Lynn Seiller’s Thing

I met Lynn Seiller, owner of Canoe, when Woo Speed took me shopping for scarves and jewelry. But we saw so much more than scarves and jewelry. Canoe’s retail space, located in nuLu at 216 Shelby Street, is filled with beautiful textiles, rugs, tables, chairs, pillows, lamps, and artifacts primarily from Central Asia. Lynn’s thing is her passion for Turkey and all it encompasses. it’s like a religious experience.

Lynn, it seems to me your senses are heightened when it comes to textiles and rugs.

Photography by MelIssa Donald

Photography by MelIssa Donald

One thing I know about myself is that I have a tremendous eye. Even as a young person, that was conveyed to me. When I first started going to istanbul, it was just overwhelming. you’re bombarded by all this color, and it takes a while to sift and sort because there is good stuff and really bad stuff, but I could always
tell the difference. I got so i trusted my instinct because I didn’t have the background or the academic knowledge.

How did you create this exotic store, Canoe, now in it’s sixth year of business?

Turkey, and I picked up a couple of textiles. At that time i had a show at The Olmsted, mostly selling my jewelry. I took some of the textiles and people bought
them. The next time I went to Turkey, i got more. At some point, I thought I better have a store. So that’s how i carefully and meticulously planned my store. (Laughs) That was my business plan; just go for it.

Is that how you live your life — you wait for something to happen and then you act on it?

I’m not quite that passive. I’m just sort of boppin’ along, and I’m having a good time, and then suddenly some door will open and then I think, ‘oh’….and then there’s something new.

What took you to Turkey to buy textiles and rugs in the first place?

That was a fluke. I just asked someone if they could help me find old beads and they said, “Do you want to go to Turkey?” I said “yes,” and it turned my life around.

Do you have advice for anyone who is trying to find their thing?

Pay attention; it’s being receptive if something presents itself. I don’t do this consciously. I’m sorry, I just don’t analyze things well like my daughter does.
(Lynn’s daughter is Susan Seiller, owner of relish, a restaurant on river road).

You take a group of people to Turkey twice a year to share your love for the country and its people. What is your life like in Turkey?

I can’t tell you the cast of characters who are so much fun over there. There’s this Frenchman named Osman, an architect, who has this cave hotel that we go to. He has a mistress with long dark hair who is the drama queen of all drama queens. I buy suzanis from Osman, who I’ve known almost 20 years now. One day, I went up to his place, which is on top of the roof of the Grand Bazaar. I have to climb holding onto a drain pipe to get up there, and  it’s getting harder every year. He said this American woman had just left and she had bought $150,000 worth of textiles from him. i said, “Osman, you must be very rich.” He goes, “Uh huh, uh huh.” Just laughing.

Is it his passion that makes him so successful?

He had a mentor who helped set him up in business because he was such a promising young man. It’s just a whole world; rugs and textiles are pervasive in the lives of the business people there. And, of course, it goes back to the women. The men have made the money, but the women made the stuff. I had this epiphany when i went to a museum and saw an absolutely beautiful rug that was 800 years old. The women who made it lived on the Anatolian Plain — it’s just all sheep, no shrubbery or trees. They had husbands who beat them regularly, and nothing there suggests beauty. What the women didn’t see, they drew from within and from each other to create these things. It makes me cry every time i think about it. I want to show people something you really don’t see much of around here.

Have you developed good relationships with the rug dealers?

The dealers are really good to me because most of the American buyers are interested in size or a certain color. There’s no heart in it really. So, the dealers like me because I really like what they sell. I just look for textiles and rugs that resonate with me.

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