SwanTribune, the brainchild of Daniel Aron Cohen and Divya Aurora Zeiss, was born out of a love for collecting bygone travel memorabilia, particularly hotel souvenirs like luggage labels. “The labels took us around the world to markets and other collectors, as well as to the lobbies of the hotels themselves. These journeys and discoveries we turned into a guide under SwanTribune,” says Divya Zeiss. Shop Latitude chats with Zeiss to learn more about their quirky souvenir illustrations from across the globe.
What inspired you to create your own company? Where/how did your story begin?
We like to say our love for hotels was nourished or even encouraged by the ceilings under which we met, but we had dreams of far, far away and creating a world in which we would express and reflect everything that inspired us most.
But it was only in November 2017 when I stayed in Jaipur for a month for an internship with the design team of [export house] Manglam Arts that I allowed myself the courage to do what I always wanted, which was to draw a world that was inside me.
Why souvenir illustrations in particular?
The illustrations are souvenirs of our travels, our visions and our growth. If we believed to truly be only instruments of a muse or a genius, which the Romans believed was the divine nature within a person, object or place, a guardian angel from birth, inspiring us, then you could almost say that anything created spontaneously, with a pure desire is the souvenir of that auspicious moment where we are offered an inspiration, and then allowed to bring it to life, as an instrument. Having only recently started drawing, I was very timid with showing anything to anyone; it was Daniel who pushed me and said, “If you bring joy to just one person with simply a colour tone, then for a moment you were an instrument, which is what you wish to be.” And he convinced me.
What is it about travel that inspires you the most?
I often say I have more romances with places than with people, thus this desire for emotions and growth always came through travel. Every city awakens another side to your personality... you can feel your soul in Italy, and your spirit in India. The ego feels beautiful in Paris and intimidated in London. As well as an utter journey, it all reflects an inner transformation, which we enjoy the experience of.
You illustrate scenes from various spots around the world—Delhi, Jaipur, Berlin. What is it about these cities that draws you in?
My main inspiration comes from India. I was very fortunate to have spent my childhood in a boarding school in Dharamsala, so the essence of India, its culture, tradition and devotion plays a large role in my life. I am alive in Rajasthan, thus I am awake, and I take in all that I am allowed to. Daniel and I dream of living in Jaipur so perhaps that desire is very evident within the illustrations. Berlin is our home city and it’s the most powerful one in Europe. The history is extremely important and dark so you need a lot of forgiveness, beauty and creativity to fill its organs again, which is what is happening now and that growth is encouraging and touching.
How do you decide what kind of scenes you want to depict? Tell us a bit about the creative process.
I like the bizarre in a situation, the peculiar that today is very hard to come by; like an ostrich on the bed at Soho House or a hen covered in rubies. I allow my imagination to speak and I’m not afraid to create unlikely situations. Colour is the cure to so much and in the illustrations, colour is key.
Where do you currently live? Tell us five places you love—to shop, eat, drink, visit etc—in your city and what makes them special.
We currently live in Berlin, Germany. Our favourite cafe is Grosz because to find such grandeur is very rare in Berlin since the war. We love to have dinner at Cecconi's on a summer night because the pizza is perfect and the interior just as perfect. Currently, our favourite shop is Golem—they take old tiles and reinvent them with Art Nouveau designs. We enjoy walking through the Tiergarten as well as visiting the antique market along the Straße des 17 Juni.
What is your favorite city to visit and why?
At the moment for both of us it would be Jaipur, because of the contrast between the rhythmic chaos at the bazaar and the silence within the walls of a haveli belonging to the Maharaja. And all in the midst of dusty pink that rises and sets with the sun. There’s magic in Jaipur and for a moment we feel part of it.
Jaipur comes up in your illustrations often. What are some of your favorite haunts and things to do there?
We love to stay at the Naila Bagh Palace, perhaps because it still feels very authentic… the walls with fading shades of yellow and the sound of morning assembly from the school next door. Both Caffe and Bar Palladio are beautiful places to eat and allow your senses to rest and process everything. We are both lovers of antiques so we adore Saroj Art & Antiques, and for dresses I personally love Teatro Dhora, while Daniel who only wears kurtas in India is happy in the middle of the bazaar hunting for goods. Our favourite discovery is a Krishna temple just behind the bazaar, where all his miracles are painted on the walls and you can go very deep in silence there.