Although easy to dismiss as a one-trick tourist attraction, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! is actually a fascinating journey into one man’s collection. Robert Ripley (1894-1949) was a lifelong traveller and explorer, who visited every corner of the globe in search of curiosities and amassed a huge collection of objects – not to mention stories – along the way. Today, a selection of his curios fill five floors in the middle of London’s Piccadilly Circus and, for all fans of the unusual, strange and fascinating, it’s a very worthwhile trip.
But, for the design and crafts writer, one thing stuck out above all: a very small series of wall hangings, each encasing a Sacred Painted Leaf. Described as “one of the oldest known forms of art!” (everything at Ripley’s is ended by an exclamation mark), each decorated pipal leaf was incredible in its delicacy and the skill it displayed. I would love to own one of my own one day; until then, here are some of Ripley’s.