Bottled-Up Love: The Story Behind ’37 Vibrations’ [INTERVIEW]

Posted on: February 14th, 2014 at 11:04 am by

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Photo: Linda Perkins

This Valentine’s season, love is in the air bottle. A while back we told you about 37 Vibrations, a project created by Linda Perkins to collect, retell, and set 37 love stories off into the world by way of uniquely designed bottles. We pored over the love stories (also posted on her website), and, being such a cool idea, we had to know more. Linda, gearing up for round two of the project, happily agreed to an interview to satisfy our curiosity.

BOWERY BOOGIE: How has the response been from your first round of bottled up love stories?

LINDA PERKINS: The response has been amazing. I hoped the bottles would travel the world but I never imagined they would touch down in six of the seven continents so quickly.  Bottles have been spotted climbing Kilimanjaro, lounging on Bondi Beach in Australia, crewing a cross country bike trip in the U.S., meditating at a Buddhist retreat in Japan, tagging along on a newlywed’s honeymoon in Eastern Europe, and crisscrossing South America looking for love, to name just a few of the many highlights.

BB: Was it hard to sift through all of the stories you received and choose only 37?

LP: Funny enough I only received 37 stories. I never turned down someone’s love story, but in some cases I did need to dig a bit deeper until we got to the story that needed to be written.

BB: How long does it take to make a bottle?

LP: Each bottle takes a few days to paint. The story itself can take weeks to complete, from the interview process to the final written story. Then the stories are printed and hand cut to fit in the bottles and the ribbon tabs are sewn on. Finally the tags are hand stamped and then laminated. Each one takes time and is definitely a labor of love.

BB: What has been the greatest challenge in crafting this project?

LP: The greatest challenge has been seeing some of the love stories get “stuck” with people for months at a time. In some cases people get really attached to the bottle and have a hard time moving it on. In others the story gets set aside and temporarily forgotten or misplaced or lost. In one case a bottle was thrown away. Sometimes it feels like the bottles are out on a mission and I have to be patient and let them do their work. Bottle 16 is an example of that. The bottle was given to a woman and the story hit so close to home that she gave it back to the person who gave it to her. That was a really powerful moment to witness, and one that helped her heal a family rift. Still, sometimes I can’t help myself and I try to nudge the bottles along.

This image has been archived or removed.

Photo: Linda Perkins

BB: Do you have a favorite?

LP: That’s kind of like asking someone to pick a favorite child! The stories are all so special, but they do inspire me in different ways.

BB: Did you bottle up a personal love story?

LP: I did! However the stories are all anonymous, which is another important aspect of 37 Vibrations. It allows the reader to become part of the story, to remember being in a similar situation, or to identify with someone in the story. In some cases it’s not even clear if the couple is gay or straight. That’s my favorite part, showing that love is universal.

BB: Are you planning on doing anything differently with your second round?

LP: When I first decided to do another series of 37 stories I thought I’d change the theme from romantic love to loving your family or your pet or your enemy. But I don’t think I’m done with romantic love stories yet. There is so much to learn from romantic love, and the response has been so interesting.  I think on some level we hope or expect a story to end well. But love isn’t like that. It’s unpredictable and it takes bravery to tear down walls and be vulnerable and jump in, hoping for the best. When a love story ends in loss, there is always that moment where the person learned something valuable, and that’s what interests me. As Joan Crawford said, “Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell.”

BB: Have any funny stories come out of this project?

LP: One of the bottles is being held hostage in Sweden. I’ve been in contact with the man who has it and our exchange was strange and confusing. There is a bit of a language barrier but he seems to be upset that instead of finding the bottle, it was passed to him, and now he is expected to do something with it. Even though he agreed to take the bottle, he won’t give it back to the person who gave it to him, and he won’t pass it on. It’s all a bit mysterious but as he said, “sometimes things don’t turn out as you think.”

BB: Do you think the bottles will ever find their way back to the Lower East Side?

LP: It’s a funny thing. The people who have taken bottles really want to see them travel so they tend to send them to people in far away lands. But who knows.  The people in faraway lands may very well find the LES to be a faraway and exotic place. We may be inundated with bottles soon.

BB: We have a good story for you, may we send along?

LP: Of course! I am always looking for a good love story.

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