Some of you might be aware I was lucky enough to go on a bit of a gallivant last year. I travelled overland through several countries. I saw a huge variety of different buildings, from Buddhist temples in China, to Orthodox Georgian monasteries and the amazing Mosques of Istanbul, as well as the rather stranger dictator-inspired Mosques of Turkmenistan.
However, by far my favourite building, decoration-wise, was a palace in the Azerbaijani countryside. It was in a small place called Sheki. The Palace was a summer residence of the Shaki Khans, as part of a much larger complex, although it’s the only remaining structure. It was built in 1797 but has been restored regularly since then. You can see it in the background of the photo above – I’m the one in the middle with a red hat and red face.
Having fallen in love with the painted flowers, the twisted vines, the birds and the patterning, it was hugely disappointing that we weren’t allowed to take photos inside. In many other buildings, it has been normal to pay the equivalent of a dollar or two to be allowed to take photos. I would have paid that several times over for a photography permit, but they are focused on selling off an expensive set of postcards. Reader, I bought them. They are, of course, a terrible set of photos – visible flash and fire alarm anyone? I did take a secret illegal video, which you can see here, which does give some impression of the painted interior, plus an exciting flash of my eyebrows.
You were allowed to take photos of the exterior though, and I began with one of those as my inspiration for my card, ‘Place Your Heart In Mine’.
I took the decorated heart as my initial inspiration, and pimped it up a little, adding further decorative touches inside, and adding hearts inside the heart, to reflect the message of the card, drawing until it was almost unrecognisable. But I still love the thought of these cards being bought and given here in the UK, inspired by a far off and amazing painted building deep in the countryside of Azerbaijan.
If you’d like your own card, you can buy one here.