An artist has told Newsweek how a kind stranger helped reunite her with over two months of work after she misplaced it.
Alyse Dietel, 30, from the California Bay Area, was leaving an artist residency in Iceland with all of her work in a single tube when she left it on her flight home.
A full-time artist since 2019, Dietel was a professional rock climber and dropped out of college to pursue art.
Frequently traveling to natural and inspiring places to inspire her art, she specializes in works that highlight nature.
Alyse Dietel, 30, from the California Bay Area told Newsweek how thrilled she was that the kindness of a stranger helped her get her artwork back. amilliontinylines/Instagram
“I draw with pen and watercolor and am frequently traveling to naturally inspiring places as an artist-in-residence in order to understand different ecologies and how they are affected by climate change,” Dietel told Newsweek. “I also draw pet portraits for nature lovers in my style of interweaving the pet with personal nature details.”
Flying from Reykjavik to Copenhagen where she had a four-hour layover before an 11-hour flight home to San Francisco International Airport, she lost months of work during the journey.
“Losing my artwork was not my brightest moment, and entirely my fault,” she said. “I had two months’ worth of artwork in that tube… Several large original drawings that took at least 40 hours apiece, smaller drawings and paintings, three finished pet portraits, and artwork from my fellow residents that also was sentimentally significant to me.”
Dietel shared the story of losing her artwork on Instagram, where the video has been viewed over 3 million times.
“Why I chose to put all of it in a completely unmarked tube… well, I’m glad 3 million people are now witness to my idiocy—it was a good lesson anyway,” she added. “I decided to put the tube in the overhead bin during my flight, because it was long and awkward to have in my seat. I very vividly remember, and will likely never forget, putting the tube up there and thinking, ‘Man, it would really suck to forget this! But of course, I won’t, there’s no way I would forget something so important!’ …and then, of course, I promptly forgot it.”
It was at the end of the four-hour layover in Copenhagen that Dietel made the horrifying discovery that she was without her work.
“Probably the worst moment of all of this was the moment I realized I did not have the tube with me,” she said. “Noticing my tube was absent was horrifying in itself, but noticing it at the end of a four-hour layover, during which I might have been able to do something about it, made that moment so much worse. I stood up at my gate to board my flight, and thought wait…where is my tube? I immediately knew what I had done. My stomach dropped, my legs turned to lead, I probably looked like I had seen a ghost… But I couldn’t actually do anything about it. I had to board, so I did.”
The next morning, the artist immediately called Copenhagen Airport and was redirected to their lost and found department, where she filed an inquiry.
“Three very awful days later I got an email from Copenhagen Airport lost and found saying ‘artwork is not something we register.’ Which was properly infuriating, because it was a tube, and I felt like they had glanced at one keyword in my inquiry and made no other effort,” said Dietel. “I called again, and they basically told me that it was probably in the huge pile of hundreds of unregistered items, and I was welcome to come to the airport and find it myself.”
In December, footage showed how bags piled up after Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights, showcasing just how chaotic keeping track of belongings at airports can be.
Meanwhile, some savvy travelers have started using Apple‘s AirTag technology to keep track of their luggage when traveling, helping them to find an approximate location of their belongings even if they are separated from them.
Seriously considering buying a very expensive ticket to head back to the airport and look for her work, Dietel made a last-ditch attempt to get help and posted the story on Instagram, asking if anyone could help.
“I really wasn’t expecting much from it, but the solidarity and compassion was nice anyway. Then, early the next day, when I had written it off as a lost cause, a man named Irek commented on my post saying that he worked at the Copenhagen Airport and could check himself the next day,” said Dietel. “I was immediately overwhelmed with this act of kindness from a perfect stranger and knew that even though he likely wouldn’t find my tube, this display of humanity was a gift that I would forever appreciate and value.”
The next morning, she was in the dentist waiting room when she was tagged in an Instagram story from airport worker Irek.
“And there it was,” she said. “My tube. Behind Irek’s thumbs up and the words ‘mission accomplished.’ I had to explain to my dentist that I was not crying due to my dental anxiety, and my relief was such that I perfectly meltingly relaxed into the dentist chair for the first time ever.”
“We are very happy to hear that Alyse Dietel has been reunited with her artwork. To make it easier for travelers to find their lost objects Copenhagen Airport handles all property that is forgotten at the airport and on board flights to Copenhagen. We always make an effort to reunite lost objects with their proper owner. But with 150-200 items received daily that we store for up to 30 days it can be like finding a needle in a haystack,” a spokesperson for Copenhagen Airport told Newsweek.
“We register tablets, laptops, mobile phones, electronic accessories, wallets and purses, keys, bags, jewelry, and glasses on our website. Here the owners can find and claim their belongings and either come pick them up or have them shipped for a fee. Between 70 and 80 per cent of the electronic items that we register are handed over to the owner. All other types of items, such as clothes, belts etc., are kept at the airport for 30 days. Around 30 per cent of the items that are stored but not registered are handed over to the owner. The items that aren’t picked up are donated to charity,” explained the airline.
Irek immediately arranged to ship the tube back to the artist, who asked for his details to pay him for his trouble.
“He asked me to instead donate the money to the First Responder Children Foundation, which I did,” said Dietel. “I also love to bake, and spent two days baking several of my favorite recipes to be frozen and expedited to Irek, with stickers as well for his daughter. I also sent him a canvas print of a drawing that I think fits him perfectly, called Teacher.”
Now reunited with her artwork, Dietel is pleased that the story could bring some joy to others.
“A lot of people have commented on the reel I made of the whole ordeal saying that their faith in humanity was restored, or something similar. It’s crazy how much of an impact one act of kindness can have, and it just goes to show that it’s really very easy to be that person,” she said. “I’m very grateful to Irek, not only for getting my tube back, but for reminding me and thousands of others that they can also be that person—and that it may very well make a world of difference.”