When I’m traveling, I like to stick little things that remind me of the trip in my pocket. A shell from the beach. A dried leaf from the forest. A candy wrapper in a fruit flavor I’ve never heard of. I used to stick these sorts of things in with my photo albums, but nowadays I make digital scrapbooks so I don’t really have a home for the little physical remembrances. Enter the Mason Jar Memory Jar, an idea inspired by a project from Martha Stewart.
Mason jars can hold a surprisingly large collection of little bits and bobs, and when packed in, like this jar from my time in East Africa, it becomes like a game of I Spy. I have beads from a necklace a Maasai woman made for me and animal teeth I scrounged from the dust in the savannah. As I look through the jar, I remember again finding the tuft of warthog fur caught on a prickly bush, learning enough Swahili to count my shilingi (money) at the market, snorkeling on the coral reef and gathering shells that washed onto the beach.
You can also make the jar quite simple. This mason jar, from a romantic getaway to Mexico that Adam and I took when we were first dating, holds only a piece of cactus, bougainvillea leaves, a few pesos, and some beach sand with a single picture in the background. Simple, but to powerful effect.
I have a few tips for putting together jars with high impact. 1) Cover the top of the jar with a scrap of fabric. If you’re like me, you’ll buy fabric everywhere you go so you can use a bit of fabric purchased on the vacation. You can also use a scrap of a worn-out article of clothing you wore on the trip, or anything from your fabric stash that matches.
2) Hang things from the lip of the jar. I had a pair of earrings made for me by a Maasai woman that I hung from the lip. It makes use of the full height of the jar.
3) Line the back of the jar. Most likely, your jar will sit against a wall. Putting a picture along the back of the jar (or in the case of the East Africa jar, a map that I antiqued) helps to add depth.
Now, whenever I travel, I keep in the back of my mind the idea that the things that I stick in my pocket will get assembled into a jar together. I can’t wait to get home from our trip to SE Asia and see what I have scrounged for that jar!