Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Asia of a celebrated world

 Henri Matisse, Asia, 1946

Pedigree ponies have tawny gloss hair.  She made me think of this, to see her voluminous hair cantering as she came through the crowd - all gloss but snap, snap, snapping impatiently for a peach Belinni - as though life owed her this.  She is unimaginably tall and slender, so perhaps it is no surprise that she had spent a lifetime gazing downwards. The poor female underling standing to the other side of the bar, made like stone as though snared into Medusa's gaze. We seem to betroth egos of mythical measure on these narcissi from the lake; the "beautiful and damned" in the words of Fitzgerald.  Engineered with implausible biometrics, pert and perfect derrieres at the height of my button nose.

Rubbernecking and star-struck were most of the ticket holders, who had paid a few hundred for the privilege of attending an illustrious art gala.  Most of them from Mayfair Hedge Fund firms, muddling in art circles and flirting with the purchase of a canvas.  A clear goldfish bowl; life through a lens at the monied and celebrated.

I took respite at the silent auction desk when I should have been mingling; for those killer heels "do kill".   Just as a motor racing boss placed a bid for the "lot" of life-drawing classes at the art school for his wife.  When sliding sluggishly from my side view up to him, was the debauched ex-wife of a rockstar.  Like a constrictor, she started to wind herself around his slim frame, squeezing breath and blood upwards with incessant requests for VIP passes to that summer's Grand Prix.  His geniality gave way to erupting frustration, as I moved away, looking past them both, over his shoulder at a small figure, head to toe in black.  A person I least expected to reside quietly in a corner - Blondie herself; Maria with a Heart of Glass and Atomic radiance.  Studio 54 blonde hair and Factory fun body - at her height, wildly attractive and alluring.

But she stood now, stillness and composure; there can be mercy afterall, for the celebrated few. 

I would love to own this Matisse painting, put with words as a small window into my time as a Fundraiser for an art gallery - a really fascinating time and a job I loved. Please share your window with me : )

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Sunday Bread

Sometimes life takes you in a direction you least expect.

When I was in hospital, I had alot of time.  A beautiful friend brought in the most amazing cook book (the weight of a few bricks), which I now cook from alot and over and over.  I have a habit when loving something to gush about it, and Italy and Italian Food is one of these things, which often compels my friends to go : )

I also love food which is based on staples, food that you can retreat to and that fills you up.  Like bread, a bowl of rice or a pot of stew.

And I want to share with you the recipe for focaccia classica bread by Giorgio Locatelli which takes a few attempts but tastes so good and packed with flavour.

I still need to work on getting the bubbles, but this was from todays batch.

For the "strong white bread flour" outside of Italy, Giorgio Locatelli advises 1:1 ratio of strong white bread flour : Italian Tipo "00" flour. 
The only change I make is to not add salt in the salamoia mixture, as I find the olives give enough salty flavour. 

Friday, 20 May 2011

Imaginings from a Two star Town

Do you dream of bricks and mortar to sell your goods?

I would love to create a work-live space; like the little units on offshoot side streets in Montmartre, or along the narrow cobbled way in Gamla Stan - I can't resist looking in at busy creators. 

I would have a huge antique closet as a centre piece, in walnut or perhaps enhance a thrift purchase in French blue or Yves Blue?  A great excuse to go shopping here:  Crystal Palace Antiques.  With our eclectic pillows and patchwork piled high, protruding from drawers - creating a boutique environment somewhere between a north African bazaar (souk and colour bohemia ) and a latin hacienda (hot hues ):
Meanwhile, here is our Etsy store  - we need to sell a few more pillows yet : )

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Bolster Pillow - OOAK Anthropology

Available at out Etsy store: anthropology-ooak bolster pillow

Our latest OOAK pillow cover is in the shape of a bolster pillow.

Long and narrow, measuring 12" x 22", bolster pillows are placed at the head of the bed or at the base of an armchair seat to wonderful decorative effect and support.

Our own creative patchwork/ mixed batik pillow using 3 different prints on the front - 100% Dutch wax print crisp cotton.  With the addition of simple traveller hand embroidery using colourful thread.  "Burlap" effect wool on the back.

Inspiration behind Anthropology patchwork:  women-of-tribe-vietnam and anthropology-ooak

Monday, 16 May 2011

Chianti Country

I have a love affair with Italy, which began with my first trip Lemon Paradiso.  I have visited a handful of times since then to different regions, and Italy still fills me with superlatives.

Casa Sola
I think when you experience something good, you should pass it on and keep a good thing going : )  In 2007, my one break that year, was a week in Chianti country, in Tuscany at Fattoria Casa Sola which is a perfect example of an Italian Family Estate (agriturismo).  My expectations were high; to bundle everything that had happened in the last several months and take away to Tuscany.

