washing machines etc - that were not available in England at that time.

We never made a conscious  decision to stay, in fact we are still thinking and talking about living in Britain!

Biggest challenge being an expat?  
Biggest challenge was recognizing that I was living in a different culture. (My husband's mother was Romanian.)

I had assumed because it was English speaking things would be the same. At that time Canada was moving quickly from being a somewhat boring English outpost to the multi-ethnic society it is today.

Biggest joy being an expat?
Biggest joy was that Canada has afforded me many opportunities that I do not think would have come my way had I stayed at home (maybe I'm wrong, for Britain has changed mightily too).

Jan was also kind enough to let us see some of her photos from her cabin in the woods. She thinks this would count as one of the things that she would not be able to have in the UK. I tend to agree with her.

I love the sound of this cabin, it's on a small, 1 acre island on the Georgian Bay of lake Huron. Meaning a two hour drive from Toronto followed by 20 minutes travel by boat. Sounds divine.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me Jan. We know you've had a hip replacement recently and we're all very happy at your recovery and hope you feel more mobile every day.

You can find Jan online:

Are you a soon-to-be, been-there-done-that or currently an expat? If you sell on Etsy come and join our team.

Post by: Jacqueline Fouche (Tangentine)

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Meet the expats: Artophile

The lovely Shirl from Artophile is a stained glass artist. She always manages to cheer me up with her posts and makes me laugh with her computer gaming conversations. An interest we share.

Shirl is a Scot living in the US, but it's much easier to let her tell the story of how she ended up living there.

Shirl, usually mentions coming out of her basement when she posts. It makes me wish I could see her studio because it sounds like a magical place. I love her panels, celtic pieces and egg art. Go have a look!

Why did you move?

I didn't mean to become an expat, it just kinda happened!

 After studying Tapestry and Stained Glass at  Art College in Edinburgh, Scotland I travelled around Europe and survived by working at whatever I could find.That included cleaning yachts in Spain, working in  a restaurant in Greece and picking grapes in France.

 I loved the Mediterranean lifestyle so much that I settled in Mallorca, Spain for a few years and worked on yachts, doing anything from varnishing the teak to scraping barnacles off their hulls!

 I was then offered a six month job as a chef on a private yacht based in Palm Beach, Florida. That six months stretched into a year during which time I sailed as far  south as the Bahamas and as far north as Cape Cod.

 I met my husband in Florida and after we had our daughters we moved to the mountains of West Virginia to be closer to his family. I've been been here for 17 years now.

Biggest challenge being an expat? 
 The biggest challenge has to be the separation from my family and the uncomfortable knowledge that I will probably never live in Scotland or Europe again. Leaving my girls here while we moved there would be unthinkable, but so would our insisting they come with us. A tricky one, for sure...

Biggest joy being an expat?
 The biggest joy of being an expat is being with my husband and daughters. I had to travel halfway across the world to find them and am overjoyed that we are as close as we are. It certainly makes living here easier and in fact they are the only reason I'm still here and not living near the sea in Europe somewhere.

 If home is where the heart is, then I am at home here, as unlikey as that  sometimes seems...

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me Shirl it's really good to get to know you a bit better.

Are you a soon-to-be, been-there-done-that or currently an expat? If you sell on Etsy come and join our team.

Post by: Jacqueline Fouche (Tangentine)

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Nadal Green with Envy at Fabulous Tennis Racket

The Etsy Expats drew on their impressive resources once again for a team theme challenge "Green with". Lots have entered, but like with any tournament there can only be one winner. Hopeandvanilla won game, set and match with a lovely fresh green vintage tennis racket brooch:

Well played, indeed!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Meet the expats: PeonyForest

Elena runs her beautiful shop PeonyForest on Etsy and makes a variety of cute and slightly geeky items.

She's been making lampshade inserts for herself for years and decided that it would be a nice gift for children. She also makes cute little animal toys and jewelry.

You should really check out the animal toys. As a matter of fact, while I was writing this, I fell in love with one of them and just had to buy it.

Except for the fact that they're really cute it's an excellent design and very clever. Using magnets you can attach it to metal and they have all kinds of features making it into a nice interactive toy.

Elena was born in St. Petersberg and comes from a family of engineers. As one might expect from someone who has a lot of technical people in their family, Elena also did a technical degree, in Computer Engineering.

