Archive for October, 2009

31 October, 2009

On a balmy Melbourne evening…

From one Melbourne institution to another.

Enjoying Perth’s best while nattering away, the rich, tangy smoke of Cubans wreathing around us.

How high the moon.

Art deco window loveliness.

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31 October, 2009

Needlecraft and Thoughts

It has been at least two decades since I last picked up a needle with craft in mind.  Recently asked to produce a scaled representation of a rug (designed by myself), I thought some form of needlework would be ideal.  As a girl I’d loved cross-stitch and latch hook projects.  Neither seemed appropriate for a 18x12cm piece and so I chose the most basic of stitches, longstitch.

I dove right in, supremely confident as to the stitch I would use and the work that would result.  But it wasn’t long before I ran into snags.  Literally.  Stranded cotton looks lovely and working with it can be a joy.  It can also be one of the most frustrating materials on earth; it catches easily, seems to quickly wear through (because of the mesh) and delights in spontaneous knot entanglement.

There was also the matter of the stitching.  I soon realised that my method – probably a combination of sewing and embroidery stitching – was simply not producing what I wanted.  And so, despite most of the motif outline being stitched, I revised my method and went over my earlier stitches.

At various times, I miscounted stitch length. Began or ended stitches where they shouldn’t have done.  Pulled random threads from the back of the tableau into the front.  All unwittingly, or resulting from tiredness.  Most of the time I was able to work these hiccups into the piece, or disguise them.  Occasionally, either proved impossible and the mistake remained apparent.  At one point, I thought I’d run out of black cotton and as the haberdashery was also out of stock, began thinking how I could substitute fabric into the piece instead.  But while rummaging around my box of thread for another colour, I unexpectedly came across a welcome bundle of black cotton.

Again and again, I threaded the needle and cotton through the mesh and soon settled into a contented rhythm.  One part of my mind remained alert to what my fingers were doing, to modify the tension of the thread, the placement of the needle, or unpick another spontaneous knot. But the rest of my mind turned to other things; to how needlework reminded me of my grandmother, who hand stitched quilted blankets for six of her grandchildren before her blurring eyesight meant she couldn’t continue; to my mother’s sewing basket filled with odds and ends such as my and my brother’s school uniform tags; to how needlework links women through the ages, across continents, across socio-economic divides.  Women have sewn and still sew to make a living.  To make or mend things for loved ones.  Because it was something well-bred ladies should be able to do.  For necessity.  For amusement.  For pleasure.

And as I neared to finishing, I thought also (clumsily perhaps, clichédly definitely) that this needlework process could be a life in miniature.  Each of us begins with an empty mesh ie. tabula rasa and with an idea – vague or not – as to the resulting work.  We make a start with our skills and materials.  But often, things don’t happen as predicted. Through carelessness or miscalculation, mistakes are made.  Some of these we fix, or tidy up as best we can while other mistakes will remain blemishes.  And there will be at least one, if not more spontaneous knots which will need unpicking before it is possible to move forward. But there will also be unexpectedly welcome bundles of black cotton. And in between putting in the necessary elbow grease, getting to grips with the needle, the thread, the mesh and the variables of each, imperceptibly, the motions, the thought processes become second nature.

My finished rug represented sported quite a few imperfections – irregular stitches, a knot which proved impossible to unpick or disguise and many, many non-uniform stitches.  But I’m certain that most of these would not be noticeable to anyone but myself. It dawned on me that the difficulties, the hiccups, the bothersome, tiresome details, may have affected the nature of the envisaged outcome – the rug was not as pristine as I would have liked – but not adversely. After all, the more obvious blemishes add to its charm, non? Overall, the rug turned out pretty much as I had wanted it to. And what more could anyone ask for?

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28 October, 2009

Toasty Textiles

The sun came out yesterday.  Excitedly, I piled out, with my cup of tea, some needlework and various bits and bobs, for a leisurely al fresco day, so my chilled limbs could soak up the well-missed sunshine and my skin could absorb some Vitamin D.

Approximately ninety minutes later, I became aware that the pleasant warmth had deteriorated into a vague discomfort.  I realised then that there were distinctive tan lines where my shorts ended and my thighs and arms had turned an unhealthy-looking lobster pink.  I scrambled out of the direct sunlight and spent the rest of the afternoon underneath the shade of the verandah.  A mistake to think that the harsh Australian sun is anything like its gentler European cousin.

On the other side of the world, the Toast Winter 2009/10 catalogue is out.  And reminds me of the snug, bright glow of October days in East London, spent tramping through piles of red, orange and gold leaves while swaddled against the oncoming chill in soft, warm woollens, a scarf artfully wound around one’s neck and a thick coat.

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22 October, 2009

A New Focus

Until recently, my photography has centered around what I found to be interesting, quirky, breathtaking sights and scenes around my base of London, and the various cities I travelled to.    But my wanderlust has been sated – for the moment – and having returned to Melbourne, Australia to put down some firmer roots, my travels look to be limited in the near future.  With loads of spare time at the moment (Australia may not technically have entered a recession, but things are certainly slow job-wise), I’ve started to work on my photography in earnest.  Before, I’d considered the camera a way of recording my holiday snaps, social occasions with family and friends, a tool for recording memories.  Now – and it has been evolving in this way for a while, although with no end goal in mind (as it should do with anyone who likes taking pictures, I guess) – I’m beginning to view it it as a way of capturing my own, little perception of the world.  Photography for photography’s sake, rather than a feverish, ultimately futile attempt to catalogue and store precious memories.

Currently, I’m a little hooked on making my photos look as vintage as possible.  Blame it on the return to the city, the house, the room I grew up in.  Where ghosts of myself at various ages nostalgically greet me at every turn.  The subjects aren’t particularly exciting – a gorgeous pear tree flowering in the heat of the bright Australian afternoon sun, the same sun glinting through the trees on a nearby lake, a field of long grass which could be anywhere in the world.

