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“There was a time in my life when I was so lonely that the wind would whistle through me,” says Tessa. “I thought this was it, this will always be so. And ‘This will always be so’ is the biggest hurdle to get over. I don’t have that anymore.”
Once upon a time in Tessa’s life, she was able to bend over backwards for people and—as they say—go the extra mile. Literally. She ran off and joined the circus as an acrobat, then leapt into what would become another hazardous profession: a location manager in the film world. Her new career was as thrilling as it was demanding—non-stop travel and 80-plus-hour weeks were par for the course.
But after a time of intense life on the go, Tessa’s body let her know in a not-so-tender way she needed to take it slow. She was diagnosed with myalgic encephalopathy (ME), a condition that became so debilitating there were long stretches of time she couldn’t even take a step outside her home. “ME is incredibly isolating,” she said. “You’re on your own most of the day. You can’t have conversations with people. You’re usually lying in a dark room.”
Hosting guests in her home has played a leading role in her healing, and Tessa treasures that it has brought the world to her doorstep, even encouraged her to reconnect with her neighborhood. “Airbnb enabled me to have a fresh start. My life has changed enormously and I found that I could use those memories of what I had been as an embellishment of my life now to entertain and inform guests,” she said. “Now the world comes to me, I am of service, I make friends, hear stories and tales, and I continue to improve.”
A visit to Tessa’s charming, well-loved Central London home is a burst to the senses. Every inch of the space is decked out and dolled up with souvenirs she’s collected from her extensive travels as well as frequent visits to Camden Lock, the open-air bazaar just a stone’s throw away—“the coolest part of London” as she calls it.
Tessa has a penchant for giving new life to personal objects. She’ll take people’s textiles and paper items that are meaningful to them and transform them into pictures, books, patchwork, collages, brooches, panels for wedding dresses and “whatever is desired.”
“I’m an embellisher of memories,” she states proudly. “Facebook and iCloud are all very well for documentation but nothing compares to opening up a book of your child’s school days, your mother’s garden pictures and old seed packets, your brother’s sailing trip around the world. There is something very special about seeing the small details of everyday life displayed in an artistic and tactile way.”
One of Tessa’s latest projects is making cards for her guests out of vintage maps, stamps and letters.
She hasn’t quite turned her craftiness into a business, but it seems to be in the cards for her. “At present, I am just taking commissions from friends and a website is imminent,” she said. “But if someone has a specific project in mind, they can, of course, email me straight away.” (Send Tessa a message through Airbnb here).
This creative approach to taking what’s old and making it new again—to rejuvenation—is a beautiful metaphor for the exciting turn Tessa’s life has taken, from “working herself into the ground” to discovering a rich, fulfilling and healthier way of living.