Elena's been running her Etsy shop full time to give her creative side a chance to play. She's always had an interest in art and especially in merging it with technology. The Etsy shop was opened to 'allow me to tinker with a purpose and I find the process of inventing fascinating'.

Elena and her husband will be moving to Rochester, NY, this summer and will probably have to look for a "normal" job again soon. But I'm sure she'll carry on with inventing and creating because we all know how addictive that process is and it would be a disservice to talent if she stops creating.

Elena was kind enough to answer some questions for me.

Why did you move?
I came to study and ended up working in California, and met a wonderful man, who asked me to start our lives together.

Biggest challenge being an expat?
I find it hard being unable to relate my childhood memories to people around me.

The pop culture they grew up with doesn't include my favorite cartoons, movies or school stuff.

If I say "Hedgehog in the fog" anyone with soviet background immediately knows what I am talking about, but not my husband. If he says "Captain America", I need to hear an explanation on what that was. And it's strange sometimes that we don't have common childhood references.

Having family all over the world is hard. Tickets are expensive and visiting is limited. My brother lives in New York city, Dad and my younger sister live in Aix-en-provence. Mom and grandmas are in several different time zones across Russia. Thank goodness for Skype.

Biggest joy being an expat?
I think having a wider perspective helps me with things going on around me.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me Elena it's really good to get to know you a bit better.

Are you a soon-to-be, been-there-done-that or currently an expat? If you sell on Etsy come and join our team.

Post by: Jacqueline Fouche (Tangentine)

Friday, 4 March 2011

Meet the expats: Anakit

The lovely Alja, runs her jewelry shop, Anakit on Etsy.

Alja is Slovenian and was born and raised on the sunny side of the Alps. She lives in Brussels, Belgium but just moved to Berlin, Germany for a couple of months to perfect her German.

Alja makes beautiful jewelry in many different styles. Her work style range from glamorous to a hint of ancient culture and I especially love her porcelain pieces.

Why did you move ?
When I was a kid I was either going to be an astronaut or a conference interpreter.  After university NASA didn’t call, but a postgraduate programmer opened up for interpreters with Slovenian as their mother tongue.

Already during my studies it became clear that in order to make it as a beginner in this profession I would have to move to where the demand for interpreters was great and constant.  There is only one place outside their little country where Slovenes can speak their language in an official capacity:  Brussels,  the home of the European Union .

If I had been born a native speaker of one of the languages spoken in the United Nations, it could have been the Big Apple, but this way, the only choice for me was Belgium.

Biggest challenge of being an expat?
I usually adapt well to new situations, so I haven’t had any major worries as an expat, but there is one thing that you have to get used to, namely being away from your family.

When I decided to move my little niece broke down in tears and refused to accept it. We are a closely-knit family and the timing of my decision coincided with some rough times my sister was going through. When my grandmother passed away I was lucky to pay a fortune to go to the funeral  at a short notice, but that wasn’t possible in the case of my aunt. I wanted to be with my family to mourn and console each other, but the kilometers between us were too many.

The challenge I fear most is not being there as my parents get old and frail. Every time I visit for the holidays they seem more aged. Hopefully not for some time yet, but there will come a point when they will need tending to and I don’t know what I will do then. It’s a terrifying thought.

Biggest Joy of being an expat?
The best part of being an expat is that every day feels like a summer camp.  Every day teaches you something new and the next new experience is just around the corner.

Brussels may not be London or Paris, but it lies conveniently in between both. It has great connections to anywhere in Europe or the world and I have been able to go on many exciting travels since I have lived here.

The city itself is a melting pot, where you can hear all sorts of languages just walking down the street. Everybody brings a piece of their culture with them. I have been fortunate to make several friends here that I believe could be friends for life. They are expats as well, some are Slovene as well, and others come from all over Europe.

We work, laugh, play and even travel together. As we all have to live away from our families we nourish and cherish our friendships here so much more. Strong friendships are the foundation of feeling at home away from home.

Find Anakit jewelry online:

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions and allow us to get to know you a bit better.

Are you a soon-to-be, been-there-done-that or currently an expat? If you sell on Etsy come and join our team.

Post by: Jacqueline Fouche (Tangentine)