The Art Of Repairing

March 23rd, 2019
Ceramic bowl repaired using the Japanese kintsugi technique.

When this ceramic bowl broke, instead of being discarded, it was beautifully repaired using an adhesive or lacquer infused with powdered gold. This repair technique is Japanese, and known as ‘kintsugi’. The break lines are highlighted rather than camouflaged, serving to demonstrate the bowl’s importance to its owner. The changed appearance becomes part of it’s history as a functional object. I didn’t learn of kintsugi until some years after I posted about a wonderful exhibition Mike and I saw in Paris in 2007, at the Musee du Quai Branly. Rewording a bit, I’m going to write about Objets Blesses: la reparacion en afrique again here – because it made a huge impact on me. Unforgettable.

The title of the exhibition translates literally as “injured objects” which of course they were: they were broken and then repaired. On show were artifacts collected in several African countries by French colonists, traders, missionaries and explorers. Made from many different materials – wood, iron, precious metals, ceramic, leather, stone – every object in the exhibition had been repaired. None of the objects blesses were repaired using the kintsugi approach of course, but the array of repair techniques was fascinating – apart from images of pieces in the exhibition here on this page I found a wonderful Pinterest board here that I’ve been following for a while.

An impressive array of techniques were used in these repairs, and despite the mending process changing each object’s appearance, these repairs had all restored usefulness of these valued household tools and vessels, weapons, and religious and ceremonial objects symbolising community offices and powers.

Really interesting ridge pattern formed by repair work becomes an additional surface design.

My grandparents survived the Great Depression, where millions of people lost everything suddenly or gradually, and had to mend, make do or go without. Our parents lived with severe shortages and rationing of everything during World War 2. Inevitably, we baby-boomers were ingrained with the values of mending and making do, wearing something out before throwing it out. Thrift was necessary and virtuous. Today, with over 7.5billion people needing, expecting or requiring stuff, all imposing huge stresses on the Earth’s resources, at last there are signs that many people are making real efforts to avoid unnecessary wastage of the planet’s resources by recycling, upcycling and repurposing, though there’s so much more to be done and practiced daily.

One sad reality in the western world is that so much stuff we use cannot just simply be repaired at home if it breaks, and often can’t be affordably fixed by a qualified repair person, either, making it often much cheaper to just buy a replacement for the broken thing. Lots of footwear comes into this category, though I nearly always buy leather, which does last and is nearly always repairable. Of course, worst of all are electrical appliances and digital things like phones and TVs which feature built-in obsolescence, and we suffer frequent model changes that ensure that parts quickly become unavailable. Because of my upbringing this sticks in my throat.

Until I saw this really impressive exhibition, I hadn’t given any real thought to the activity of repairing something. But seeing these objects’ repairs, and reading about them, impressed on me that we repair things that are important or useful to us. We value their usefulness as daily household or work related items; we value objects which symbolise culture, politics, history or religion; some things we value because we simply find them pleasing or beautiful in some way; and sometimes objects are valuable because our ancestors owned and used them.

Repairing produces scars or visible marks, but that’s a very different expected outcome from the process of restoration, in which repairs are done as skillfully as possible to create the impression the object has been returned to its original appearance and function. It hadn’t occurred to me these are not really interchangeable words!

I don’t recall exactly, but think photography might not have been allowed, which would have been one reason I bought the catalogue; but the other would have been “Why the heck not, anyway?” Having bought two additional large suitcases in Cairo to contain textiles we’d acquired in Egypt, including two large Tentmaker hangings , we already had twice as much luggage as we’d set out with just a few weeks before !!

Gold in the lacquer highlights the break lines, producing additional surface design patterning – kintsugi.

R

Improvisation – The Art Of It

March 16th, 2019

This week I have been putting together some images and answering interview questions for a guest blogger appearance on Jen Broemel’s instagram site  in the last week of this month. I just love being asked questions about my work, so thank you Jen – I will let everyone know the day it goes up.

The questions included some thought provoking ones, and I answered them before looking at Jen’s own work or any of her blogging – just to be sure what I was writing was just my thoughts and experiences tinged by no one else’s. I sent a couple collages of quilts made in the improvisational style of piecing I have been doing for 25+ years now, alongside the sketchbook diagram I often as the kind of ‘recipe’ to make each. This one won’t be in the article – the image for ‘Kimberley 1’, an irregular shaped piece photographed against a black background is not really good – a bit grainy”

Kimberley 1, 1995, alongside the sketch/plan – showing my planning process – to which is added only the live auditioning of fabrics.

