April 30, 2008

Little Lavender Pillows

I feel I show more Japanese fabrics than my own ethnicity's Chinese fabrics. It is because Chinese fabrics are scarce and I am still unwilling to take apart vintage garments. Sometimes I find several yards of pristine brocade and the colors are rich and beautiful. They are usually a length meant to become a cheong sam, but which sat in someone's closet instead.

The basic construction of Japanese kimono are perfect for recycling: kimono are made from long lengths of narrow rectangles and are cut without curves. My favorite pieces are sleeves because I can get several pillows out of them, then move onto another piece without becoming bored. It is fascinating to see the work put into the cloth: sometimes bits of thread remain in the shibori pieces (tie dye); other times there are meticulous hand embroidery or hand painted pieces; hand woven pieces are breathtaking.

My first show of the season is this Saturday. I like to introduce different items each year and this Spring's new product is aprons. Next I will tackle their display.

April 27, 2008

Been Busy w/ Bren

Brenda and I went to The Black Sheep yarn store yesterday. We found this interesting yarn woven in four colors (purple, orange, black, red), ribbon-like and curling on both edges. It's Tango by Universal Yarn Inc. The store had samples of the yarn knitted into a ruffle and I immediately saw something new to dress my dolls.

Instead of wrapping the yarn around your needle, it must be pierced along the woven edge. This is a close up, but manufacturer's instructions are here.

Paternal cousin Bren came down from SF for a conference, then stayed with us this weekend. How joyful it's been! She's my favorite on the Chong side of my family since I was very young and I'm grateful to find a best friend in her as we grew up. We are lucky if we see each other once a year at a family gathering, but to spend a WHOLE weekend together was a super-bonus. This picture is funny -- I can tell we are related by the shape of our smiles. Tien would say he can tell by the volume of our laughter!

April 23, 2008

Lavender Pillows

These will eventually become lavender pillows. At present, they are cut and sewn with "ABC Rags" labels, then grouped according to the thread color I'll use for further construction: off-white, white, pink, rust, orange, red, green, and miscellaneous. Too bad my favorite kimono silk seller has disappeared. I depended upon her stock for inspiring fabrics. Ah yes, maybe it's time to move on and create new things. I'm feeling a tad bored making lavender pillows after these past several years, but my desire to create interesting clothes on dolls is rarin' to go.

Did you know there is a lavender museum in Provence? Although we did not go, it would have smelled heavenly.

Happy birthday to the loveliest of women, my teacher and friend, Nancy Wang!

April 21, 2008

It's Show Time

I am preparing for two art shows and must reduce the time spent on my dear blog. I will be posting here twice a week: Wednesday and Saturday. As usual, I bit off more than I can chew, and something has to go, along with jetlag and remnants of the flu I caught in Italy.

In the meantime, think about joining me at The Talmadge Show to see the work of local artisans like Yours Truly.

April 20, 2008

Tourist Watercolor

Outside the Duomo of Florence were about a dozen artists. About half drew charcoal or pencil caricatures; the other half were watercolorists. This is the one I brought home. It's small, 3.25" x 2.5", and painted not by an Italian artist, but a Frenchman trained at the Accademia.

Hiromi and I had gone shopping the day I bought my little painting. Hiromi's painting has a lovely field of sunflowers. We came home with a few other treasures, so I had several bags. Once we arrived at the apartment, I removed all the extraneous paper from my purchases to put into one large bag to take to the curbside garbage bins (in Italy the garbage collectors don't come to your house -- you take garbage to large blue street bins). I deposited it on our way to dinner. We returned from dinner, washed up and went to bed. At midnight while writing in my journal, I suddenly remembered the painting. A frantic search yielded nothing, so I pulled on my clothes and went out to the street for some dumpster diving. Luckily, the garbage was not covered by disgusting muck, only other paper garbage, and I found my bag, with the painting inside. I laughed my way back to the apartment.

