Thursday, February 22, 2018

Bojagin: The Gift of Travel

Wrapping cloth unfurled

Cloth in use

A recent visit to a show on the history of Korean fashion at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco stimulated an interest in "bojagin," Korean wrapping cloths, a tradition that dates back to the Three Kingdoms period (55 BC to 668 AD). Usually square, they are stitched using pieced cloth, often silk or ramie. Those employing patchwork or scrap fabric are known as "chogak bo." A particularly charming aspect of this tradition is concern for that which is being wrapped, to the point where a bojagin may be created especially to wrap a specific object. 

Close-up detail

I started stitching my own chogak bo and got completely hooked. Here is the first in a frankly obsessive series.

Close-up detail

My bojagin are technically chogak bo, since they are all stitched from scraps and remnants, some recent acquisitions, and some that have been in my possession for over fifty years. My wrapping cloths are also a themed interplay between the cloth and the object to be wrapped.

Corner detail

Materials for this wrapping cloth include scraps of a 150-year-old Indian temple sari, woven cloth from Guatemala, assorted beads, a scrap of upholstery fabric, an odd medallion of an Arab woman of unknown origin, and a Laotian 500 kip note.

Close-up detail

The object to be wrapped is a carved wood Buddha from Laos in the "no more fighting" pose.

Carved wood Buddha

And finally we have the object wrapped.

Wrapped Buddha

Stay tuned over the next few weeks for many more wrapping cloths to come.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Take Back the Nightshirt

Pam encounters herself in the Take Back the Nightshirt

Experiments with t-shirts and lace continue. I still have lots and lots of Tennessee Williams' mother's curtains at my disposal (for the back story on how I got the curtains, and to see the original art piece created from these voluminous drapery sheers, see Rise and Shine: Tennessee William's Mother's Curtains). For this version of the nightshirt, I decided to substitute the sheers for the lace.

The original inspiration for the t-shirt and lace nightshirt came during a spiritual retreat at Findhorn in northern Scotland. Our group for the week was a motley international mix of ages, inclinations, neuroses, and nationalities. My roommate Sondra, a high-powered, type-A businesswoman from Hong Kong, appeared one night in our bedroom wearing what appeared to be a regular old t-shirt with a deep border of lace on the hem. I jumped (as well as I am able at this point in life) out of bed to inspect the garment more closely. Below is a photo of Sondra, clearly sliding from type A down to type P or Q after feeling the Findhorn influence of fairies and garden sprites.

Sondra, looser than when she arrived at Findhorn.

My first stab at creatively interpreting Sondra's nightshirt was a children's wear twist on the theme (which tosses in two poets for good measure), The Longfellow, Williams, Milne Memorial Nightshirt for Fractious Young Women. This time around I tried an adult version. In both cases the shirts were failures in a sense: they are just too charming to be worn in the dark. 

The Take Back the Nightshirt

This version of the nightshirt incorporates a large, gray, man's t-shirt from the thrift store, a swath of Tennessee William's mother's curtains, and a length of white ribbon. 

Border detail: the "rise and shine" quote

I have once again used a Willliams' quote from The Glass Menagerie: "Every time you come in yelling that God damn 'Rise and Shine!' 'Rise and Shine!' I say to myself, 'How lucky dead people are.'" I suppose that could be seen as depressing, but those among us who are "bad-waker-uppers" will appreciate the sentiment. The letters were hand-printed onto the ribbon using a vintage alphabet printing set.

Detail: polka dot

For the polka dots, I used a cardboard template to cut out a bunch of circles from the drapery sheers and then used a simple blanket stitch to attach them to the t-shirt and keep the edges from unraveling.

And here is my friend Pam doing a fabulous job of modeling the Take Back the Nightshirt.

Note the single polka dot, center back.

