A Return to Craft

By Rhonda Wilkins

Left: The Retreat at Blue Lagoon, Grindavik, Iceland.
Right: Little Seed Farm Facial Mist ($20)

Summer is a time to unplug and unwind, to cherish time with loved ones and friends. It’s a time to get away from it all—including, just maybe, the fast pace and hyper-connectivity of technology. We crave the lightning speed of our phones, laptops and smart devices—Tap! Swish! Swipe! Message sent! Connection made!—but digital automation cannot replace the timelessness of handcrafted beauty and the care and love imbued in traditional arts that reach back into history.

We may be witnessing a “new artisan economy” in the U.S., but in Europe, it’s a way of life that has never left.

Allow me to show you some hidden gems to explore, and heritage brands to sport, on your next jaunt across the sea…

Stopover Spa Day

A layover in Iceland provides the perfect respite when traveling across the Atlantic. My favorite place to recharge is The Retreat, a private hotel and spa encircled by the legendary mineral-rich waters of the Blue Lagoon. They have an incredible restaurant featuring exquisite reinventions of Icelandic cuisine using only the finest, freshest local ingredients. (Their energizing ginger shot at breakfast is a must.) The spa has an amazing selection of holistic treatments, but my favorite by far is the massage while submerged in the silica-rich waters of a geothermic pool. (Reminder: It’s important to keep skin hydrated on long-haul flights. I absolutely adore this facial mist by Little Seed Farm.)

From the Archives

I was delighted to see two of my favorite Italian fashion houses, Gucci and Valentino, revisit their archives for their Spring/Summer and Resort 2019 collections, resurrecting heritage patterns and prints and remixing classic looks but with a playful, modern twist.

Left: Valentino Mini Bandana Twill Dress ($4,490)
Right: Gucci Belted Dress with Poppy Print ($2,980)

The Old Masters

Milanese jewelry house Buccellati employs centuries-old Italian techniques to create some of the world’s finest jewelry. Designs are inspired by the great Renaissance masters from Botticelli to Donatello, who worked as goldsmiths before earning renown as sculptors, painters and architects. Each piece is uniquely engraved as a mark of the Buccellati artisans’ meticulous hand-craftsmanship.

[3] Buccellati
Macri Giglio 18-karat white and yellow gold diamond cuff

Timeless Luxury

Crafted exclusively in France, Charles Oudin watches combine luxury, technical excellence and a connection to the history of watch-making itself. Founded more than 220 years ago, this haute horological firm has created pieces for kings, czars, empresses and the occasional Pope. Expert technique, the finest materials and artistry dating back centuries make a Charles Oudin watch a one-of-a-kind accessory.

[4} Charles Oudin
18k White Gold Diamond Iris Retro Watch ($25,000)

Decorative Design

Yuliya Magdych learned the craft of artisanal Ukrainian heritage embroidery from her mother. Her luxurious caftans marry this decorative tradition with modern sensibilities, perfect for a luncheon or an evening affair.

[5] Yuliya Madych
Pansies Ruffle Midi Dress ($2,370)

Renaissance Revival

I happened upon this treasure trove while in Florence last summer. This shop still preserves original furniture made in 1903, from the days it was first opened by art enthusiast, Giovanni Baccani. Today, Baccani’s grandson and great-grandson continue the Florentine craft tradition, specializing in gilded wood objects, including exquisite frames. To watch the father-son team use the same techniques employed by ancient craftsmen—by hand and tool, not stamped by machine—is a magical sight to see.

[6] Giovanni Baccani Borgo Ognissanti
22/R Florence, Italy

Photo of Rhonda Wilkins

Executive Editor of Graceful Living, Rhonda Wilkins, is a former Senior Executive at Balmar Printing & Graphics in the Washington D.C Metro area and the wife of the late former U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands, C. Howard Wilkins Jr. Rhonda brings a wealth of knowledge in the fields of style, design, entertaining, travel and healthy living. Rhonda currently splits her time between Palm Beach, Florida and Europe.



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