Amanda Bjorn is the kind of person whose creative pensions flow out in every direction. We’ve become avid life fans since discovering her musical duo Bjorn and The Sun. She sings lead vocals and shakes the hell out of a tambourine, dredging up some Stevie Nicks vibes in every live show. Among her other grab bag of talents, she is a photographer. It is this avenue that drew her down to Guatemala for her first solo pilgrimage, a place that is lodged deeply in her heart, and childhood.
Story has it (as she tells us), is that her grandparents met at the University of Miami in the 30’s. Both artists, she a writer and he a painter who desired to live in foreign lands. The two fell in love, married and sailed to South America, eventually making their way to Guatemala where they painted, write novels and worked side by side to create a hotel business which supported their artistic dreams. The most romantic stories from our childhood create the way we see the world and the way we want to live in it. I see so much in her the roots of this tale.
Traveling is a feast. The dynamics of a place envelope you whole, senses triggered from all sides. She visited regularly through her childhood, and she says about arriving in Antigua:
“Antigua smells of small fires cooking tortillas and roasted corn, and a blend of fresh coriander, roses, and cilantro. Surrounded by three volcanoes, Antigua is a Spanish colonial city with cobblestone streets, bright colorful walls and wooden doors that lead into magic garden courtyards. Everything is quite romantic. I felt immediately at home again.”
She was drawn to Antigua to work with Jess Bercovici, a force of nature in her own right. She runs a compound with her studio, office a juice bar and store out-front. She moved to Guatemala ten years ago to study anthropology. She later founded Stela 9 after and becoming involved with local artisans, making handbags and clothing. Jess is currently undergoing chemotherapy after the removal of a brain tumor, and had just returned before Amanda’s arrival. Their time together fated, and Jess, a radiating symbol of strength and entrepreneurship. Amanda went to shoot Stela 9’s new lookbook, “Everything you imagine is real.” The location: an 18th century convent.
Her original invitation, purpose, and presence led to Amanda meeting and working with a whole collection of incredible women- shopkeepers, artists, café owners, designers. One after another they came magnetically into her time there, unfolding her journey and work in the sort of ways only the universe and some really positive vibes can.
A jaunt invitation to meet with Guatemalan artisans living in the country side led to more artists, more photoshoots, long car rides on dirt roads, family dinners, quiet talks, long mornings, and rainy afternoons. Her days were filled the sort of company and collaboration that breeds a pure and buzzing energy that everyone can feed off of.
“Between all these inspiring female businesswomen down here, I kept thinking of my own grandparents and the beautiful life they lived as artist expatriates in love. They are forever my inspiration and my muses.”
I think it’s safe to say that whatever Amanda originally went seeking back in Guatemala, she found that, and considerably more. The road is often long but if you follow it openly, it will always lead to all sorts of pockets of past and future. The world a smaller place than we might ever imagine.