Thursday, December 14, 2006

Japanese weaving styles

This is a part of an article on Japanese Kimono weaving that I recently read.

Twilight for the Kimono
A Venerable Japanese Weaver Toils and Watches As a Kyoto District's Humming Looms Fall Silent
Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Foreign ServiceWednesday, December 13, 2006; Page A23

His fingers muscled from almost a century of weaving, Yasujiro Yamaguchi worked the humming loom in his private workshop. Patiently lacing golden threads through a warp of auburn silk, he fashioned a bolt of kimono fabric blooming with an autumn garden in shades of tea green, ginger and plum.
But Yamaguchi, like Japan's signature kimono, is slipping into winter. At 102, he is among the last master weavers of Nishijin, the country's most celebrated kimono district, and his pace has slowed. He rubbed the morning chill from his knuckles, fitted his hunched shoulders deeper inside his indigo jacket and resolutely pushed on.
This kimono -- for the role of a willowy beauty in a classical Noh play, withering from the loss of her lover -- will take him a full year to make. If Yamaguchi doesn't finish it, there are few weavers left in Japan skilled enough to take over.
"This kimono must be beautiful, but there is also sorrow in the weave," Yamaguchi said, eyes trained on his stitch. "The audience will see this and immediately understand that the character is mourning for something precious, for something lost."
This requiem could apply to the Japanese kimono itself, and particularly Nishijin, the district that for 1,200 years has been the heart and soul of this nation's weaving tradition.
Since 794, when the imperial court arrived illustriously in the new capital of Kyoto, Nishijin has clothed emperors and shoguns, princesses and geisha, prime ministers and mistresses. It survived fires and floods, the post-World War II American occupation and, for decades more, fickle tastes. Twenty-five years ago, production of Nishijin kimonos and obi -- elaborate kimono sashes -- was thriving, with highflying Tokyo businessmen purchasing $25,000 kimonos for wives and lovers like so many boxes of roses.
But today, as a result of globalization and rapidly changing demographics, the kimono business has collapsed, its future in question. Sales are expected to sink to an all-time low this year, even as Japan has emerged from recession to experience its longest economic boom since World War II.
The prosperity has come with an altered set of cultural values. This is a country of manga comics and glittering animation. The rising moguls driving the new economy are more likely to buy muscled chrome from one of Tokyo's expanding list of Ferrari dealerships than drop their spoils on Kyoto silk.
As the kimono becomes more museum piece than couture item, what once made it quintessentially Japanese is gradually fading. Market realities have forced kimono makers to eschew expensive Japanese silk. As a result, more than 90 percent of new kimonos and obi made in Japan, including most of those from Nishijin's most venerable textile houses, are now woven from cheaper imported silk.
Like blue jeans in America, kimonos increasingly are not being made in Japan at all. In search of cut-rate labor, a growing number of ancient Japanese kimono houses have opened weaving factories in China. As the work drops off, younger Japanese craftsmen have deserted the industry in droves, leaving the last generation of masters with few heirs.
In Nishijin, the graying Yamaguchi is one of only three masters left who can create a kimono from scratch -- both conceptualizing and weaving with his own seasoned hands to infuse a garment with the intended wearer's personality. All three are over 70. None has an apprentice.
"It is a sign of the times," Yamaguchi said. "I am not sure who will carry on this tradition for future generations. I no longer have the time or energy to teach someone now. Even if I did, where would they work?"
Few garments are as tied to a nation as the kimono is to Japan. In a society that values the unspoken, its colors and patterns have for centuries served as an alternative form of speech. Without uttering a word, a well-chosen kimono can speak volumes about a wearer's sorrow or joy, animosity or amorousness. Restricting the legs to doll-like steps, the kimono changes the way both sexes walk, making even the clumsiest appear elegant. It is essential to the classical arts of Kabuki and Noh theater, the tea ceremony and ikebana, or flower arranging. In Murasaki Shikibu's 11th-century literary masterpiece, "The Tale of Genji," gifts of kimonos in scented silk are extensions of a romancing prince's spirit. The kimono is less a garment than a window into the Japanese soul.
Although a growing taste for Western clothing washed ashore more than a century ago, the kimono long remained the vanity garment of choice for major events in Japanese life. But now, the country's own demographics are working against it.
Fewer Japanese are marrying today than ever, and those who do largely shun traditional white wedding kimonos in favor of Western-style dresses. A declining birthrate, meanwhile, has meant fewer babies, which in turn has meant fewer sales of kimonos for children's coming-of-age rites. Nationwide, kimono sales have more than halved in the past decade.
Nowhere has the decline been felt more keenly than in Nishijin, home of Japan's finest -- and priciest -- kimonos and obi. Sales of Nishijin products fell from $2.7 billion in 1990 to a record low of $477 million last year, according to industry figures; during the same period, the district's production of kimonos dropped from 291,000 to just 87,382 garments.
At the same time, the ancient textile houses of Nishijin have fallen like cherry blossoms in late April. In 1980, there were about 1,200 kimono and obi factories and related businesses lining these ancient stone streets. Today, there are 606.
Once a lofty, ceremonious enterprise, even kimono-selling has been tainted by scandal in recent years, with desperate dealers pressuring retirees into taking out high-interest loans to buy exorbitantly priced kimonos. Faced with such accusations, the president of Azekura, a once-venerable dealer of Nishijin kimonos, committed suicide last March by jumping from the eighth floor of a Kyoto hotel. Other establishments have faded less dramatically, through bankruptcy filings and shuttered doors.
Some see a light for the industry in the unlikeliest of places -- Tokyo's hyper-hip Harajuku district, where Goth geisha in punk makeup and secondhand black kimonos strut the streets flaunting attitude and skull-faced leather purses.
"Right now, they are wearing cheap, used kimonos they bought for a few dollars in a bargain bin," said Toshimitsu Ikariyama, president of the Nishijin Textile Industrial Association. "But when these teenagers grow up and become prosperous, we hope they will be the start of a new generation who will wear more expensive and new kimonos for grace and beauty, the way their mothers and grandmothers did."
Others, however, are not counting on an organic recovery. Rather, they say, the industry must reinvent itself to survive.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I wear my heart on my tee!

