material matters

January 19, 2022

For a long time, I’ve thought about creating a textile made up of swatches of fabric that hold significance for me. Between boxes of richly patterned baby clothes, vintage t-shirts, old curtains, pochettes, and fabrics snapped up at markets all over the world, I could fashion a rather large wall-hanging of material memorabilia. Well, when I say, I –– what I mean is a good sewer, because I’m hopeless with a needle and thread. These beautiful pieces by Japanese-Jewish textile artist, Magumi Shauna Arai offer inspiration. Each one pays homage to the Japanese Boro tradition, (meaning “rags” or “tatters”) and combines Arai’s hand-dyed fabrics with a smorgasbord of vintage textiles. This may be another one of those creative projects that never makes it to the wall. Fun to think about though.

mon style

January 18, 2022

Unlike her Mum, who’s drawn to a kaleidoscope of colours, my daughter’s palette skews more neutral. With the exception of an occasional stripe, she has little interest in print. Frill and flounce have no place in her wardrobe. It’s hard to imagine that Iole once lived in frothy ballgowns and wore tropical fruit on her head. For years, she was a jumble sale of smocked Liberty dresses, stripy leggings, glittery shoes and ridiculously large bows. Yes, I had a lot to do with this hodgepodge aesthetic, but the flare with which she wore it, that’s all hers. And then at age seven, feathers and florals were abruptly abandoned in favour of lycra. She changed her style to fit in at a new school. Black leggings, cotton tees and oversized hoodies in various shades of cement became her uniform. And while I missed the colour and originality of her outfits, and lamented the loss of her un-self consciousness, I did appreciate this new minimalism. I also came to understand that her need to see herself mirrored in the girls around her was both natural and necessary. We are alike my daughter and I, and we share a lot of common interests; our taste in clothes could not be more different. And that’s a good thing. These days, she cringes when she sees old photos of herself in lamé leggings and a sequin bolero. “I can’t believe you let me go to school wearing that!” I don’t say a word. The sartorial journey is long. As is life. Fitting in is innate. So is standing out. Expect plenty of black, with chances of ruffles.

through the looking glass

January 17, 2022

Most glassblowers try to avoid air bubbles, but Steffen Dam embraces them. The bubbles make his aquatic specimens look more lifelike. It’s extraordinary to me that these beautiful creatures are all blown from glass. They look utterly realistic. “My jars contain nothing that exists in the ocean, my specimens are plausible but not from this world, and my flowers are still unnamed,” says Dam who trained and worked as a toolmaker before discovering glass. “My aim is to describe what’s not tangible and understandable with our everyday senses.” Dam’s creations spring entirely from his imagination, inspired by the natural history books and insect collections that he explored as a child. I find his jars series beautiful and mesmerizing.

plate and plinth

January 14, 2022

Inspired by the colours and textures of the British seaside, Greek mythology and Italian kitsch decoration, Minnie Mae Stott’s ceramics remind me of the kind of treasures one might find at a fabulous European flea market. Think vases in the shape of Corinthian columns, pearly oyster plates and candle sticks adorned with bramble berries. It’s all so charming and nostalgic. I’m particularly fond of Stott’s forget-me-not collection, maybe because it conjures images of English tea cakes served with soft, salty butter. Yum.

Around and around

January 13, 2022

British Sculptor, Laura Ellen Bacon‘s otherworldly sculptures.

The exquisite mind and craftsmanship of Rowan Mersh.

Alexander Calder’s Connecticut studio.

Yuko Nishimura‘s beautiful paper sculptures.

Bold and bizarre forms from German ceramic artist, Monika Debus.

