The Dancing House

I have had roofers banging on my house for a good part of the week, so it’s been hard to concentrate. Speaking of houses, Vlado Milunić, one of the architects of the Dancing House in Prague, Czech Republic, died this week. He and Frank Gehry (who has a special affiliation with Philadelphia) designed the structure in 1992. Here’s a picture I took of the Dancing House in Prague a few years ago.

DancingHouse1

The Dancing House, Prague, Czech Republic

Polymer Clay in Tokyo

I recently rejoined the International Polymer Clay Association after letting my membership lapse for a few years and I’m glad I did. The IPCA is sponsoring a host of online activities, including regularly-scheduled Zoom meetings, weekly letters from dynamic President, Amy Brown, and a Design Lab series where members can have their work critiqued and evaluated. A couple of weeks ago, Amy wrote about her experiences in Japan while she served the US Navy as a segway into an introduction to the Japan Polymer Clay Association. This really took me back, so I would like to share some polymer-related Japanese memories of my own.

Kaz Yamashita was one of the artists whose work was featured in Nan Roche’s The New Clay. Kaz was living in the Washington D.C. metro area, when the book came out, and splitting her time between the D.C. area and Tokyo.

Around the same time, my husband wrote a book that they really liked in Japan. So a Japanese business group offered to fly him and some other business consultants and writers to Japan to address a gathering of their organization in Tokyo. And here’s how I know how much my husband loves me. He traded his first class ticket for two tickets in coach so I could go with him.

Needless to say, I didn’t know anyone in Tokyo and have a hard enough time with English, much less Japanese. But I had heard there was a polymer community in Japan and I did some Internet sleuthing. That’s I found out about Kaz, who by this time was called Kaz Kono. I emailed her out of the blue, and even though she didn’t know me, she answered with her contact information, and an invitation to look her up when we got to Tokyo.

We met up with Kaz and one of her students before my husband’s conference started. They gave us the grand tour of Tokyo and we ended up in the family restaurant run by the student’s sister. The kind with paper screens where you kneel at a table, drink Saki, and the waitresses wear beautiful kimonos. It was quite an experience. When we got home, I mailed the sisters Navajo pendants I’d bought in an Albuquerque pawn shop as a thank you. I wanted them to have something that was truly American.

At that time, Kaz was teaching in Japan and in the Philippines. She also started a Japanese polymer clay group.

Kaz had an exhibit in a gallery and asked me if I was interested in seeing her work. Was I ever! But she was leaving on a flight to D.C. the next day and couldn’t go with me. So she wrote out directions to the gallery from our hotel. In Japanese. My job was to take the Tokyo Metro to a certain station, head in a certain direction, stop people on the way, show them Kaz’s instructions, and have them point me in the right direction. I am not sure about now, but in those days, the Tokyo Metro system had signs with station names in English, but not much else. And not a lot of people on the street spoke English. And it didn’t really help to have an address, because of the way the streets were laid out. Buildings were numbered in the order in which they were built and not their physical location. The first building erected on a block was numbered 1 no matter where it stood. Number two might be somewhere down the block. There was no GPS. None of this really bothered me, because I have a terrible sense of direction and have grown quite comfortable with it. Odd, but true.   So I had to rely on gestures, and the accuracy of Kaz’s directions. And the kindness of strangers.

My walk took me down side streets and twisty little alleys. I didn’t know where I was going, but I soldiered on, asking (gesturing really) for directions as I went.

Then I came to a dry cleaning shop, and showed Kaz’s directions to the woman behind the counter. I still remember her big smile. She even spoke some English! She asked me where I was from and how I liked Tokyo, and then led me out of the store, and walked me a half block to the gallery. As we parted, she called, “Have a nice day!” The one time when someone’s said that to me where I really believed they meant it.

I bought this pendant at the gallery.

I also got Kaz’s cane pattern book. I have never seen it for sale anywhere else, so I’m glad I snagged a copy when I could.

A few years later, Kaz visited Philadelphia with a couple of her students in tow. I asked Ellen Marshall to join us for lunch, and for a tour of the neighborhood which includes Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Gardens just down the street. I had never met Zagar and the Magic Gardens weren’t open yet, but we just waltzed right in and he gave us a personal tour. The world’s smaller than you think.

A gift from Kaz’s students on their trip to Philadelphia

Be sure to check out the IPCA and click here to join.

