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Storyboard: Amazon Boomtown

Sep 13, 2011

by Su Wu handmade and vintage goods

Before he became famous for museum wings and concert halls, the young architect got a private commission to build a home for a rubber baron, in the muddy boomtown where an Amazon tributary meets the Rio Negro. The rubber baron was the second son of an even wealthier man. In his youth, he had thought perhaps he might be a poet, and his taste for severity was matched only by his weakness for gesture and a certain predictable unevenness with money.

[Clockwise from top left: Vintage embroidered crop top from folieAdeuxvintageNavy wool fedora from Beautifulshyt; Beaded belt from chocolatebohemian; Bead and leather belt from rikiwidesigns; Cutout vintage boots from VintageSocialClub; Vintage brass ring from littlebirdiela; Vintage Coach purse from PoisonPuddingFaire; ‘80s high waist skirt from nestdesignstudio]

Wild rubber trees maintain distance from one another to protect from communicable diseases, and the baron controlled a large acreage of humid jungle and even more native laborers. They didn’t curse him in any sort of ancient rite, but simply hated him, and along with him the house he was building, despite its marvels.

[Clockwise from top left: Vintage Colombian checkered shawl from amberpear; Vintage woven romper from urbanreplay; Smoky quartz amulet from CrystalCreek; Elevated dough bowl from TomLaurus; Vintage woven purse from pumkysoo; Quetzal hand cut sterling pins from gemagenta]

For in this house, cleared out of the canopy, the architect tested his ambitions, designing smooth plaster rooms that would hold nothing but light, children’s bedrooms shielded in titanium waves, and glass turrets that rose into the air like quartz crystal spikes. He filled indoor courtyards with artifacts and citrus plants, and other dwarf trees that did not grow here.

[Clockwise from top left: God’s eye pendant from nanoukiko; Vintage brown tank from bigbrothervintage; Wooden belt from Barbarosasvintage; Geometric triangle earrings from GypsyWarriorVintage; Mini ruin replica from bronconegerski; Geodesic brooch from CharlesWyattJewlery; Vintage red velvet bag from littlebirdiela]

But one day, not long after the house was finished, the market for rubber crashed. The rubber baron boarded a steamboat, not the same one on which he came, carrying trunks of bright textiles to wear around London and memories of the sounds of animals in the morning. The jungle nestled the house and then engulfed it, an implosion of appliances, piles of ceiling, the shine of chrome next to the curve of a leaf, the unintended poetry of being left behind.

More Posts From Su

Vintage BOHO Flat Leather Boots with Cutouts
Vintage BOHO Flat Leather Boots with Cutouts
Wood Dough Bowl - Elevated, Vintage
Wood Dough Bowl - Elevated, Vintage


  • BingoBox

    BingoBox said 5 years ago

    Rubber Baron Poet - Love it - Su.

  • Mclovebuddy

    Mclovebuddy said 5 years ago

    sounds like dalat. very indochine, too.

  • soule

    soule said 5 years ago

    Nice selection of items!

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 5 years ago

    Amazing picks Su! In love with those boots!

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts said 5 years ago

    Very nice! Love the boots!

  • VeraVague

    VeraVague said 5 years ago

    such fluency.

  • buckscountyframes

    buckscountyframes said 5 years ago

    Great article! Love the selection of items.!

  • sparrowgrey

    sparrowgrey said 5 years ago

    Lovely collections!

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 5 years ago

    Nice I like the tribal feel, great picks from the deepest darkest jungle!

  • MandyBesek

    MandyBesek said 5 years ago

    Those boots are stunning!

  • breadandroses2

    breadandroses2 said 5 years ago

    Real good! Sounds a lot like a building/boomtown fiasco that actually happened in the Amazon in the early part of the 20th century. Always enjoy your stories & collections.

  • blueskyclouds

    blueskyclouds said 5 years ago

    amazing items!

  • justingeer

    justingeer said 5 years ago

    that miniature replica of the pre columbian ruins is so captivating ¸.•´¸.•*¨) ¸.•*¨) (¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`•. ¸¸.

  • mylenefoster

    mylenefoster said 5 years ago

    Great storytelling. It makes me wonder what happened to the baron later in life.

  • Officeboy01

    Officeboy01 said 5 years ago

    Funny how the story has a play on words we associate with our environment presently. Amazon made me think about the major selling outfit online. Rubber baron instead of the rober barons associated with oil. I love the raw gems pointing out, looks like crystal or smokey quartz. The boots are wild, can you imagine trying to take them off and on, they look like they would fall apart after a few times on the feet.

  • Officeboy01

    Officeboy01 said 5 years ago

    Discussing boots, they is another story that has boots associated with it on esty. I guess fall is drawing near.

  • HelloSprout

    HelloSprout said 5 years ago

    This was interesting, thank you!

  • ACupOfSparkle

    ACupOfSparkle said 5 years ago

    Very cool! I loved the geometry and the multiple dimensions on the arts and crafts.

  • PattiTrostle

    PattiTrostle said 5 years ago

    Interesting story. Great collection!

  • MadeinMogotes

    MadeinMogotes said 5 years ago

    Beautiful collection! Great to see some stuff from Colombia in there. The bags and home decor in my shop are made from a group of artisans in a rural Colombian village :) There's definitely some amazing talent coming from that area lately.

  • jungledread

    jungledread said 5 years ago

    Those boots from VintageSocialClub look totally delish

  • katrinaalana

    katrinaalana said 5 years ago

    Great tribal collection!

  • jamiespinello

    jamiespinello said 5 years ago

    That geodesic broach is fabulous! Love the peruvian inspired flavor of the first set also!