The estate produces both wine and olive oil.  Their wine is qualified as Chianti Classico.  The term "chianti" has invariably been appropriated to mean red and Italian, but to be truely from grapes carefully nurtured for generations, harvested, fermented, uniquely blended and stored in caves of this small region of Italy, it is termed Chianti Classico (look for the Black Cockrell on seals for this proof next time you buy a bottle). Their production each year is entirely dependent on mother nature.  They have experienced climate variabilities and there is no faking or making-up, they patiently wait for  nature's renewal.  The love, stability and continuity in running their estate for successive generations is really admirable.
The instant you drive out of the city and reach open country, you remember how breathing feels like.  Rolling Tuscan hills, slow winding roads, vineyards that stretch across lighting a green horizon, glorious sunflower fields, and even in arid sun-baked chalky roads, there is life. The moment our Fiat Punto rolled over the gravel in the courtyard and I stepped out into bracing August midday sun, I got that "good feeling" that I had chosen well.  The lunch hour meant that the reception was vacant, but we followed the twitter of voices around to the garden and pool, and were met by a few members from three different generations enjoying the day like any family, basking in lunchtime leisure.  Grandma greeted us warmly, strolling around with us, chatting until the Guest Manager returned to show us to our apartment - I was so enamoured with her sense of well-being.
Our view at breakfast
Our apartment was all rustic stonework on the outside and immaculate and spacious on the inside.  They make every effort to make your feel at home. Each apartment is very private and great for couples as well as families. They had a fig and apricot orchard growing by our apartment and we would just pick off their ready fruits like big kids under a tree.  They really know good living and in the Italian country, edibles grow everywhere.

The estate is well located, 25Km from Florence (where we flew into).  Tuscany is a driving holiday, as there is no network of transport on its small country roads.  We visited San Gimignano, the Crete and Siena, all within easy to reasonable driving distances.  A culinary dish I highly anticipated was the carpaccio of pork loin in a sweet balsamic sauce in San Gimignano, the regional pork is a specialty and this antipasti was the highlight of my foodie experience in Tuscany.

Casa Sola are very good at late notice promotions, which is another reason, we couldn't believe our luck at finding and affording them.  Visit their website for availability and up to date promotions: Fattoria Casa Sola

They also ship their products internationally by request ( I am a huge fan):

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Young Marat

A charismatic fellow with a beaming smile, but eyebrows cast just low enough to betray his humble heart.  At times a daydreaming Mercutio, when discovering from the detritus and cast-offs from Rio society, books he would keep for himself.  While the other young bucks jest at his bourgeois attempts.   Tião retorts that they miss out on the wealth of stories and knowledge to be had, in finding these gems amongst the garbage at jardim Gramacho where they all work as catadores (collectors).  
Vik Muniz: Marat (Sebastião), 2008
Seen in panorama, one of the world’s largest garbage dumps on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, is sprawling.  Hundreds of collectors appear like worker ants crawling over its hills, picking and sorting from it, all that is recyclable – it’s a grimy, labour intensive job.  They wear gloves and layered clothing as protection against the dirt in which they delve each day; as the dumpster trucks arrive and unload, they keenly jump on each fresh pile to make a start.
Despite no mechanisation, Brazil has one of the highest rates for recycling certain materials in the world; cardboards and cans.  They owe this to the fact that there are enough impoverished people to carry out this kind of menial work and recognise the economic value in trading these materials.  The local government had received financing to build an official plant for collection and sorting, but this never happened.  Falling to the founding catadores, and now Tião to create a co-operative to organise their work; both protecting their rights to operate as catadores and ensure the prices they trade for.  Despite his sometimes intangible pre-occupation with the arts, of his work he is very matter of fact – “we do not collect garbage, we collect recyclable materials, garbage is not recyclable”.  The materials and the prices they can be exchanged for, roll-off his tongue.  He speaks with deft and smiles with pride as environmental stewards and at what they have achieved from basic means; also a medical clinic and learning centre for the catadores.
Waste Land, the 2010 documentary, follows the renowned Brooklyn artist Vik Muniz as he returns to the land of his birth to broadcast the story of the catadores at jardim Gramacho.   Inspired by the stories of individuals, he gets them to collaborate in his art project.  By using the materials of their collection to build portraits of them-selves.  The money raised from auction of the subsequent photographic series “Pictures of garbage” would go back to the co-operative.   
In imagining his own portrait, Tião asks for a rendition of Jacques-Louis David, “The Death of Marat” which he once saw and since impressed on his brain.  There is a particularly moving moment, towards the end, when he experiences the rarified world of a London auction house, when his portrait fetches $50,000 that he is fleetingly overwhelmed with tears.  The eventual tears that come from spent years, carrying the weight of so many upon his shoulders, of the grind of the impoverished and that all the smiles in the past masked all this without any expectation for earthly glories.
Waste Land is an absolute triumph in the heartfelt and generously uplifting. It is remarkable, that Tião had dreamt of art and it came into his life.  In a collaboration between life and art – the opportunity given by Vik Muniz, he says they have achieved recognition and dignity for the catadores beyond his imagination.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Dinner that Day - Borough Market

I guess we should leave the house?

