Author Dean King Discusses Tradition and How It Lifts Us Collectively

What story does your home tell? A well-designed space should have a soul. It should reflect the personality of its inhabitants – their dreams and their traditions. No one tells a story better than a writer, so Janet Brown Interiors asked best-selling author Dean King to share his thoughts on tradition. Here is what he told us . . .

From generation to generation, we pass down beliefs and values, and they are expressed in works of art and craft. Handmade objects, whether paintings, pottery or hand-stitched pillows are manifestations of the artist or artisan’s vision and craft, influenced by traditions passed down over time. They connect us in a shared culture that elevates us and brings value and pleasure to our lives. That’s why I love to find a beautiful Moroccan bowl, a plein-air painting, or a worn tribal rug to give as a gift. A hand-shaped and painted platter or sculptural soup terrine adds to a family meal, one tradition raising another. The real gift is not the object itself but what the object represents and how that makes us feel. For me, being part of this meaningful continuum, this heritage of aesthetics, and working at a craft that is one thread in the big tapestry of that is an important part of enjoying every day. Tradition is not something that binds us to outmoded social beliefs or that simply elevates us as individuals, it lifts us collectively.

 Bio: Dean King is the nationally best-selling author of nine books, including Skeletons on the Zahara, a Salon Book Award winner, and The Feud: The Hatfields & McCoys: The True Story, which the Wall Street Journal called “popular history the way it ought to be written.” His critically acclaimed biography Patrick O’Brian: A Life Revealed was serialized in the Daily Telegraph, which named it a book of the year. He has appeared on NPR, the BBC, and as a storyteller on two History Channel documentaries, and his writing has appeared in OutsideGarden & GunGranta, and the New York Times.

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Best-selling author Dean King. Photo copyright: Rachel Cobb 2012.

 As Dean King stated, hand-crafted items tell a story and reflect the traditions of the artisans who create them. Indian women have been sharing their traditions for centuries by embroidering items such as this silk kantha that Janet Brown purchased at the High Point Market earlier this month . . .


The term kantha refers to “a type of embroidery that is popular in eastern South Asia, especially Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal and Odisha [Wikipedia].” Women use kantha stitching to create quilts from old saris. Various sources indicate that kanthas are prepared for newborns, brides, cremations or to wrap anything precious. The quilts are offered to guests in rural India as a sign of welcome. They are perfectly at home on a bed, hanging on a wall, or draped over a couch for added color and texture.


A silk kantha.


The thread that is used for kantha embroidery has been taken from an old sari.


Repurposing is not a new idea. It is a longstanding tradition in India, as expressed in this embroidered kantha.

The Riviera Bag, which is available at Janet Brown Interiors, supports Dean King’s statement that traditional crafts can elevate us all. The bag is  “a collaboration between catstudio and Sabala – a non-profit society in remote Southern India set up to provide opportunities to widows and economically challenged women to learn skills, while reviving traditional tribal crafts, and translate those skills into productive activities that generate income.”


The Riviera Bag: “A feel good bag . . . a feel good story . . .”


“The beauty of these bags – the weaving and stitching – is only possible with the skilled human hand. The bags should delight fashion lovers, all while helping fellow sisters in need.”


Available in 8 colors and 4 sizes.


Every journey is unique. Your home should be unique, too.

 The Studio at Janet Brown Interiors. Open Monday through Saturday. No appointment necessary. Interior design for a space that reflects the homeowner’s personality.

Thank you, Dean King, for sharing your time and words with us!

Post by Kathleen Sams Flippen for Janet Brown Interiors.

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