Now that I’ve sent her my material, it is fun to go into the site and see how other respondents handled the same queries about their work. Take this week’s artist, guest #24, Brian Phillips, from Austin TX. I was taken by his comment – “Silence and I don’t get along.” With his favourite music genres playing in the background, he paints on salvaged materials, mostly wood. the size of the salvaged material essentially determines that of the painting. Sometimes in the presence of a thrilling material/fabric I have found this, too! A few years ago I bought the remainder of a roll (only about 1 1/2 yds, unfortunately) of vinyl faux patent leather. Simply put, it grabbed me. Cutting a little strip off the end to experiment with, I used the remaining c.95% in the one work, Land Marks and if I ever see that stuff again, no matter the colour, I will buy some.

I was really hoping to find some of it on my recent visit to a very large fabric store in Denver CO. They didn’t have it, but they did have some clear vinyl sheeting which urged me to part with US$2/yard for a total of $10 worth of exciting potential; and some thrillingly sheer polyester organza – yes I’m still mentally on that sheers thing. I haven’t had time for any experiments yet, but hopefully will this coming week.

Dior – An Haute Couture Exhibition At Denver Art Museum

March 7th, 2019

Mike and I visited The Denver Art Museum yesterday specifically to visit an exhibition of fashion “Dior: From Paris to The World”. The house of Dior was founded in Paris by Christian Dior in 1947, and has continued ever since, headed by a line of six designers who succeeded him after his death in 1957. If you are in the Denver area in the next couple of weeks do make an effort to visit. Over 200 garments plus accessories are on show, from the iconic Bar Suit in the first collection to recent pieces from 2017 and 2018. There’s a wonderful overview here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Dior and of course his life and work have been fully documented.

‘Rouge amoureuse’ for Christian Dior by Gianfranco Ferré, Fall-Winter 1993, Long embroidered quilted lamé dress; taffeta coat. In The Secret Of A Venetian Niģht collection.
‘Climène’, a long gold taffeta evening dress from the 1959-1960 collection, designed by Yves Saint Laurent

Such a visual feast! But I could not photograph everything, and so the photos that follow are just the most stunning, the ones that most strongly blew me away.

‘Fanny’ from the 1953 Fall-Winter collection: a Cristian Dior designed celestial-blue taffeta gala dress, worn by Elizabeth Firestone, a major client for years.

The first Christian Dior collection was presented in 1947, just months after I was born (late 1946) The world was still reeling from the impact of WWII and many countries still had fabric and clothing rationing in addition to food rationing. People gathered the latest news via radio, daily newspapers, weekly magazines and the newsreels that preceded movies at cinemas. European papers and magazines were eagerly awaited by fans of fashion around the world. And though I imagine there were some wealthy Australians who did regularly go to Paris, London and other design centres to buy direct from fashion designers, it has always been usual to copy and incorporate design elements into locally produced garments in time for the southern seasons that are several months behind.

My own mother was considered very elegant, and though I know she didn’t have any Dior numbers (and could never have afforded them) she bought or had her dressmaker sew, clothes that reflected some of the looks from various garments I saw yesterday. Several of the garments reminded me of things I remember Mum wearing.

For Christian Dior by John Galliano, Fall-Winter 2008, embroidered mohair bouclette coat. I found the brooch jarring, but I’m sure the coat must have been shown with it.

Dior apparently said “After woman, flowers are the most divine creations.” He loved beautiful dresses and gardening equally. Other designers, too, have been keen gardeners finding much inspiration for detail and embellishment.

Both of these are by Raf Simons for Christian Dior. L – a long dress wirh embroidered organza flower petals, Spring-Summer 2013. R – embroidered silk and tulle evening gown, Spring-Summer 2014,

The current head of Dior is an Italian, Maria Grazia Chiuri, whose view of the modern woman combines desirability, fragility and confident inner strength. She speaks of the core ingredient of Dior clothes being timelessness, with her role being to create a dream while remaining realistic. I guess this is wearability. The most gorgeous garment in this was this heavily beaded dress, which to wear you’d have to be slim and confident, in equal measures !