This is an exhibition that I'm curating for 2007.

Calling for submissions from designers, fashion labels and artists for the exhibition, it will celebrate the art of the t-shirt.

Applications close on Monday 5 February 2007 and guidelines and details are available if you email

The exhibition will be at Town Hall Gallery, rear 358 Burwood Road, Hawthorn.

Or you can go to for more info as well.

I guess I wanted to make a show that was fun as well as showing off my obsession for t-shirts!

Friday, December 8, 2006

Moscow Mules and no not the shoe!

Moscow Mules
And no, they’re not a shoe!

When the weather becomes warmer, I always feel the need for something fruity in my vodka. It makes me feel like Summer. Bare flesh, fabulous cocktails, my favourite tunes and dancing. I had been going back to the classics of late, there is nothing better than a classic vodka drink, the martini, the long vodka, the Moscow mule.

I guess the Moscow mule always appealed to me as I have a love of Russian military regalia. I’ve always liked to play dress up and pretend that I’m a sexy agent of the KGB who’s mission it is to infiltrate bars and turn foreign agents to my side.

So on an evening where everything was pink, over the top and mainstream gay, I thought it best to return to a little bit of old time glamour.

I wouldn’t classify myself as a Moscow mule expert but I know a well mixed one from a poor imitation. It was with this that I had to laugh to myself when during a recent research adventure that a well-tanked gentleman at my local bar tried to tell me the joys of a ‘vodka, ginger and lime’. It was at this point and after my sixth martini that I had to cut him off and say;
“Yeah I know, it’s called a Moscow Mule, it’s one of the most famous and classic vodka cocktails and originally it was made with ginger beer. I know what it is and what it tastes like, thank you very much”
Was that being too much of a smart arse? There is nothing more annoying than a drunken bar fly attempting to teach you the ways of their drink, like they invented it – a classic! Insert frustrating scream here!