Pam, experiencing the power that only a Take Back the Nightshirt can endow.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Life Lesson #1: Burnt Toast

This is what happens when you burn your toast and start playing with tin foil letters, cut with excruciating care using an X-acto knife, and a very old, very vivid memory. I went through a lot of toast getting the lettering to work. Now I may or may not start playing with burnt toast and tin foil stencils, but for the moment the urge is satisfied.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Shisha Stitching: The Trickle-Down Tie

The Trickle-Down Tie

Label on back of tie

Having trouble understanding the 2017 Republican tax bill? No worries — the latest item in our false product line helps explain how it works perfectly (while also serving as the ideal accessory for the heartlessly capitalistic). Coins in various denominations have been artfully attached to a thrift store tie using the ancient Indian art of shisha stitching, commonly seen on traditional mirror-cloth. We start with a quarter for those at the very top and then descend down through dimes, a nickel, a penny, and finally, for the truly poor, absolutely nothing.

How it works
If you want to stitch your own trickle-down tie, google "shisha embroidery" and start practicing. You'll be seeing more of my shisha work soon. Meanwhile, some detail photos of this piece:

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Longfellow, Williams, Milne Memorial Nightshirt for Fractious Young Women

This post could just as easily be called "Big Fun Fooling Around with Upcycled T-shirts." It began with an extra-large man's T-shirt from the thrift store. The lace edging at the hem and the added collar came from the Oakland Museum White Elephant Sale (in that last 60 minutes when you get all you can stuff in a bag for a dollar). The lace polka dots were cut from Tennessee Williams' mother's curtains. Yes, they were really her curtains, and I've used them before in these projects: 1) Rise and Shine: Tennessee Williams' Mother's Curtains; 2) Rise and Shine II: Working with Scraps. These curtains are an endless source of material and entertainment. As I continue to fool around with T-shirts, you'll see them appear again in my next post. But for now, let's focus on the fractious young woman's ensemble:

Fractious Young Woman's Nightshirt

I also had fun during this project with a vintage alphabet printing kit. The focus was on quotes about fractious young women, including Longfellow:

Detail of key words from Longfellow's poem

The ribbon edging the lacy hem is printed with key words from Longfellow's classic, "There Was a Little Girl."

THERE was a little girl,
And she had a little curl
  Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good
She was very, very good,        5
  And when she was bad she was horrid.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Detail of key words from A.A. Milne
"The collar contains key words from one of my A.A. Milne favorites: "Rice Pudding."

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She's crying with all her might and main,
And she won't eat her dinner - rice pudding again -
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
I've promised her dolls and a daisy-chain,
And a book about animals - all in vain -
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She's perfectly well, and she hasn't a pain;
But, look at her, now she's beginning again! -
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
I've promised her sweets and a ride in the train,
And I've begged her to stop for a bit and explain -
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She's perfectly well and she hasn't a pain,
And it's lovely rice pudding for dinner again!
What is the matter with Mary Jane
- AA Milne

From Tennessee Williams' quote

And finally, because my mother woke me up every morning of my childhood with the cry, "Rise and shine!" accompanied by a pull on the window shade which rattled up to flood my bedroom with an unwelcome glare, I used a Williams' quote from "The Glass Menagerie," using the key words to edge each polka dots fashioned from his mother's curtains.

“Every time you come in yelling that God damn "Rise and Shine!" "Rise and Shine!" I say to myself, "How lucky dead people are!” 
― Tennessee WilliamsThe Glass Menagerie

While the concept began as a nightshirt, when my little six-year-old recipient put it on it seemed like such a perfect dress for everyday use that she has been wearing ever since.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tangerine Bird Silhouettes

Swallow silhouette

The previous post, Brussels Sprouts Holiday Branch, featured a variety of bird silhouettes carved from tangerine peels for decoration. Here are the how-to instructions for making your own bird silhouette decorations, to be used on a Christmas tree or just hung in a window to brighten your day with their orange glow as the sun shines through. 

