The Athinaeum

Head in the clouds October 10 2011, 1 Comment


The soaring cliffs behind Panajachel that often go unnoticed because they are in the opposite direction of the captivating lake with it's triplet of volcanoes. Just below those volcanoes is a town called Santiago Atitlan where the women and men wear garments embroidered with images of the local birds. This particular outfit is one of my favourites in Guatemala and is featured on this bag.

From my courtyard bathroom, I sometimes watch the eagles that fly above the cliffs and they remind me that having the ability to fly starts with an initial idea or possibility.

Yet, in order to fly, we must first rid ourselves of the unnecessary weights we have in every day life that keep us tied to the ground. I call them fears.

Next, fill with faith. Then leap!

Once upon a time ago, humans would ridicule  each other with the supposition of being able to fly... So, just because someone else may not get it, it does not mean that the possibility doesn't exist, you just need to allow it to blossom.

I dedicate this bag to Mum and my fellow dreamers who support and encourage me to wonder, keep my head in the clouds and reach for the skies. Love you.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure." Nelson Mandela

Imagine the possibility... then make it happen!

Who is ATHINAEUM? October 06 2011, 0 Comments

Whoever's game.

Whoever wears it and makes it their own. You are the personality behind the outfit. You wear it with elegance, funk or attitude. You all have your own unique flavour, a different story and little things that make you smile. I believe Athinaeum women and men make the world a better place, but I'm going to let you be the judge of that.

So here are the first three ladies of Athinaeum. We met in Panajachel, Guatemala where they had a small preview of the collection and shortly thereafter, snapped up a few of my pieces. In the throng of life's chaotic perfection, we crossed paths once, missed each other another time, then 3 weeks later, after a whirlwind of travel, our worlds unexpectedly collided once again in Antigua.

Meet Emilie, Harriet and Sophia. They are ATHINAEUM.


Name: Emilie Sheehan   -  Hometown: London 

How do you spend your days:  Studying design.

What makes you happy?  Pristine beaches, chocolate brownies and a good book.

What’s your style?  A well fitted dress, heels and a great bag. Keep it simple.

What inspires you?  Art, fashion, design, exhibitions, colours, people, places etc.

Where in the world, must you see before you die?  Too many places to name...

What makes you excited about your new handbag?  Can’t wait to wear it in England and know that no one else will have it yet! One of a kind.

What do you think ATHINAEUM stands for?  Unique accessories inspired by the beautiful fabrics of Guatemala from an independent designer.

What are your perceptions of Guatemala so far?  Varied, surprising and a rich culture.

What do you love about travelling?  I love having new experiences that you could never have in England and meeting great people.

What are you dreaming about right now?  Working with Bruce Mau.


Name: Harriet Roberts  -  Hometown: Southampton, England

How do you spend your days:  Studying Medicine at Birmingham University - just finished my third year and currently taking a year out of study, planning on returning to finish my course next year.

What makes you happy?  Being with friends and family.

Describe your style or what you feel fabulous wearing?  I am a bit of an all-rounder, but love finding the odd bargain in charity shops and 'the birmingham rag market'. Also have to say that an amazing pair of heels finish an outfit for me (as I'm quite short!)

Who/what inspires you?  I am inspired by other people who achieve what they want and are happy in themselves.

Where in the world, must you see before you die?  This question is too hard -  a million places scream to me! I want to tour Italy at some point though.

What makes you excited about your new handbag?  How AMAZING it is! And how fabulous I will look on my weekend trips this year!

What do you think ATHINAEUM stands for?  A stadium formed entirely from building blocks created by the hard work of a strong and independent woman - Athena!

Describe your perception of Guatemala so far:  I have loved Guatemala - I was amazed by how different the climate can be from one part to another and how beautiful the scenery was. There is so much to do there I would love to spend longer exploring the country.


Name: Sophia Harrop  -  Hometown: Surrey, England

Spends her days:  Studying Psychology at Durham University.

What makes you happy?  Almost everything... In particular I enjoy telling very cheesy jokes and making ridiculous puns with friends.

Describe your style or what you feel fabulous wearing:  I love brightly coloured dresses with quirky patterns on them - I have a blue dress with sailboats on it which has been my summer favourite!! In winter a pair of brightly coloured tights with a dark skirt or dress also looks cool.

Who inspires you?  My dad, because he's never given me bad advice. I'd like to be able to always give great advice to another person someday.

Where in the world, must you see before you die?  Machu Pichu in Peru, and the Northern Lights.

What is your dream?  To learn another language and to live in another country (outside Europe) for several years.

What makes you excited about your new handbag?  The colours and material its made from are fantastic!! I love that it's a one of a kind piece, great quality and is the perfect balance between Guatemalan and Western style.

What do you think ATHINAEUM stands for?  I don't know what it stands for, but an Athenaeum was a temple in Ancient Greece to the goddess Athena. ATHINAEUM makes me think of a temple dedicated to your bags because they're all just so heavenly and wonderful... And that makes you the handbag goddess!!

Describe your perception of Guatemala so far:  Its got everything - great people, great culture, great landscapes and just SO MUCH TO DO!!! Its also got a hustle and bustle about it that makes it feel very lively.

Why do you love travelling?  I love experiencing new cultures, meeting new people, eating great food, seeing amazing sights, hearing different languages and being in the sun. The feeling of escaping everything at home as well, even if just for a short time, is very liberating too.]]>

Pom Poms September 21 2011, 2 Comments

Pom Poms. Play. Prancing. Picnics. Party.

These are some of my favourite P words.  I think this bag applies to all aforementioned words.

