Movies, Books, and Cloth

First, thank you to all who left your caring, thoughtful comments on my previous post. I really appreciate your words.

It is the season, here in Canada, for slowing down, keeping cosy and warm, and catching up with reading, movies and indoor projects. I have a few favourite titles to share with you, and an amazing piece of everyday stitching.

The Fall (image above) is a visually rich and fantastical film from Tarsem Singh. To me, it felt like being in a dream. The performance of Catinca Untaru as the little girl is remarkably natural and free of Disney-esque cuteness.

Last night, I watched Travellers and Magicians, directed by a Buddhist monk (Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche) from Bhutan. It's a special treat for textile enthusiasts as it contains (literally!) seductive scenes of traditional Bhutanese weaving and lots of gorgeous images of cloth, including prayer flags.

Korean director Ki-duk Kim's Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring is a visual poem, as well as an inquiry into the nature of violence. It is set on a remote floating Buddhist temple, which instantly became my dreamhome.

The exotic nature of these films hasn't extended into my reading. Non-fiction titles are stacked at my bedside, as I have been brushing up on dog-training, salivating over recipes that I will never make, and investigating, ahem, the Kama Sutra. God knows what the librarian who processes my loans thinks! (The Kama Sutra is not for my personal education, but research into a series of stumpwork embroideries I have planned.) Muriel Baker's out-of-print book has been very helpful.

I would also recommend Riches from Rags: Saki-Ori and other textile recycling traditions in Japanese rural clothing by Shin-Ichiro Yoshida and Dai Williams. This is a gorgeous, fascinating and extensively researched book, published as a catalogue to accompany the 1994 San Francisco Craft and Folk Art Museum exhibition of the same name. Sadly, it is almost impossible to obtain in North America - check your public library. I got my copy via Jean-Pierre, who found a stack of them in Gallery Kei, in Kyoto. He says the store's owner speaks English and is very nice - will do mail order.

But the most influential book I have read recently is Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things. Very sobering reading for someone with a "wall of fabric", boxes upon boxes of potentially useful cloth, thread and other ephemera. I immediately cleaned out my closet and sent several boxes of clothes, books and kitchen utensils to the Free Store. Although the authors only touch briefly on consumerism as a national ideology and focus more on the pathology of collecting, this very readable book deepened my understanding of our human relationship to things.

One of the things I have stacks of is wool kimonos. I take them apart and use them in other projects. Almost always marvels of hand stitching, this particular one featured a Hong Kong finish on its hems. Shown here with a billiard ball for scale, the silk binding was so tiny and exquisite I haven't been able to bring myself to unpick it just yet.


  1. Anonymous5:31 PM

    Thanks for the recommended movies and books. I watched The Fall too, a while back. I was astounded. I had never seen a movie that played with the imagination so well and the little girl was brilliant.

    I should read the book, Stuff. I am moving in a couple of weeks and now would be the perfect time to simplify and get rid of things I no longer need. I wish I had more discipline.


  2. If you can find a restored color version (Criterion) of "Black Narcissus" it's worth ignoring the blathering dialogue and embarrassing colonialism to see the cloth that's everywhere in the film.


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