Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Duende - a Vardo Eatery

Artist and creative mind Jennifer Mata and her husband Kenneth (aka Thorne) are at the tail end of creating a wonderful thing--a gypsy Vardo wagon created to share the experience of food and joy in Portland, Oregon. I asked her a few questions.

- You are building a beautiful example of a gypsy Vardo or wagon. What first attracted you to the idea of having your own version of these moveable works of art?

My husband and I have both always found gypsy wagons--and the gypsy aesthetic--very beautiful. What a wonderful idea-- this exquisite little home that you can roam in! I remember watching a special on the gypsies and their wagons some years ago--it showed the inside of many of them and they were absolutely incredible. It was inevitable, I suppose, that we would eventually try our hand at creating one ourselves.

- What is the intended purpose of your wagon? Do you plan to take it to festivals or events?

We are using our wagon not to live in, but as a restaurant, or "food cart" (Those readers who live where we are located --Portland, Oregon-- know what a big thing the food carts have become here.) This is a long-awaited dream of sorts for us. For many, many years, we have enjoyed having our close friends over for dinners--- food, wine,family, music, good conversation and great friends are the central theme of these evenings ( In truth, we have them even when we do not have friends over, our evening meal is always the highlight of our day.)
It has been suggested for a long time, by just about everyone we know, that we should bring this to another level and open a restaurant. So, now we are! We will be serving regional dishes of Spain and some authentic gypsy recipes as well.

Along side our wagon will be a covered,candle and lantern-lit seating area reminiscent of a moroccan tent with pillows for sitting on and beautiful hangings. I will have a corner of the tent where we will be offering select handmade goods, duende dolls, some jewelry, hand-dyed scarves and wraps.

The emphasis of this endeavor is romance.

Our hope is to create a special, magical environment where people can come together and enjoy the simple things--being with friends and people they love, and enjoying great food in a beautiful atmosphere. A place that brings people together and reminds them that there is still much beauty in the world.

As far as festivals or events--perhaps in the future. For right now we will be located in one spot, on the corner of Hawthorne and 32nd Ave. in Portland,Oregon.

- What all was involved in the making of the vardo? Who did the woodwork and building, the decorating, etc? Where did you find your gorgeous gypsy-esque decorating details for the wagon?

Believe it or not, we purchased it as a plain white trailer. My husband-who is incredible at creating gorgeous environments-- is responsible for the essential design. We have also creatively brainstormed ideas together. and several people skilled in carpentry and woodworking have helped us bring all this to reality.

The decor has been picked up here and there over the years, and just happens to work perfectly. As with so much involved in this project, we find things are just naturally falling into place.

- I see a few pictures of Brian Froud faeries in your album of Duende images. Is this related to the name of your wagon? Can you tell us a little about that?

The Froud images-- like many of the images in the album that are not of our actual cart or items in the cart--are there mainly for inspiration (the Frouds are endlessly inspiring to me and to give an idea of the overall feel we are after. A duende, for people who are not familiar with the word, is a fairy-type creature, so these images are fitting in respect to that.

- The outside of your wagon is not yet painted (from the pictures I've seen). Gypsy wagons are known for their phenomenally vivid colors and patterns. What do you plan to do on yours?

Many of the very elaborately colorful vardos that come to mind when people think of the word are actually eastern european (Rom) in origin--our wagon is a Spanish gypsy wagon, and so we will be using the colors most associated with Spain-- sunflower yellow, with scarlet and charcoal or deep blue accents. When it is finished we will be posting photos in the album on our Duende page on Facebook.

This is also where we will be posting all updates regarding our Grand Opening. Hope to see you all there!

For more information on the meaning of the word 'Duende" you can go here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duende_(art) and here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duende_(mythology)

Now for pictures of the cozy wagon!


  1. I'll be over here on the East Coast, squeeing with delight (and maybe a faint sigh of jealousy...mostly glee, though). Much luck to them in their endeavor!

  2. Oh I KNOW, Laurel, aren't they lovely??

    Melissa, I'll be in Ohio doing the same! :D

  3. well instead of bein jealous build one, it's not hard and its fun. i'm in the process of building 2 vardos in missouri

  4. Sadly, that would take the money I plan to spend on grad school this fall ;)

  5. I saw this a few months ago closer to completion, is it up and running yet?

    I helped out with making a rear security cover for this and it reminds me a lot of something the Worgen/Gilnean people from World of Warcraft would have. The only thing more cool would be a little enclave of this style on one of the lots on the inner east side away from the freeway noise though.