Thursday, November 23, 2017

Kimono everywhere 2

People made all kinds of different things with the kimono in our challenge project.

Finger puppets, stored on black cones, dressed in kimono scraps:

A kimono-clad doll pendant, mounted on a silk-covered display board when it's not being worn:

Silk scraps incorporated into handmade paper:

Silk used in nuno felting:

More coming...

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Kimono everywhere 1

About this time last year, a long-time friend and fiber art pal took a new job and had to clear out decades worth of stuff in the basement to move to Florida.  She asked me if I'd like to inherit a huge pile of vintage Japanese kimono, and of course I said yes.  Many years earlier she had ordered a bale of kimono to sell at quilt and fiber shows and other vendor outlets.  But before everything was sold, she had to give up the business and the kimono went into the basement.

If you've been following the fiber world for a long time, you too may recall those long-ago times when kimono and obis were for sale cheap, in the days when people in Japan were adapting Western dress and were happy to part with old clothes, especially those with stains and tears.  Now they're realizing the value of those vintage garments and the price has gone way up.

When I got the stash, I suggested that my local fiber and textile art group hold a kimono challenge, in which everybody took stuff home and did something useful with it.  All spring and summer we had the bins at every meeting for people to paw through and find stuff to strike their fancies.  And last week we finally had the big reveal.

What a huge variety of results from the same pile of raw material!  I won't be able to show them all in one post, so stay tuned.

Several people made things to wear.  A vest:

A necklace of yoyos:

Infinity scarves:

A purse:

More tomorrow....

Sunday, November 19, 2017

My favorite things 47

In the olden days, toys were from a different planet than they are now.  For one thing, there weren't so many of them, and for another, they weren't made of plastic.  I have only two really old toys, which I suppose belonged to my dad and his brother.  They're small, just two inches tall, and now they live on top of the type case in my living room in a prime display spot.

The three monkeys are made of ceramic, stamped "Made in Japan" on the bottom, which probably means they were produced between 1921 and 1941 -- I suspect closer to 1921 because the boys were little then.  Remarkably they are still bright and unchipped after decades of being played with.

The painted metal dog, made in Germany (appropriate, because he appears to be a German shepherd), has an extra attraction: his head bobs on a spring.

I don't have many things from my parents' childhoods -- a doll quilt from my mother, these two toys from my dad.  So these are special.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Christmas is coming

My longtime faithful readers know that every year I make personalized Christmas ornaments for my family and friends.  Often the task of actually making the ornaments is less onerous than the task for figuring out what to make, because after 40+ years of this project, when every year has to be different from the ones before, it gets harder and harder to come up with new ideas.  But this year I was fortunate to be browsing around in the craft store when I found some raw materials that suggested their own finished product.

This week I got down to business, found all the necessary tools and supplies -- and didn't even have to go to the store to buy anything new -- and started work.

So far, things are proceeding smoothly.  I did have a near-disaster over the weekend, when I reached for a tube of paint and was dismayed to find that it had spurted a leak at its base and there was a huge blob of yellow on the front of my shirt.  I raced to the sink and scrubbed and scrubbed with a vegetable brush, and I think got it all out (haven't run it through the wash yet).  But at least it didn't spring its leak in its previous position, on the carpet.

Many little beads have escaped onto the floor, but one of these days I'll send Isaac down with a flashlight and a little dish and let him retrieve as many as he can.

For several years I've also been making an ornament for one of my blog readers.  If you would like to be in the running this year, just leave a comment on the blog between now and Friday midnight.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

My favorite things 46

Four months after we got married we moved to Germany, and my parents seized upon the opportunity to come visit us the next summer.  It was Mom's first trip to Europe, and Dad's first since he was in the Army in WW2.  In subsequent years they traveled the world but for this first expedition were happy to have a home base, a chauffeured car and personal guides.

The chauffeured car was nothing to write home about: a VW hatchback, only slightly larger than the classic bug.  When all four of us, with our luggage, piled in there was barely room to breathe, but we were all much younger then and soldiered through.  We picked them up from the ship in Bremerhaven and then drove around for a couple of weeks through Northern Germany and Denmark.

In Copenhagen we split up, men adjourning for beer while women went shopping.  Mom and I were both enamored of Scandinavian design and we wandered around drooling over all manner of furniture, china, housewares, textiles and glass.  Mindful of the tiny car we had to return home in, we bought a couple of tiny dishes, small enough to fit in your pocket.  But then we came upon a small table, dark wood with an inlaid copper top.  The copper was incised in a shallow bas relief, with an abstract pattern that was at once organic and industrial in feeling.

I fell in love.  But how would I get it home?  We asked the clerk if the legs came off.  No.  We asked the clerk if they could ship it to Germany.  Yes, for three times the cost of the table, which was a non-starter.  We left.  We came back, so I could stroke the copper top again.  Do you suppose the legs really don't come off?  So we turned it over, and guess what?  The legs came off!

So we took the table home, in pieces, held on my lap in the backseat for 1000 kilometers.  It has sat next to my living room chair, whichever chair that might be, for 46 years.  It really could stand to be refinished, at least the wooden part; the copper looks as beautiful as the day it was born.

The moral of the story, of course, is persistence, and/or skepticism: even when the clerk says the legs don't come off, turn it over and look for yourself. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Chicago art 1 -- early work

Many artists become famous for some easily recognizable technique, subject or approach -- and when you see their early work, quite different, it's a surprise.  I found several examples in my recent Chicago museum extravaganza.

First, at the Art Institute, Jackson Pollock, before he started flinging paint in spatters.  Here he is one year earlier, with an almost-landscape, almost-still-life.  He was working on the floor rather than vertically, but a long way from his signature style.

Jackson Pollock, The Key, 1946

Also at the Art Institute, Robert Ryman, who went on to explore every conceivable permutation of all-white painting.  Here he was working predominantly in white, but underneath the white, definite colors visible as a background.

Robert Ryman, Untitled, 1962 (detail below)

Finally, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, here's Jeff Koons -- yes, famous for his renderings of himself in flagrante with his porn-star wife, Michael Jackson and his chimp, and highly polished balloon dogs -- in a very different character.  It's a formalist tableau of vacuum cleaners and fluorescent lights in plexi cases (and very hard to photograph; you can either get the camera to see the appliances or the bulbs, but not both).

Jeff Koons, New Hoover Deluxe Shampoo Polishers, New Shelton Wet/Dry 10-gallon Displaced Tripledecker, 1981-87

And another early Koons, in which he suspended three basketballs in a tank of water with exactly enough sodium chloride added so that the balls float at the same level:

Jeff Koons, Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Dr. JK Silver Series), 1985