Olive Wood, the Blog
We’re so excited! Today, after much eager anticipation, we finally have the first shipment of olive wood sitting in (ok, taking up most of) the living room. The products cleared customs this morning. No impostor handbags here. Only real, honest-to-goodness, handcrafted, fragrant, and deliciously beautiful pieces of olive wood. We can hardly contain ourselves. Each package is filled with objects more beautiful than the next. Just holding these pieces in your hands, you can feel how special they are, and how much heart and soul is in each piece. It takes a lot of experience to learn how to shape and craft olive wood, and it clearly shows in these pieces.

First off, olive wood has a very different grain, with no two trees alike. This means that the woodworker really needs to work hard to understand the wood, to be able to visualize how a particular grain is going to look when cut in a particular way, or even how to incorporate a natural knot in the wood into the final piece. Secondly, olive wood, well it’s a hard wood, like really hard. This means that to shape it and bend it and work it, you need to be firm with your cuts, and know your limits as well as the limits of the wood. The art of woodworker is passed down through the generations, and our artisans have spent their lives polishing and perfecting their craft. When you hold a piece in your hands, you can almost feel the very soul of the woodworker making each piece sing!

We’re so excited. Kiko and Nini have come up with the most fantastical idea, but the Penguin tells me I have to keep it under wraps. Just for a little longer. So my lips are sealed. I know, I know. The suspense is killing you.

Ok, you’ve twisted my arm. I’ll give you a hint. Green aprons. There, I hope that was cryptic enough. Ooh, ooh, and name tags.

Things are busy in the household, as Kiko and Nini have kicked it into high gear. I mean, we’re really in full swing now on this business plan. The paperwork is in, accounts have been opened, and a new business is born: City Bazaar. And our first line is none other than Leggenda Didone, the brand name of our olive wood pieces. They really are special. Classic, elegant, timeless. Like the logo, designed by Nini!

I have to admit, I wasn’t completely sold on the idea. Starting a business, that is. It all started with my brother-in-law, Kiko. You see, he has a passion for business. Since marrying my dear husband (the “Penguin”), I’ve become quite used to the odd bits and pieces of Tunisia (his home land) that somehow find their way into our home. Yes, the Tunisian flag is hanging on our wall. We also have the requisite camel portrait. (Note: my husband assures me that despite the prevalence of Tunisian wall art depicting camels, they are, in fact, not its national symbol). Oh, and then there’s the plastic Kewpie-doll dressed as a Tunisian bride riding a stuffed camel sitting on top of our bookshelf.

We also have some truly wonderful things from Tunisia in our home. Don’t even get me started on my mother-in-law’s makrough, this incredible, crumbly, date-filled cookie. It’s like a Fig Newton, no, it’s more like the Fig Newton’s classier, sexier sister. If we’re lucky, maybe at some point Nini (that’s my sister-in-law) will share the secret of the makrough. There’s also the spices, oh the spices! I’ll never cook with American chili powder or cumin again! Wait, where was I? Oh! Right! Olive wood.

So, here’s the thing. It turns out that Tunisia, this small country tucked away in the Mediterranean, is the second-largest holder of olive trees in the world, right after Spain. And like all things Tunisian, it wasn’t too long before Kiko finagled some olive wood our way. If you’ve never held olive wood before, well, it’s a treat. It’s smooth and cool to the touch. The grain of the wood is mesmerizing. And the smell (yes, it smells like olive oil) is tantalizing.

It turns out that olive wood has been in use for centuries in Tunisia. Who knew? (Ok, well everyone in the house expect for me, the lone American, knew…). And it also turns out that Kiko has the hook up. It wasn’t too long before we were convinced we had a product we believed in, something we wanted to share with others, and Leggenda Didone was founded!

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