Monday, October 31, 2011

Mystery Monday

I picked up this largish cloth at the thrift store. It measure about 20" wide by 80" long, and appears to be a loom controlled inlay pattern. What is interesting about it is that while the pattern repeats, the colours don't.

The silk inlay (discontinous supplementary weft)threads are primarily white, but also include a dark blue, light blue and light brown. The red background appears to be fine handwoven cotton. When I first saw it I thought it might be Greek, but after looking through all my books on middle Eastern textiles I am more confused than ever. I can see similarities to Kazak, Caucasus and even Moroccan textiles. But I could be completely out in left field, and the piece might be from Scandinavia.

Might any of my learned readers be able to identity the origin of this mysterious cloth?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Beauty in Frugality

I've just spent the last couple of hours immersed in a glossy high-end magazine from Japan: Kateigaho International Edition. In refreshing contrast to the glossy high-end brochure I had trouble with in the last post, this issue of KIE delves deeply into the aesthetic of frugality and speaks eloquently about the beauty of reuse and repair and how connected these concepts are to Japanese culture. No fashionable flash in the pan, the Japanese appreciation of wabi sabi, mingei (folk art) and mottainai (respect for all things, using them so nothing is lost or wasted in the course of an object's existence) flows from spiritual belief imbued in daily life.

There is a great array of articles on sakiori, the art of weaving with rags; hishizashi, a form of counted thread embroidery; boro cloth; patchwork; and wood, paper and ceramic crafts.

Shimatsu, a Kyoto dialect word for frugality, is written with the characters for "beginning" and "end", indicating an attitude of careful consideration from start to finish.

This handbag is made from the persimmon cured cloth used to strain the lees in sake-making. The fabric becomes like leather over its years of use.

Worn out socks and t-shirts are stitched with sashiko and used as dustrags. Think of how the relationship with an object you are dusting would change if the chore was carried out with a hand stitched cloth. It might transform from drudgery into an act of devotion.

Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken ceramics with lacquer and gold dust. The text includes a quote from gallery owner Kazuya Kuroda:
One suspects that this mending of broken vessels, then using and loving them, speaks to a certain sense of beauty that is peculiar to Japan.

None of this comes cheap, of course. People at the lower end of the income scale, ironically, can't afford rag rugs and mended pottery. But somehow, appreciation of the aesthetic of frugality seems authentic to Japanese culture whereas it seems a world away from the faux pauvre Eurostyle of Roche-Bobois.

KIE is often available at news stands and magazine shops that carry international publications. If you can find a copy of this edition (#28), it is well worth the investment. Also featured are articles on Jeffrey Montgomery's incredible (and well-used) collection of mingei, organic farming in Japan, and some yummy recipes.
(Thanks to my dear friend Jean-Pierre for sending me my copy.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I'm Just Looking, Thanks...

You know yarn bombing is really dead when it shows up as background decor in a glossy ad campaign by luxe furniture dealer Roche-Bobois. A better version of this image (and others) can be seen here. Thanks to my weekend paper for including the slick 16-page insert for Roche-Bobois's "Exceptional, once-a-year sale."

I do love the handwoven looking carpets strewn about the showroom. I tried to find out where they came from but had no luck. Whilst Googling the various names credited on the back of the brochure, I did come across a couple of interesting artists/designers. Aurelie Mathigot works in crochet, creating whimsical sculptural forms that relate to the natural world. (I suspect the Roche-Bobois "yarn bombings" are hers.) Wool and the Gang provided the oversized yarn balls that function as sculptural objects in the layout. And Piet Hein Eek's cabinet blows me away. Those handwoven rugs would go perfectly with his scrap wood wallpaper.

When you're selling furniture that retails for thousands of dollars, it is awfully disingenuous to show it off in a nouveau scruffy, DIY-esque setting. But then the furniture is all sleek modernism. I guess co-opting the handmade aesthetic to give the cool modular couches some warm fuzzy vibes is hardly a leap. Maybe the handmade decor is intended to make the furniture look more affordable. Who knows what goes on in the minds of art directors?

But it does make me wonder when we'll be seeing handknit lampshades made by children in third world sweatshops showing up at box stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond. Is there anything that's not grist for the mill of consumption?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Enchanted Apples

I had been trying to gather up my energy to face sorting through all my pictures of the last month, and turn them into a coherent blog posting. To my amazement, sometime in the last few weeks - I can't even remember doing this - I had dumped a bunch of pictures from the apple festival into a posting form, and there they were sitting patiently, waiting for me to add a few words. My mood lifted, no longer quite so weighed down by the task of blogging in the midst of unpacked boxes and untidy gardens.

Above, an apple from Harry Burton's orchard, visited during the Salt Spring Apple Festival a few weeks ago. Harry is quite apple-obsessed, growing over two hundred varieties of crisp, juicy fruit on his land. Do visit his website for oodles of fascinating information.

Harry takes organic growing methods one step further with a approach of benevolent neglect. Above is one of the tools he uses to simply push the weeds over when they threaten to smother the trees. (Harry's description of "the Pusher" is interesting reading.) Harry believes that blackberry brambles, the bane of most Pacific Northwest gardeners, actually enrich the soil and provide a living mulch, shading the ground and gathering moisture. While he certainly seems successful in this method, the orchard is definitely not of the pruned, orderly variety.

Everything on the property seems to have an educational sign.

The tree nursery is fenced and gated.

There was little in the way of fancy irrigation systems. Instead, Harry collects rainwater in food grade barrels, and simply hand waters the trees using buckets.

Mason bees are among the pollinators Harry encourages to make their home in the orchard.
Wasps were everywhere, feasting on overripe and damaged fruit.

The chickens normally can roam freely, but were penned in for the day because of the crowds of people (roaming freely!)

The apple tasting tables were a popular feature. Every variety had an in-depth description to go with it. I learned that my favourites were mainly of the Orange Pippin family, although Gravensteins are a close second.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

View From the Deck

Don't let the recent lack of postings lead you to think I have dropped off the planet. The move has been completed with no major incidents, and although my sewing room looks a lot more like a storage room, I am getting unpacked and settled. Yesterday there was a lot of rain, then the sun came out briefly and shone on the farm below.

Yeah, I know -- I can't complain!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Autumn Bouquet

The Salt Spring Apple Festival was this past weekend. I have oodles of photos for the next post, but it wasn't just apples that enchanted me at Harry Burton's apple orchard. Harry also grows some seductively fragrant and beautiful flowers.

Enjoy, my patient readers. I'll be back with more as soon as I finish moving house.