April 19, 2008

Lyon and Florence

How fun is this?! On our way to the Provence region in France, we stopped for lunch in Lyon which is the food capital of France (talk about the best of the best!). While looking for the most historic section of town, we came upon this gigantic floral sculpture. I don't know who put it together or what it represents, but it was entertaining and brilliant.

Ten days later we were in the Italian city of Florence and I passed this window of painted David statues. Someone has a sense of humor! My fav is the one in garter belt and stockings.

The actual Statue of David sculpted by a young Michelangelo is more than magnificent. Although I don't care for sculpture, at first sight David stopped me in my tracks with my jaw agape. He is larger than I thought at 16', which adds to his powerful form, and his lines are graceful, esp at the waist. Most of us are, at least, familiar with the general image of David, but until I met him in the flesh, I didn't know his face held such intensity. This image is from a Florence hotel booking agency.

April 18, 2008

La Bottega Della Scarpe

Cortona is a walled city in the Tuscan region of Italy. This doorway led to gorgeous handmade shoes! I'd never seen a real cobbler work until I stepped inside. La bottega della scarpe means "shoe workshop."

The artigianale, or artisan, was working at her little table (which may have been a simple wood box) and I asked if I could watch for a while. She was hand-cutting a zigzag pattern into white leather bows to decorate black shoes. Once the embellishments were cut, she used a flame to finish stray bits.

She spoke some English and we chatted. When I asked how she learned her craft, she told me she spent two years in school in Florence. It seemed she'd been making shoes for three years since finishing her program. If there was anything in the store that I wanted in my size, it would take about three days to complete a pair.

I told her that I, too, am an artisan and love to visit workshops, and she said she understood why -- because we can understand how another works by watching. I love finding a stranger who is on the same page with me.

April 17, 2008

Silk Atelier

Menton is the last town in France along the Riviera before entering Italy. As we walked the shopping promenade, the word "atelier" caught my eye -- I made a bee-line for it. Inside the shop, clouds of color on breezy silks enveloped me.

This is the couple who run the business. They were so cute. They showed me a bolt of plain white silk hanging beneath the low ceiling of the studio in the rear of the store. He paints; she hand-rolls the edges and stitches.

Although they were not in production during my short visit, the husband demonstrated his painting for me. It looked so easy, like breathing; the swirls of paint seemed to release from his arm, through the paintbrush and into the silk.

Once I bought a beautiful piece of silk at Britex in SF to make my own scarf. I couldn't figure out how to roll the edge tightly enough. Moistening my fingertips and rolling the raw edge was the only way. When I asked the lady at this store how she did it, she showed me the exact same method. She also demonstrated the difference between rolling/stitching on the grain versus rolling/stitching on a curved neckline edge. Strangely, she spoke to me only in French and I understood every word she said -- sewing is universal.

The husband's English skills were strong enough to explain they were fat because of all the Nutella they ate (see paint jars).

I felt so happy to buy a 20" scarf from their workshop. Now that I'm home I realize I don't have their shop information.

(The vertical line in the center of my scarf is the closet door behind it.)

April 16, 2008

Chez Marie

I've missed you! How are you? Happy and healthy, I hope. As for us, jetlag is the price we pay for travelling great distances. Over the next postings, I will share the work of artisans I encountered during the past three weeks.

Avignon is an old walled city in France's Provence region. We stayed in Marie Mangin's B&B which we highly recommend. She is a warm and environmentally-conscious host. Turns out she's an artisan too! She rejected the word "artist" but we disagree. She holds a carved and gilded decorative piece made entirely by her hand; the second image is a close-up of the same piece.

This is another method that Marie does. As I understood the process, she prepares a mold by carving into wood. Rabbit glue composition is pressed into the mold. After hardening, the ornament is removed from the mold and applied to wood frames, then gold-leafed. Marie also repairs antique frames. I would have loved to watch her work.