‘Nude’Christian Dior by Maria Grazia Chiuri, Spring-Summer 2018. Trompe-l’oeil embroidered with metalluc sequins, sunray-pleated tulle train.

The final gallery was large, and this photo was just one corner. Here, as a grand finale perhaps, was a collection of creations from all the Dior designers who at various times have travelled and found inspiration in cultures on continents beyond Europe.

Love Miami Airport!

February 28th, 2019

Well no, I don’t especially love MIA. Like most travellers I don’t especially like most airports, particularly if I’m in transit. (An exception is Singapore’s Changi) A lay-over is either tight (you have to speed walk or run) or you have several hours to kill, with emphasis on ‘kill’. There is no ideal lay-over unless it involves a shower and horizontal time between sheets, somewhere sound insulated and close to said airport.

MIA sprawls over huge distances, with long concourses, only some of which are served by a skytrain or moving walkways. It’s much like other US airports, except for the wonderful floors in some parts – these pics were taken on concourse D, around 5.30 am.

So to arrive at MIA one morning last week at 4am from Montevideo, UY, gave me plenty of time to kill until my 7.45am flight to Denver.

With few people around and most shops still closed, I was able to take my time to photograph and enjoy the lovely brass inlays in the man made granite-like flooring presenting a tidal shore theme entirely fitting with the city’s coastal and near-Caribbean location.

While there are plenty of large starfish and shell shapes, many smaller fragmenty things are easily overlooked in a hurry, and these are lovely little snippets of brass seaweed, coral and sponges.

My theme might now must be more obvious – what lovely patterns holes can make.

And I still had heaps of time to enjoy a coffee and some people watching near my boarding gate!

Browsing with Pinterest

February 26th, 2019

I find looking at Pinterest is like thumbing through a few magazines, looking to see what’s the latest in something I’m interested in like architecture, or sculptures in the wild, stitchery, whatever. Pinterest sends me at least one but usually several emails a day, most of which I bin immediately – namely those beginning with “Your pin from textures was saved 4 times….” typical and frequent, or to take an actual example from my inbox today: “18 Newspaper basket pins you might like…” Good grief… newspaper baskets! Others, though, I just keep aside in the social section of my email where FB and LinkedIn messages also arrive. I’m not sure what is ‘social’ about Pinterest, but that’s where they are, and I look at them in a browsing session which often happens to be sunday morning.

I have boards titled with the broad topics I follow – presentations, lines and shapes, holes, textures, edge treatment, contemporary hand stitch, FME (free machine embroidery) sheers, using fragments’ or … , art to wear possibilities, interesting artists, drama in design. Although typically I don’t collect recipes in any format, paper or digital, I do have a board with one recipe in it- I must have been impressed enough to save it, which says something.

Pinterest also allows you to have two ‘secret’ boards not visible to anyone else looking at your pins. Just now I noticed one secret board I titled ‘aide memoire’ had just one puzzling image which I didn’t remember pinning –

so clicked on it to find this interesting little nail decorating website and vaguely remember posting it now, and why. I’m interested in embellishing with fine dots, so it is a reminder of a neat trick I might need sometime.

One of the biggest boards/collections I have on Pinterest is lines and shapes. of course, lines and shapes can be arranged infinite combinations. I could have ‘mark making’ too, but find all that goes just fine into ‘lines and shapes’.

Contemporary jewellery in a wide variety of media is a rich source for line/shape patterns, and comes in a wide variety of media available to all artisan craftsmen. Neck pieces, brooches and things that are almost garments offer plenty of presentation ideas for mixed media textile art – take the work of Helga Mogensen working in driftwood, fish skin and metals with fibre. Morgensen uses sturdy twine to fasten units together with knots and the freely dangling ends are a textural contrast, part of the overall design. Andrea Williams uses waterworn stones, precious metals and some natural fibres. Williams’ works look as if they’re somehow stitched or tied together, but these patterns of lines that look like stitches are in fact inlaid precious metals. Of course I have no intention of copying their works, but save/pin them merely because they are stimulating and inspiring, and sometimes suggest ideas for a new approach in my textile art.

All artists keep a file, plastic bag, shoebox or on online collection of inspiring images and ideas. This is the huge value of Pinterest.

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