I also hear that a Pom Pom Parrot is a Pirate's favoured accessory. Luckily I've captured a few on key chains and they're ready keep you company on your long sea voyages. Arrrrgh!]]>

Always remember... September 21 2011, 3 Comments

EVERYTHING is exactly as it should be

Mother nature and my treasured friends remind me of this constantly.

This photo was taken earlier this year at Foz de Iguacu (Brazilian side of Iguacu Falls), after some insane revelry at Carnivale in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. I was by myself for the first time in while and this moment of quiet solitude reminded me that I was experiencing yet another of life's perfect moments... oh, just like this one, RIGHT NOW!

This post goes out to all the people who are so busy that they forget to appreciate each moment, because they are either too busy planning the next moment, dwelling on the past, or just unhappy with what's currently in front of them.

So stop, clear your mind of clutter, take stock of all the wonderfulness that's in your life RIGHT NOW and have appreciation.]]>

The Get Away! September 05 2011, 1 Comment

It's Monday, so what better time to plan an escape?

Don't forget your perfect partners in crime!

Quickly pack all your essentials in this grande, sturdy, weekend hold-all, aptly named The Get Away!

It's nifty little side kick La Concha also wants to come for the adventure. She's a wonderful companion for days of sunny sightseeing and afternoon tipples that run late into the night (Huh? How is it 11pm?! Hick...). She has a long, cross-body strap so that when you're unexpectedly shimmying across the dancefloor, you're assured she won't be a hassle and you'll have hands-free dancing till your heart's content.

Back at work next Monday morning... you both sip on lattes and dwell on the thought of doing it all again next weekend. Together.]]>

Athinaeum; Like Double Rainbows September 05 2011, 0 Comments

So what the heck is she doing? Double Rainbows? What?!

I left the sunny shores of Sydney nearly a year ago, and the adventure thus far has been AMAZING to say the least. Right now it’s the rainy season, mudslides have closed the roads and political tension is simmering due to the looming election.

I’m in the heart of Guatemala, perched across from the three statuesque volcanoes of Lake Atitlan and I’ve been hard at work. For the last 3 months (with a brief respite in Costa Rica) I’ve been researching, designing and developing the handbag equivalent of the rainbow connection.

What? After falling in love with the vivid outfits of the indigenous women here, I collected a range of pre-owned traditional Maya textiles from around Guatemala. To best showcase each piece of fabric, I have developed a handful of styles which make optimum use of each textile and ensure minimal fabric wastage. My happy team of local leather craftsmen assemble each bag using local leather and suede trimmings. Each bag features hand woven, hand embellished, artistic regional textiles, framed in leather, featuring small details that will make you smile.

So?  This is Athinaeum's debut collection - a range of one-off, kaleidoscopic, indigenous, luxe arm candy with an awesome (his)story.

They are the perfect side-kick for your Southern Hemisphere summer fiesta. Or if you’re feeling a little grey during Northern Winter days, these little companions will keep you bright and chirpy.

In addition to the collection of women's handbags, I’m also developing some radical unisex laptop covers, charmed pouches for bits and pieces and a men's satchel (hello boys!). If you're in need of a spruce up, then check out the regional Guatemalan accessories I’ve collected which are perfect to decorate yourself or your home.

I'll be posting a few pics of the preliminary range in the next few weeks to whet the appetite... BUT... the bulk of the collection is still in production. Don't despair, this is perfect timing, because I've secured U.S. artist Keenan Hock to photograph the range here on the lake once he has completed a 40 day silence retreat later this month!

Become a follower of my blog and I promise that my photos, adventures, inspiration, fashion and random thoughts will be just as entertaining as seeing Double Rainbows!


Breakfast Bag August 21 2011, 5 Comments


My fave Athinaeum bag right now (and first to be blogged!) is this textured, jewel tone zig zag bag. I took it to breakfast with me today and it was the perfect companion, except for the fact that it kept insisting on sitting on the table next to my fruit salad! It gets away with these things because the colours keep me well entertained.

This magenta fruit is not fake, despite looks. It's called pitaya and the colour is so surreal it makes you feel like you're a eating mouthful of coloured crayons. The good news is that it tastes WAY better than crayons and it's healthier too. It tastes kinda like melon.

Bon appetit!




Happy Birthday: The Athinaeum August 20 2011, 1 Comment

Happy birthday Coco Chanel, my BFF and The Athinaeum.

What better day to birth a blog, than on the same date that bore two of the most inspiring people in my life?

In turn, I dream that you too will be inspired, entertained and perhaps educated whilst you enjoy The Athinaeum.

It's true, I have posted before today however, it was under another name and due to technical incompetence, it was abandoned for a while. BUT, I stick to the practice of "if it's broke, then fix it" so today I have revived and re-titled this blog The Athinaeum hence, Happy Birthday!

What to expect? Have no expectations and you will be delighted*.

To celebrate? I ask one simple wish: Stop and smell the roses.

Do it today, and at each and every chance you get throughout life. And don't just have a quick sniff! Please stop, deeply inhale and savour the sweetness. You will often hear me say that the greatest pleasures in life are not only free, but they are also the most simple and will make your insides smile.

Happy Day Everyone!


*Search for new treasures that I create, along with snippets of inspiration from my adventures!]]>

George Lois April 09 2011, 0 Comments

George Lois, Graphic Communicator

What does modern art need more of?
"Less CON - and more I CON"

What is the key to communicate visually?
"Imagery must communicate in a NANOSECOND - the idea must be immediate and forever memorable.
The idea must be understood - simple but certainly not simplistic...
Hopefully an idea that enters your head and instantly enters pop culture..."]]>