Project Bly is a travel and design e-commerce site, based on the philosophy that every object has a story. As lead copywriter, it was my job to bring those stories to life for our customers through informative, entertaining product descriptions.
Brass Tiffin Box
Destination: Mumbai, India
Every day across India, thousands of these portable, three-tiered lunchboxes are spirited from house to office by a group of extraordinary men known as dabbawallahs.
The Mumbai dabbawallahs (translation: "box people") are no ordinary men. Every day, a small army of these urban warriors delivers between 175,000-200,000 lunch boxes to a grateful clientele comprised mostly of downtown businessmen. Starting their rounds in the morning, the dabbawallahs—on foot, bike, and/or train—swing by the often far-flung addresses of their customers, where they pick up homemade meals from whichever patni (wife), matha (mother), or saas (mother-in-law), is doing the cooking. Then it’s downtown, sorting the pails on train platforms according to an ingenious system of color-coding, and eventually arriving at one or another office building with seemingly impossible punctuality.
Barefoot and largely illiterate, the dabbawallahs make a mistake only once in every 6 million deliveries, a figure that earned them Forbes' six sigma standard and no doubt leaves FedEx execs shaking their heads in disbelief. Carrying on an over-100 year tradition, the way of the dabbawallah has changed very little; they are men of honor, integrity, and incredible calf muscles rivaled only by mailmen and the guys who walk up and down the beach selling drinks. And yet withstanding their old-fashioned virtues, the dabbawallahs are no technophobes; as of recently, you can book them via SMS.
Destination: La Paz, Bolivia
Qué color! This burnt-orange scarf caught our eye as soon as we got to the market in El Alto. It’s knitted from the much-coveted miracle fiber known as alpaca wool.
Now you may be wondering about the difference between a llama and an alpaca. Llamas, along with alpacas, vincuñas and guanacos are all camelids (i.e. related to the camel, but humpless), yet there are marked physical distinctions between them. Besides being about double the size of an alpaca, llamas have two coats—a course outer layer and a soft inner one—while alpacas have a single fine coat—a miracle fiber that besides being warm and luxurious, is also water-repellent, fireproof, and hypoallergenic. The reason? For many centuries Alpacas have been bred for their fiber, while llamas—those uncomplaining beasts of burden—have always been bred to carry the heavy load.
ELEPHANT VS. SKELETON SIGNED FRANCISCO TOLEDO ART KITE
Destination: Oaxaca, Mexico
Francisco Toledo is arguably Mexico’s greatest living artist, and this whimsical kite, designed and signed by the master himself, is a classic example of his work. The kite was made at an ecological paper workshop housed in the Center for the Arts of San Augustín, or CASA—a dynamic institution that Toledo helped create. Artist, philanthropist, and activist, Toledo is an internationally renowned figure, and at the heart of the Oaxacan art scene.
A native Oaxacan from the town of Juchitán, Francisco Toledo studied art in Mexico City and Paris before moving back to Oaxaca in 1965. Famous for his use of natural materials like bones and shells, Toledo’s art locates itself at the intersection of nature, myth and magic and his unique vision has won him international acclaim; in 2011 a painting of his called Vaca roja sold at Christie’s New York for $902,500.
Instead of retiring to a life of secluded luxury, however, he’s used his resources and influence to make art available to everyone, especially in his home state of Oaxaca. Projects that Toledo has been involved with include the Museum of Contemporary Art of Oaxaca, the Eduardo Mata Music Library, and the Institute of Graphic Arts, to name a few. Then there’s the recently completed Center for the Arts of San Augustín, housed in a restored textile mill, which, besides the eco-paper workshop, offers free art classes, exhibitions, and concerts.