Pandora de Balthazár has made turning lemons into lemonade a veritable art form. At the height of a stellar career as a financial planner, the avid textile collector was involved in an auto accident that resulted in a broken neck, the aftermath of which turned into a string of serious injuries even when medical professionals were telling her to keep calm and carry on.
During a trip to Hungary four years after the mishap, Pandora sought water therapy when an uptick in pain made life difficult, a frustrating moment as this treatment did little to ease the suffering and a hospital stay in that country became necessary. She never dreamed the situation would be prophetic but as time moved along it proved to be the moment that would lead her to her life’s work.
Confined to bed, she was surrounded by beautiful textiles during what turned out to be a long recovery. The delicacy and romantic feel of the bedding, draperies and other varied fabrics in the rooms in which she convalesced set her to dreaming as she learned how to support her aching body by way of a sleep system that had been used in the country for centuries. The combination of inspiring surroundings and critical support finally instituted crucial healing.
While in Hungary, she would meet an aristocrat who would become her husband. Her life in a beautiful home near the grounds of the Royal Palace of Gödöllő—once the residence of a vintner, built in 1786—was an exciting one. This period also brought her an awareness about textiles that was mind-blowing. “I had been a collector of what I perceived to be the most beautiful textiles ever produced until that moment,” she remarks. “Once I saw the quality and delicacy of the handwork creating the textiles from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, I found an intricacy I’d never seen. These deep primitives, as I call them—the woven jacquard whites and eyelet—have an age and depth to them that moved me beyond my former definition of fine linens.”
With health restored, Pandora left behind the home-raised escargot and wine caves that gave such delicious personality to her daily existence to return to the crystalline sands of Florida’s Gulf Coast. And though her life was a luxuriant one in every sense of the word while she lived abroad, the tactile experiences that remained the most vivid in her mind were those when she visited museums and held historic embroidery and textiles in her hands.
“There was simply no comparison to anything I’d ever touched before,” she explains. “In Hungary, the back of the embroidery is as beautiful as the front. Few people have the opportunity to hold these, and because I was able to study so many fine specimens with my eyes and the sensory memory of my fingers, I can now pick up a piece of fabric or lace and almost always tell where it was made.”
Her love of textiles crosses many periods but her absolute favorites are these primitives from the Austro-Hungarian Empire era. “Many people are surprised to hear that they are sustainable and machine-washable,” she says. “This is because they were made to be beautiful but also created to last. That far back in time, not only did weavers make their own thread to assure that the quality of their materials would measure up to their standards, they even made their own needles to ensure their tools were the finest they could find.”
Though it didn’t become clear immediately, Pandora’s life work would be inspired by three factors that took root during this time in Hungary. First came her desire to rectify that once she returned to the US, she had no other choice but to put away the extravagantly sized, luxuriant shams she adored because they were out of proportion to pillow sizes available in the American marketplace. Second was the depth and breadth of knowledge she had amassed concerning antique textiles. And third, she found herself determined to recreate the sleep system that had helped her to heal so that others could benefit from the principles.
The new business that was born of this triad of desires launched Pandora de Balthazár, an entity now manufacturing bedding to provide the same healing effects she experienced in Hungary and pillows to plump the lovely shams she collects and sells, and offering specimens from her collection of antique textiles to clients. These sensual products and the life experience Pandora gleaned from the challenges she has faced will be presented and explored here. We hope you will be inspired and rejuvenated. If you find something you love, let us know, will you?