What is the Moscow mule?
- vodka
- ginger beer or ale though this one can be disputed
- lime

When is it best drunk?
This drink can be enjoyed any time but it certainly has a summer flavour to it. The fresh lime and ginger aroma has the breeze of summertime in it and Moscow mules can be enjoyed during lazy summer afternoons in beautiful surroundings. A very different image to the snow laden streets of Moscow. I believe that most moscowites would be having their vodka neat and straight.

Who is this for?
This classic drink is for people who enjoy a cocktail that isn’t too sweet. It should always be served in a long glass, plenty of ice and the lime fresh. This stylish drink is for men and women (as my drinking partner Willis can tell!) but it should always be created by a bar attendant who knows what they are doing. If you ask for a ‘moscow mule’ and they look at you blankly, probably best to order a beer. Bar attendants who went through the old school training of cocktail preparation, will have this one done pat.My personal preference on vodka for a mule is Zubrowka (Bison) vodka from Poland. It’s fresh taste from the infused Bison grass gives the mule added depth.

Now that communism is dead, my life feels so empty

Who is…
Miss Mollie Moscow, questionable communist, Vodka connoisseur, girl about town.

Culture Cocktail – Now that Communism is Dead My life feels empty

With the Melbourne International Arts Festival well and truly over, I attended the last performance of ‘Now that Communism is Dead, My Life feels empty’ at the Malthouse. A scaled back performance staring Benjamin Winspear, Gibson Nolle and Rebecca Smee, it had many a grey haired person in the audience squirming from the nudity and dolls on leashes who were referred to as Pavlov’s dogs. All in all a great performance though a little like a David Lynch movie, something that would be great to see again to fully understand. However when walking out of the sold out performance, I asked myself, “Now that Communism is Dead, does Miss Mollie Moscow’s life feel empty?”

I thought that this was very hard to answer, and the answer would likely be ‘no’. If communism is dead to us in the former Soviet Union, why can I still visit bars that proudly fly the iconic symbols of the red star and the hammer and sickle? I can walk the streets displaying all my soviet communist military regalia without a second look from a passer-by, and yeah I’m happy. There are so many remnants of my past life as a communist that I almost question that Communism (the dreaded C-word in the USA) is dead! Though I would be happier if someone could invent ipod speakers for the flaps of my ushanka, when those flaps are down, I can’t hear anything!!!

So while everyone may think that Communism is dead and that we are all so empty, here are 2 things that I’ll be doing over the weekend to fill the missing Communist void!

Vulgargrad – playing at the Famous Spiegeltent every Sunday night until 19 Nov from 11.30pm. A cult band playing a sensational repertoire of Russian criminal songs. It’s a night of Vladivostok daiquiris and vodka shots, Perestroika punk and gypsy skank. Featuring the incredible vocals of Jacek Koman (otherwise renowned for his raucous tango rendition of Roxanne in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge).
Dress Code: Russian criminal tattoos, ushankas and hip flasks of vodka.

And finally!!! Melbourne is about to open it’s first Ice Bar!
Ice Bar is at 296 Russell Street, Melbourne and officially opens on Friday 10 November. Patrons pay a flat fee of $30 for parkas, gloves and boots to drink some of the best vodka cocktails out of ice glasses in some of the most stunning ice interiors. Occupational health and safety regulations mean the longest anybody can stay in the bar is 30 minutes but there is a non-ice bar upstairs for those wishing to indulge a little longer and to check out their photos of the ice!

Na zdrowie! With health! Miss Mollie Moscow. xxx

The Joys of Vodka

Who is…
Miss Mollie Moscow, tovarich to all, Vodka connoisseur, girl about town.