  • squibbles76

    squibbles76 said 5 years ago

    The bag, the blouse with the skirt! Diggin' those! The story, very nice.

  • somsstudiosupplies

    somsstudiosupplies said 5 years ago

    Wow!! You have quite the imagination!

  • TheLotusRoot

    TheLotusRoot said 5 years ago


  • Iammie

    Iammie said 5 years ago

    Those boots are awesome!

  • thedaintyapronista

    thedaintyapronista said 5 years ago

    Wow! Those boots really stand out as unique!

  • pasin

    pasin said 5 years ago

    Wonderful........ I loved the geometry and the multiple dimensions on the arts and crafts.

  • redemptionart

    redemptionart said 5 years ago

    Loved this feature so much that I went shopping...

  • helloambition

    helloambition said 5 years ago

    this is so up my alley. I love all the items featured!

  • rickeyjones

    rickeyjones said 5 years ago

    very Beautiful

  • theaterclouds

    theaterclouds said 5 years ago

    I loved the story!

  • MonikaDesign

    MonikaDesign said 5 years ago

    Interesting and wonderful article......Beautiful collection!

  • AliceCloset

    AliceCloset said 5 years ago

    Wonderful selection!!

  • carambas

    carambas said 5 years ago

    Nicely written story! It is also a sad story as the "rubber barons" or "barones del caucho" used slave. Beautiful items.

  • carambas

    carambas said 5 years ago

    I meant slave work....sorry

  • FileUnderVintage

    FileUnderVintage said 5 years ago

    Um..... Isn't this just romanticization of white colonization? Su's work here is nicely imagined and it is lovely to look at. But listen up, hipsters, your "look" is inexorably tied to centuries of labor by exploited peoples. Don't buy in to (white) nostalgia for these "good ol' days," repeating the foibles of the Out of Africa wedding and that darn hobo wedding. Wake up, people!

  • stepbackink

    stepbackink said 5 years ago

    Interesting piece, love the leather bag.

  • FranceGallery

    FranceGallery said 5 years ago

    I love the designs and colors in the selected items for this story.

  • beliz82

    beliz82 said 5 years ago

    Love everything here !!!

  • AvianInspirations

    AvianInspirations said 5 years ago

    Interesting story and fantastic finds! And it gave me a few things to think about today. Thanks!

  • dollybirdboutique

    dollybirdboutique said 5 years ago

    love the boots

  • TheNightjar

    TheNightjar said 5 years ago

    Fun story great list too!

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 5 years ago

    Always entertaining, Su. Thanks.

  • lethilogica

    lethilogica said 5 years ago

    @FileUnderVintage // At the risk of fanning the flames of righteousness (which I support and endorse, so bring it if you want) I think the fictional sketch specifically addresses the murkiness in disentangling aesthetics and privilege. See: the rubber baron's artistic pretensions, the hatred of his monumental house despite its architectural ambition, the collection of artifacts and decontextualization of objects, the beauty in ruins. Mostly, though, I think hipster is an imprecise disparagement and lazy insult, and this reminds me of a conversation I once had with a friend who said, you shouldn't wear dashikis, and I was like, well then you shouldn't wear kimono jackets, and then we were, like, can either of us wear lederhosen? I mean, can we just agree that people of color have amazing taste and made beautiful things before and since? Seriously, the real victory of colonialism would be if everybody had to dress like white people. @carambas // I feel you. It is definitely a sad, often-overlooked story about demand for natural resources in the name of progress. For more reading on "rubber barons" and brutality in South America and Africa, this book looks comprehensive: "Tears of a Tree: The Story of Rubber--A Modern Marvel." I haven't read it so second link is a review: • •

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 5 years ago

    Great blog and wonderful picks!

  • FileUnderVintage

    FileUnderVintage said 5 years ago

    @lethilogica I am going to go back and reread the piece, looking for the nuances you describe. If nothing else, it is beautifully and evocatively written. I had an unrelated situation later today where I realized how capable I am of misreading things, so it might have happened here. I also, however, called out some other folks on classism, today so maybe that is the pattern here. And mea culpa regarding my fascile use of 'hipster' .....sorry y'all.

  • carambas

    carambas said 5 years ago

    @FileUnderVintage I am Latin American and I am white and I couldn't agree more with you. It is a nice story to read, and it could be true as those things happened but it is not the full story. I think you didn't misread anything. The rubber fever was directly linked to the demand on the industrialised countries. @lethologica Thanks for the recommendation. It is not a new story for me. I've read about it in Spanish and Portuguese (both fiction and essays). The style of the article reminds me a lot of García Márquez and other writers of his generation.

  • lethilogica

    lethilogica said 5 years ago

    @FileUnderVintage // You seem smart and interesting. We should get tea sometime. @carambas // Thanks for the generous comparison. I don't think anything is ever the full story, and I agree that the rubber fever aspect was not a misread. There were definitely references throughout the piece. But if I'm going to be accused of romanticizing anything here, it's more accurately the ultimate triumph of nature, a specific sort of hoped-for myth.

  • HouseOfMoss

    HouseOfMoss said 5 years ago

    Gorgeous, gorgeous words.

  • TheScarfTree

    TheScarfTree said 5 years ago

    I loved reading this article - but now I want to know if the architect got paid? Was he left high and dry - or did he just take over the house? Thanks!

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies said 5 years ago

    The boots are Hot!

  • hazelstark

    hazelstark said 5 years ago

    AWESOME pic of stuff, great to see fashion forward articles, more please! Ps. the collages are super hot

  • hazelstark

    hazelstark said 5 years ago

    ps. think you might like a girl I know's (and her family) stuff:

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