Question: What do the City Arcade in Newcastle and a sidewalk cafe in Sentier, Paris, have in common?
Answer: The beautiful sculptural work of Barbara Nanshe.
Emerging one morning from the sadness of the Hunter Street Mall, I found myself outside the wonder that is Barbara’s workspace and shop in the City Arcade.
Even though I’m not a big jewellery wearer, the beauty, materials, balance and proportions of the works in the window drew me in.
I was particularly taken by the composition of one necklace/sculpture; a replica Roman coin, early 20th century clay pipes from Amsterdam and a shard of pottery found on the Thames mudflats.
That night at dinner, among other everyday topics, and with no ulterior motive at all, I described the piece to my husband, who’s interested in sculpture.
Many months later we found ourselves almost accidentally in Paris (in the days when that was still possible…). Sitting in a sidewalk cafe on the afternoon of arrival- a cliché I know- my husband handed me a simple blue box bearing the beautiful piece I’d seen all those months before in Newcastle. It was one of the few times in my life when I was almost speechless.
I was beyond surprised and touched to find out that he’d enlisted the help of a retired neighbour to go to Barbara’s shop to check if the necklace was still there. She took on the task with the relish of a detective- I later saw the sketch that had been made from my description. My husband then paid it off over the months leading to our trip. He told me that he’d been living in fear that he might have bought the wrong piece, and that when I opened the box, I’d say “What’s this?” Luckily I didn’t, so it ended well for both of us!
I wore my necklace out to dinner on our last night in Paris and then brought it home in my hand luggage. No way was I letting it out of my sight! Since then I’ve worn it for special occasions like our son’s high school graduation dinner (when those still happened…) and a family member’s 50th wedding anniversary party. It’s too beautiful to be locked away in between important occasions, so I display it as you can see in the photo. Every time I look at it, I see some new facet or perspective to it. I also lock it away carefully if I’m ever away.
It’s one of my most valued possessions both for its aesthetics and for the love that it reminds me of.
So, that’s my Barbara Nanshe story. What’s yours?