If you haven’t noticed from the continual catch cry of Vodka connoisseur following my name, you may not realize that I’m a big fan of vodka. Well being from Moscow, there’s not much choice. It’s cheaper to drink vodka than a latte. There are a few things that you should know when I declare my passion for vodka.
I’m a purist, I like it straight, on ice and usually with no kind of flavourings
My top 3 vodkas are of Polish origin, I’m make no apologies for turning my back on the mother country, the Poles simply make it better and smoother.
Miss Mollie Moscow makes one of the meanest dirty Belvedere martinis in both Manhattan and Melbourne.
So I thought that I would spend a little time on some of the fabulous vodka tips that you may wish to incorporate them into your day when feeling particularly Bolshevik like.

Toasting: It is sinful not to toast your vodka, look your toastee clearly in the eye and call out “Na zdrowie” or my favourite is “tovarich” which is friend or comrade and after a few vodkas in Moscow, everyone is your tovarich or friend, depending on who’s buying!

Know your bartender! It is a labour of love mixing cocktails and making small talk with your patrons. You know that you’ve created that special bond when you walk into your local bar and the person behind the bar says “ very, very dirty Belvedere martini, 3 olives?” She makes it sound like a question and a statement and already knows the answer. It is difficult to find a great martini but when you have, it’s like seeing the love of your life for the first time; bright lights, muted sounds, heart beating quickly and the focus of the prize.

Miss Mollie Moscow’s bars for learning about vodka
For something close to home, the Undertaker in Hawthorn has a fantastic selection of vodka and know how to make a solid basic martini at a good price. A good tip is to ask what the house vodka is, if it is anything other than Smirnoff, such as Belvedere, you’re onto a winner. The Undertaker has great staff who take the time to get the ingredients right. ««««

For breakfast try Red Lemon on Swan Street in Richmond, run by a bunch from eastern Europe, they have a small but excellent selection of only Polish vodkas. For those wishing to get a hairy chest, try the Gorbachov breakfast, scrambled eggs and 2 shots of vodka, no toast for $12. . One of the best places to hang out after a big night! ««««

Make a Miss Mollie Moscow cocktail!
With the warmer weather coming up try a refreshing Miss Mollie Moscow.
2 oz of good quality vodka
raspberry sorbet
schweppes Ciata
Shake vodka and ice in a cocktail shaker, pour over 3 ice cubes in a tall glass. Add a good sized scoop of raspberry sorbet and fill glass with schweppes Ciata sof tdrink. Add straw and enjoy!

I'm Mobile phone jinxed!

Who is…
Miss Mollie Moscow, mobile phone jinxed, Vodka connoisseur, girl about town.

First Dates and the curse of the mobile phone. (or never ever rely on your phone’s memory for a phone number!)

I’m finding it incredibly ironic that I went along to the Russian Film Festival recently to review a film about finding love and mix ups with mobile phones, only to have experienced my own movie like drama that unfolded like its cinematic twin.
To give you the background, I had met a lovely non-Russian man recently and had arranged a
dinner/drinks date, with the intention that if all went well, we would met up for the film festival.
We had met at a bar over a glass of vodka, exchanged numbers directly into our phones and left our correspondence to a few messages during the week.

I was feeling excited about my potential date, I had a cute outfit selected and was feeling generally positive about the experience. We had loads in common and he had many ‘ticks’ on my list of what I looked for in a partner. So I was just going to wait the day out until we spoke to arrange where and what time we would meet. Then my mobile phone screen made a bleep and vanished into a blur of multi coloured pixels. I didn’t panic immediately, it wasn’t the first time my mobile had died. Like a dysfunctional photocopier, I decided to turn it off and turn it back on. The only problem is when I pushed the button on, instead of it stating Nokia, it was something more like Zulbio. Frantically I pushed buttons to no avail and then realised “I don’t have this guys number any where else than the phone memory” Please insert panicked blood curdling scream here!

I sat there for a moment before making a mental list of what I was going to do to get myself out of this predicament. First step was to get another phone. I visited my phone store and made the semi outrageous claim that I was flying back to Moscow later that evening and like air, I needed my phone. But not only did I need the phone but I also needed a VIP number inside that phone! Well, I did get out of paying the $380 cancellation fee, I got a fantastic new phone for free, but after much pleading and technological mobile messing around, I did not come out with this much needed phone number. I didn’t even know this guys last name! In the KGB, we simply go by what vodka you drink and a code name. However like the KGB, I did know where he lived. Was it too much to just turn up at his house? Was this taking stalking to a more professional level? After several hours, I turned up on his door step.