The Cat Collection

I wasn’t always a cat lover, believe it or not. I didn’t dislike them, but I didn’t understand them. I loved dogs, but I didn’t get cats at all. Then, when I was in my 20’s, someone offered me a cat. It seemed like a reasonable proposition. I had mice in my apartment. So a cat named Electra came to live with me. That pretentious name had to go, and she became Pooky. It took me a year to get used to her. And then I was a cat lover.

That’s Pooky on the right in the little frame and her nemesis Bandersnatch on the left. Boris’s likeness is on the mug to the rear.

Pooky and Bandersnatch have gone to the bridge, as well as Plumpton who lived with us for 20 years.

Why did I start collecting cat memorabilia. Why do people collect anything? We traveled widely before the pandemic and it seemed nice to focus on one kind of travel memento. Plus I have a very small house and there’s not a lot of room to display things. An added benefit is that it makes it easy for people who want to give me a gift. I can always find room for another little cat on the three shelves and corner walls in my dining room that hold the collection. And unlike Pooky and Bandersnatch, the cats never fight with one another.

Boris

I haven’t shown all of the cats in this post. Even a cat lover needs a rest now and then. If you are ever in Amsterdam and want to see a great collection of feline keepsakes, be sure to check out The Katten Kabinet.

Ziggy Stardust (A cat from Japan)

Brunelleschi’s Dome

OK, I’ll admit that I haven’t travelled anywhere in a few months, but I am taking an online art history course and last week I learned about Brunelleschi’s dome, which is the dome that covers the the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in Florence, Italy. What is so special about this dome? It’s huge (375 feet tall) and it’s sitting 180 feet up in the air on top of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral. Fillipo Brunelleschi designed, engineered and built the dome on the top of the cathedral and finished the job in 1436. If you want to read about how he did it, I can recommend a book, Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King, which you can get on Amazon, here, or borrow from your local library or from the Internet Open Library and read on line. (Don’t forget to make a donation if you do.) I am still struggling with WordPress’s new block editor which supposed to make blogging so much easier.

The block editor doesn’t cut it for me.

But enough of my whining. Here are some pictures from a trip to Florence.

A shot out of my hotel window
Inside the cathedral looking up at the dome.
Cathedral entrance.

To read more about Brunelleschi’s dome, press here and here.

A Surprising Twist on Caning

6

I was wandering in the Alhambra complex in Granada Spain last year when I chanced on Laguna Taller de Taracea, a store and workshop offering splendid items for sale that were decorated with marquetry.  Marquetry is a design applied as a veneer that’s made up of  different types of wood, ivory, bone, and metal. The pieces are combined to form intricate geometric designs.  It’s usually applied to furniture, frames and boxes.

I was watching a demonstration of the process when someone in the crowd remarked that it must take a great deal of patience to cut out all those tiny pieces and fit them into the design.  “Not so,” replied the craftsman.  He held up an object which I immediately recognized as a cane.

After the demonstration was over,  I hung around to take some close up pictures of canes and some work in progress.

We polymer clayers have it drilled into our heads that we adapted the caning we use in our work from glass millefiori.  But canework is also a hallmark of marquetry, and the  style of marquetry found in Granada and the south of Spain follows in the tradition of Islamic geometric patterns and stays away from the figurative images you are more likely to see in European marquetry.

Here are some more pictures of the process and a video.

 

As for me,  I am continuing with the caning challenges put out by the Southern Connecticut Polymer Clay Guild and will let you see what I make in future posts.

Street Art in Lisbon

Last week’s post on the Philadelphia Fashion District referenced the Streetsdept.com blog which chronicles street art in Philadelphia.  I love street art because it’s free for the viewing,  usually relevant to current events, or a chronicle of  past events that need to be memorialized.  People have been drawing and writing on public walls since ancient times.  Street art can be viewed as a crime or high art.   I prefer to think of it as  public art.

Lisbon in Portugal has a lively and vibrant street art scene as I discovered on a  trip there earlier this year.  Here are some highlights:TheFoxLisbon89

The Fox covers the side of a building and is made up of junk and recycled materials.

Read more about the artist, Attero Bordalo II, here.

 

The Alfama District is home to some great street art including a mural dedicated to Fado singer Maria Severa Onofriana.