The sun was high and ripe, fair-weather only good for slumbering.  But we took the tube to London Bridge and crossed the grey fume-filled street to Borough Market - a veritable oasis for food lovers.  Passing the late afternoon diners jostling for a table at Brindisa on the first corner, Spanish waiters in dazzling white and sweating beads, calmly deciphering seating.  Looking to the left, trickling cold ice beds laden with the days catch; oysters fresh for tasting with shallotts and red wine vinegar, just a teaspoon to curdle its flesh before funneling.  Fresh flowers with food, as soft peonies and wild rose bunches sit idly in water buckets at the florist next to the French larder.  Staff in breton stripes, serving sips of Chateau such and such with tasters of their best foie gras on artisan baguettes and slithers of magret de canard.

Further along, breathing in the paprika rich fumes from chorizo sizzling in olive oil tainted with its rich orange, together with roasted peppers and rocket in a warm floury bun which hits the "late lunch" spot.  Then like cartoon-scent calling us across for a cuppa at Monmouth coffee house, treading its creaky wooden boards feels like walking onto set; styled into a giant farm crate.

Borough Market has grown so big with a Farmer's market in its far reaches, rustic pile-ups of veg and fruit, keenly I grab handfuls of organic watercress and spuds and a few others for dinner.  Onto meats, spring lamb is the best and there isn't much else that is better than Welsh, as french trimmed racks lay by Scottish haunches of beef and Norfolk game in a cooler.
To open with a platter - watercress plainly tossed with olive oil and seasoned, lightly fried magret de canard, artisienne baguette, a small block of west country cheddar cheese, grapes, radish and baby plum tomatoes, jamon iberico (pata negra), pate and butter of course :)  It is very English "bread and butter".
 Main tray-baked-lamb-with-aubergines-tomatoes:

The only addition I make to the recipe, just before roasting, is to add slithers of anchovies (packed in sea salt) between the bones.

It felt like a special day for food - though I don't think we had space for dessert that day as we sat back and watched the sky turn onto midnight.

"Appetite" - painting a few months later on midnight blue.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Tribal Stitch OOAK

This is a variation on our Carnival OOAK pillow (back in March carnival-by-sisterbatik).  But as we have gone on, we are enjoying adding simple hand embroidery to our OOAK pillows which is inspired by traveller quick stitching and French knots (daydreamer), but also small tribal stitches inspired by the embroidery found on women's belts and dress of the Hmong hill tribe: women-of-tribe-vietnam
                   Available on Etsy: tribal-stitch-ooak
 This particular image is from the web but I forget where : (

Thursday, 5 May 2011

A cat in cold rain

What brought me here?  Last year I saw an intimate live performance by a legendary London poet (Jeremy Reed) - my friend had found him and secured his performance at her small film/ performing arts evening, simply by sashaying into the book shop where he can often be found in Cecil Court, announcing "I hear there is a poet?" - I could never muster such an opportune declaration and laughed when she told me this.  Since then, my ears have listened out for poetry from unplugged London nights to spoken word collectives in make shift out-buildings and social housing estates.

So to an evening at the poetry place.  There were regulars, keen to show their prowess, who have been reciting slam poetry since the hippie scene of Southern California in the 60s and 70s; that seemed to recall rainbow beach huts and dune sandals and barley coloured hair, just by looking into their ocean eyes. And they were still slamming, but now with silver hair and more regularly at the Royal Shakespeare Company.  Robert Plant, front man of Led Zeppelin, once said when asked why he has always kept his hair long - "back then long hair was part of the scene when it all really meant something" - pledging lock-allegiance to the hippies from which he rose.

There is of course the one who whiffs of tippling street poetry, describing the sunset over Clapham and echoing Edgar Allan Poe with gothic poise.......

Then there was waifish Jimmy Scribble, who petulated (is there such a word?) his indignations and his love for his missus; that he challenged great writers and philosophers of the ages to verbalise this which he felt, all of them of course failing to meet what would fitfully describe his love "of" her....stamping feet and fist.

You hear alot of romantic, expressive voices carrying streams of lyricising, the ohs, the ahs and the sighs in between and the playful voices of funnies too, all being part of performing Spoken Word.  But then, you watch somebody shake, shiver - like a cat in cold rain, gripping their sheet poetry for dear life and with one line she paints in your imagination of fraught child play and stuffed toy dinosaurs and GI Joes standing guard at the door of her childhood.  For a moment you wonder if you could have heard correctly as she pulls you further in, however self-consciously.  And for the act of sharing her vulnerability, I admire her most.....anonymous poetess.

"the panacea, where the cut resists recuperation"
Jeremy Reed

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Women of Tribe: Vietnam

 Black Hmong women
Catching up on a favourite soap opera through a neighbours open door.

Red Zhoa woman
All photos taken in Sapa, North Vietnam.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Anthropology OOAK

Here is our newest One Of A Kind pillow - creative patchwork/ mixed batik pillow - using 3 different prints.  100% Dutch wax print cotton.  With the addition of simple traveller embroidery using colourful thread.

Our pillow coupled with inspiration images.