I cut my tangerines in half vertically because I end up with more useable peel surface that way. Once your tangerine is cut in half, use a spoon to remove the fruit inside and to scrape all (or at least most) of the white pith from the inside of the peel. Be gentle but firm. This is a learn-as-you-go technique, figuring out how to be gentle enough not to tear the peel, but firm enough so that you remove the pith.

Scraping the pith from inside the peel

Either copy and print the image below, or download a printable PDF of this bird template sheet using this link: Tangerine Silhouettes.

Bird silhouettes: 8.5 x 11 sheet

The smaller silhouettes are suitable for use with tangerines; the larger silhouettes work well for use with oranges. Cut out birds, leaving a little space around each bird (you're not fine-cutting the silhouette yet). Glue each bird silhouette to a piece of tangerine peel using an ordinary old glue stick. This part of the process is a bit of a puzzle, shifting pieces around until you find a perfect fit between your silhouette and your section of tangerine peel.

Glueing silhouettes to sections of peel.

Use an X-acto knife with a clean, sharp blade to carefully cut out each silhouette.

Cut out silhouette using an exacto knife

Once you have finished cutting out your tangerine silhouette, simply wash off the paper and glue and pat the tangerine silhouette dry with a paper towel. At this point, use wire or thread and pierce a little hole in the top of your silhouette for hanging. You want to do this while the tangerine skin is still soft. Once dried, it will be brittle, hard, and difficult to do.

You have a couple of options for drying your tangerine bird silhouettes. I have found sand (available from any garden shop) works well, particularly when making tangerine boxes (another fun project you can find by following this link: Orange, Lemon and Lime Boxes). See example of bird silhouettes drying in sand below, but be aware that you want to completely cover the silhouettes with sand once you've placed them on the sand bed. 

Drying silhouettes using a bed of sand

Alternatively, you can press your silhouettes between several layers of paper towels, using a stack of books on top. Change the paper towels every few hours if using this technique. You want the end result to be totally dry and flat. Either the sand or press technique will take a couple of days. If you've dried them correctly, your decorations should last for several years.

Hanging owl silhouette

For an alternative, easier version of tangerine/orange decorations, try making star hangings: Idle Moments, Tangerine Stars.

Have fun, and enjoy the olfactory bonus as your home is suffused with the wonderful aroma of tangerines.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Brussels Sprouts Holiday Branch: Let the Revels Begin!

"Oh brussels branch, oh brussels branch..."

Here is a project that has been on my to-do list for years, ever since Trader Joe's began carrying veggie-laden Brussels sprouts branches as a holiday special just before Thanksgiving every year. The Brussels branch is a prime candidate for a new holiday tradition and of course, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, every element of the holiday Brussels branch is edible. lovely are thy branches...

For those of you from around the world who don't celebrate this gluttonous holiday feast, feel free to incorporate the Brussels branch into your holiday festivities however you wish — as an alternative, edible Christmas tree, as a symbol of hope for the new year, as a pagan post for your Druid dances in the forest.

Tips and how-to advice:

• The upper, horizontal stalks provide supports for hanging decorations. The lower part of the branch remains solid sprouts.

• This holiday branch incorporates strung, fresh cranberries and bird silhouettes fashioned from tangerine peels. In less than a week I will be adding a how-to post to this blog about making your own orange and tangerine-peel silhouette decorations. You may, of course, decorate your own Brussels branch however you wish.

• The pot shown here has no holes on the bottom. It contains a little water to keep the branch fresh. More importantly, it contains a few big, heavy rocks to anchor the branch and offer it a little positioning support.

And now, enjoy some close-ups of my lovely Brussels branch and feel free to hum along to the classical holiday tune, "O Tannenbaum," substituting the phrase "Brussels branch" for "tannenbaum."

For truly dedicated revelers who are curious about how to go about actually eating their holiday branch once the festivities are over, here is a recipe for Cranberry Clementine Brussels Sprouts with Brown Sugar Glaze. Bon appétit - and stay tuned for the next posting on making orange and tangerine silhouette decorations. 

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