LisbonWalkingTourAlfama13Respect Stpry of Old Women Graffifi Artists

Here’s one of my favorite Lisbon murals.  It’s called “Respect” and is also in the Alfama District.  Apparently there is a whole cadre of senior street and graffiti artists in Lisbon.  We were told that this mural depicts one of them reacting when a younger colleague does not show her the respect to which she is entitled.  Read more about the older artists here.  Read the real story behind the Respect mural here.

Some more  Lisbon street art picturesLisbonWalkingTourAlfama76 2LisbonWalkingTourAlfama10IMG_7923IMG_6967IMG_6949IMG_6872IMG_6862IMG_6860

If you want to learn more about Lisbon street art, the Camels and Chocolate  blog is a good place to start.  Better yet, go to Lisbon and walk the streets.

 

 

Retreat to Pittsburgh

Patty’s car died so we decided to take the bus from Philly to Pittsburgh rather than rent a car, or go by train or plane.  It was pretty easy for me since the bus station is a few blocks from my house and my husband dragged my suitcase for me which was filled mostly with a pillow, some clothes and some beading implements.

OurBusIt’s a free for all when people disembark from a bus.  People don’t wait for the seats in front of them to empty before entering the aisles like they do on planes.   It’s like everyone on the bus forgets his manners or else they think someone on the sidewalk is giving out twenties and you won’t get one unless you trample the person in front of you.  But I found out that if I waved my arm cast around, people would stop in their tracks.  I had already decided that the cast looked like part of a super hero costume and I was right!  I wave it around and people fall aside like dominos. TAKE THAT!

MyNameTag.
I dressed my cast with this lovely name tag when I got to the Retreat.

WorkroomWe had a large and lovely work space although it soon became clear to me that I could not do much beadwork.  I can bead left handed but supporting the work with my right hand was not comfortable.  So I put the beadwork away and schmoozed.

KoiPondSpiratancenterI also got the changc to wander the grounds of the Spiritan Center where the retreat was held.  They  have lovely grounds and an incredible Koi pond.

Typing is still a bit uncomfortable for me.   So here are some pictures from the retreat for you to enjoy.  There was a lot of talent there!

Marionette Museum Lisbon

The Marionette Museum in Lisbon wasn’t mentioned in any of the guide books or web sites consulted before the trip.  But my friend Rachel, who had recently returned from Portugal, raved about it.  That and I have a penchant for traveling with Le Mutt who is the creation of puppeteer Francesca Hoerlein.  How could I resist?

The Lisbon Marionette Museum houses more than marionettes.  Its collection contains hand puppets, shadow puppets, masks, props and, of course marionettes from all over the world.

Greek

Puppets have been around for thousands of years.  There was a puppet theater in Greece in the 5th Century BCE.  And puppets might even be older than that.

We all remember puppet shows from our childhood.  But puppets are more than dolls used to entertain children.  Puppets tell stories, sometimes subversive stories, that live actors would not be allowed to perform.

punchandjudy

And puppets are are made from every material imaginable.  The Museum houses creations made of cloth, wood, class, metal and clay.  I am sure there are 3D printed puppets out there.

ClaymationSpaceman

Be sure to visit the Marionette Museum if you are in Lisbon.  It’s not a big museum-you can see the entire collection in a couple of hours-and you will be glad you did.  Here are some more pictures.

 

My New Polymer Clay Heroes

I’ve always known that I was a late bloomer.  I’d heard of Ana Belchi but never knew about her videos and free downloads until I subscribed to Studio Mojo.

I haven’t watched all Ana’s videos yet, but I’m working  on it.  I was delighted to learn that she also offers  some free templates on her web site for the projects she demonstrates in the videos.

Fiona Abel-Smith also has an incredible video where she demonstrates how to construct a 6-sided polymer box and how to cover it with a geometric cane pattern that she explains in great detail.  She has a number of other fascinating looking videos that are on my must watch list.

On another note, I recently came back from a trip to Spain and  Portugal and my head is swimming with all the beautiful tiles I saw in both countries.  I’ll post more on that later.

You never know when a stuffed animal will make you a new friend. Our traveling companion Le Mutt broke the ice when my husband and I dove into a Nepalese Restaurant near our Lisbon hotel seeking respite from the many fish and potato meals we had in Portugal (where the people are lovely but the food not so much.  This is a contentious subject.)   If you are ever in Lisbon, drop by Himchuli 

USThis is not the first time Le Mutt has  made friends in a foreign land.

Pictures from Seville and Granada

And on the way to Lisbon . . .

More to come!