British artist Victor Pasmore at work.

outer shell

January 12, 2022

Meela Jaarsman is known for creating wearable shelters from the most unusual materials. Imagine a cocoon, a “security blanket” made from the skins of frogs, squirrels and snakes, or the bark of banana trees. The Netherlands born artist has lived in Yogyakarta for many years and is inspired by Indonesian culture and the social, political issues that exist within her chosen home. These garments represents protection, and a yearning for security in the face of fear. I find the one below, made entirely of urchin shells, quite poignant. The shells once offered protection to the urchins they homed. Eventually, their squishy insides were eaten or washed away, and the spines dissolved into the sea, leaving a beautiful shell behind. The shells appear fragile, but in fact, their shape and construction make them quite durable.

old school

January 11, 2022

I came across the work of Brazilian modernist artist, Amadeo Luciano Lorenzato, better known as Lorenzato, and I fell in love with his childlike compositions and gorgeous use of colour. With no formal training, Lorenzato’s paintings possess a rawness and simplicity that we often see among unschooled artists. ““He doesn’t belong to cliques,” wrote Lorenzato on the reverse side of an untitled painting in 1948. “He paints what he feels like painting. Amen.”

collectable

January 10, 2022

“If people don’t like my house, then I don’t like them,” says Australian artist, Greg Irvine of his fantastically cluttered Melbourne home. Imagine walls of mismatched vintage plates, tortoise shell combs, teapots, scent bottles, books, biscuits tins and bangles. The house is a feast for the eyes, as colourful and detailed as Irvine’s large scale paintings. “I have to be surrounded by beautiful things,” he says. Antiques of all kinds appeal to his eclectic taste, and fabrics, collected over time, weave their way into his paintings. Have a walk around; fellow collectors will no doubt swoon. And those who don’t? Well you won’t be invited back.

cut

January 8, 2022

Since I can remember I’ve worn my hair in a large, messy bun atop my head. It’s why I grow my hair long. No matter what state it’s in, or I’m in for that matter, the top knot makes me feel pulled together and ready to face the music. The irony is that there’s nothing tidy or pulled together about my hair, but somehow the top knot makes me feel both those things. And then today, with the same obsessive zeal I brought to finding booster shots in December, I called half a dozen Florida hair salons to find a stylist that would cut my hair. We’ll be home in a day or two, I could have waited. Only I couldn’t wait. Today was the day. “Cut it short enough that I can’t put it up,” is what is I said to Shane as I plonked myself into her swivelling chair. It occurred to me as I watched her sun-drenched face sink to the floor, that when a stranger walks in and asks for ten inches of hair to be cut from her head a stylist might feel a degree of pressure or concern. “Don’t look so worried,” I reassured. “I want to do this.” Less than ten minutes later, I had a bob, not so dissimilar to the one I had when I was two and wore velvet dresses and blouses with frilly collars. I think I also had this same style in the late 90s when I was growing out my one attempt at a Mia Farrow pixie cut. We all convince ourselves that something, in this case, a hairstyle, makes us feel more pulled together and in control, when in fact we’re actually boxed in by it. My top knot, like a heavy crown, had started to weigh me down. The urge to chop it off was visceral. I’m not sure that I like this bob, and I certainly don’t feel pulled together, but maybe that’s the point. Shane, who’s in her early 60s and has a Southern lilt and platinum hair to her waist, seemed to like the cut. “Now honey, do you own a roller brush? Mousse? Any product at all? That’s okay. Let the cut do the work.”

paper chase

January 7, 2022

I’ve been wanting to experiment with papiermâché vases, and these ones made by Jacqueline de la Fuente offer much inspiration. De la Fuente uses chicken wire to sculpt her whimsical forms and then creates a clay paste from discarded cereal boxes, egg cartons, and paper mixed with flour, adhesive and a small amount of joint compound. The environment, and minimizing her family’s waste are key to her practice. “I like the idea that these materials go through less of a process than normal recycling. Very little energy apart from my own is used to turn waste paper into a new aesthetic.” Her vases are colourful and eccentric, and while they can’t contain water, there are so many creative uses for them. This latticed one is a favourite of mine; it looks like it could have been woven from yarn.

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