But it’s home.

19 October, 2009

Covetousness

Mulberry + Apple = range of leather Macbook and Ipod accessories.

Let the anticipatory salivation begin.

(Image of Ipod bag from guardian.co.uk)

(Image of Ipod bag from the Guardian)

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17 October, 2009

To Market, To Market

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

To market, to market, to buy a fat hog,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jog.

To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,
Home again, home again, market is done.

~Traditional English nursery rhyme

Barcelona is not a city light on stunning architecture. But I was rather taken with the wonderful Mercat de Santa Caterina and its surrounding buildings, designed by Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue.  The Mercat is situated in the lovely, gentrified El Born district, once the ancient medieval part of Barcelona and densely built and populated. As I wandered through medieval Barcelona, I was more often than not walking through narrow streets where sunlight only briefly reaches the cobblestones each day. Happening upon the Mercat and its surrounding buildings gave me a well-needed respite from these constrained spaces; my view could stretch freely and I could drink in the light, the air, rest in the sun and contemplate the tasty-looking provisions laid out in Mercat itself.

Photos below were processed with the aim of communicating the steamy temperature of Barcelona in late June.  I’ve also tried to emulate the vividness of the ‘retro’ postcards of Barcelona which seemed to pop up everywhere I wandered (I note I was visiting quite a few design stores and galleries).  The postcards seemed to have that quality, that cast which photos taken in the 1970s would have acquired by now.  Or, as is more likely in this age of digital processing, they were probably recent images which had been cross-processed using Adobe or any number of other image processing software.

14 October, 2009

Ms Bradshaw

As gay as pink suede!
~Carrie Bradshaw, Season 2, Sex and the City

The kooky queen-of-all-things-vintage and empress-of-needless-boy-related-melodrama has certainly made me look at my fuschia suede Chie Mihara’s in a new light. The bright raspberry colour, the solid, ergonomic block heel, the gentle scalloped edges, the plump toe… certainly the lines hark back to those of shoes of the 1930s and 1940s.

But gay?

Of course I could see a certain type of man flouncing about in them. But I could see this man also flouncing about in any number of of shoes which I owned – the black pumps with a leather bolero frill, the bright red wedges, the slightly chunky shiny mustard coloured bright gold buckled brogues…

Ah.  I’m seeing a certain trend here.  All these shoes are, shall we say, of a flamboyant variety.  Which does not, in any way, exclude sassy, glamourous girls from loving and wearing them.

Or perhaps I just have a wardrobe full of gay men’s footwear!

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8 October, 2009

Flirting

I’ve long been a WordPress devotee.  But lately, I’ve found that the websites I tend to surf and which, to some extent, I’d like to emulate, use Blogger.  So I began experimenting with Blogger (anyone interested can look at the results here).  Blogger certainly does allow for greater creativity in terms of layout, colour and font.  And it’s a cinch to include any cute, odd bits of html/java scipt you stumble across, such as your very own clock, or Adsense, to prettify (or ‘monetize’) your blog.

But the jury’s still out.  The WordPress interface seems less clunky (or perhaps I’m just more familiar with it).  And as for site monitoring, WordPress wins hand down.  To obtain stats in Blogger, you need to set up a Google analytics account and link them together.  Another additional procedure, the purpose of which eludes me.  Surely Google, the king of stats and the organisation responsible for Blogger, would have been a bit keener off the mark and included this function as a par for course, which WordPress does?

So, for the moment, I’m flirting/flitting between the two.

A photo from a long-ago wintry trip to Paris, a city which oozes le séduction, which always puts me in mind of whimsical dalliances.

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7 October, 2009

Conceptually speaking

Ever since I was lucky enough to catch ‘The House of Viktor & Rolf’ exhibition at the Barbican in London last year, I’ve been quite taken by this pair of Dutch designers. They started their design life as conceptual artists, and still bring a sense of irreverent humour and offbeat intellect to their clothing collections. It is the ideas underpinning their collections which I quite adore: the cataclysmic black/colour explosion that was Flower Bomb; the layered clothing of Russian Doll; the more subtle themed collection based on the Dutch custom of bronzing a newborn baby’s shoes.  This is fashion as high art.  And any designer who counts Tori Amos and Tilda Swinton as muses is all right with me!

Apparently, Viktor & Rolf called their latest collection (which recently showed at Paris fashion week) ‘Credit Crunch Couture’ and noted how the ‘hacked into’ nature of the tulle symbolised an attack on excess.  A collection to express and combat the gloom caused by the global financial crisis, and maybe even raise a wry smile?  I’d say the boys succeeded.

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3 October, 2009

Prep school

‘Preppy’ (short for ‘preparatory’) style originated during the 1960s from those elite New England schools of America and it’s never really gone away since. Countless fashion tribes, labels and socio-economic demographic groups the world over have adopted and created their own versions, or simply subverted preppy.

When I first visited Paris almost a decade ago, I was surprised that preppy (from casual to luxe and any other degree in between) was the style of choice for most of the city’s dwellers. Why was the flamboyance of the haute couture shows not reflected on the streets? When I got to know some Parisians, I began to understand that the city, where France’s political and economic power lie, was, for the most part, quite conservative. But the French, even while garbed simply, express their individuality, their taste, with little flourishes – an unexpected scarf fabric, a surprisingly heeled boot, a contrasting jacket detail. Minimalism is king in Paris, but minimalism with a subtle twist.

Shortly after, I discovered Parisian brand APC and its simple, beautifully constructed pieces.

It was love at first sight.

From Autumn/Winter 2009/10:

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