In a nutshell, our date was fantastic, there was Polish vodka, calls of Na Zdrowie, he didn’t think I was stalking him, I think he found it very amusing and therefore we accompanied one another to Petersburg FM and Solaris at the Russian Film Festival at ACMI. P.S – yes there will be more dates! And yes, I have written his phone number down somewhere else than in my phone.

Culture Cocktail - Review
Petersburg FM: described as a romantic comedy, the film follows two characters Masha, a DJ at a popular St.Petersburg radio station and who is unsure that her designer label driven fiancĂ© is “the one”, and Maxim, an emerging architect who is about to move to Germany to pursue his career. Masha loses her mobile phone only to have Maxim find it in the street. Feeling lost without her phone, she calls it to arrange a meeting for its return. What results is a game of phone tag and missed meetings as Masha and Maxim realise that although they haven’t met face to face, they have loads in common. Many laughs to be had, especially when you are asking yourself how this phone has a battery life of an every ready bunny as the phone starts to beep at the end of the movie. Watch out for it potentially on SBS or at good art house video rentals.

Miss Mollie Moscow and Moscow Skate Parks

Who is…
Miss Mollie Moscow, skateboarder, Vodka connoisseur, girl about town.

Fashion Passion
Skating yourself fit… Moscow skate parks.

A few months ago I made the commitment to purchase a new deck and to get rid of the skateboard I had been riding for many years. I was spurred on by dating an Irishman who apparently had been skating for 4 years but during our romance I actually never saw his Vans clad feet on a deck. My only conclusion was that he couldn’t skate to save his life and the fact that I could and had been since I was in single digits, was totally crushing his ego. In reality my need for Russian revenge led me to reinvent my passion for crashing! After all isn’t that what skating is?!

My renewed love for skating has increased after reading an article recently that if you skate for 30 minutes 3 times a week you could lose 2.5 kilos a month! Also, with the price of fuel the way it is and no Moscow-stylin black markets popping up anywhere soon in Melbourne for fuel, skating is definitely looking like an option! Maybe something for the health and wellbeing program in Boroondara?!

I’m also glad to say that whilst watching the Russian news on SBS, skating fever has hit us in Moscow too! On May 14 and 15 the first ever international pro event in skate, bike and inline skating hit Moscow at the Luzhniki Olympic Complex on a portable street course. All of the big brand sponsors were there, Element, DC etc with fantastic soviet wording in graffiti style. Moscow proved itself with great talent, which isn’t surprising considering how fearless and crazy the youth are there!
Miss Mollie Moscow’s tip, watch out for some new pro skaters coming out of the eastern block with ushanka styled helmets that give additional padding.

Culture Cocktail.
Upcoming opportunities, hope to see you there!
Russian Film Festival @ ACMI Cinemas, Fed square, 5-10 October
For full listings go to
Ah, some cinematic gems from the mother country, a wide range of films are being shown including Stalinist dramas and contemporary St.Petersburg DJ life.

Miss Mollie Moscow’s pick of the festival!..
Piranha Andrei Kavun, 125 mins, Russia, 2006This high-energy action adventure and Russian box office hit has all the bravado and tension of Die Hard, the plot of classic Bond, and the tongue-in-cheek humour of Indiana Jones. Who doesn’t love an action rip-off?!
Sun 8 Oct 8.45pm, Mon 9 Oct 9pm

Na zdrowie! With health! Miss Mollie Moscow. xxx

The Return of The Ushanka

Who is…
Miss Mollie Moscow, Ushanka wearer, Vodka connoisseur, girl about town.

Fashion Passion
The return of the Ushanka.

I know that Spring and Summer is coming upon us but I have to tell you all of the latest fashions coming direct from not only St.Petersburg but also New York City and the secret is that the Ushanka is back! It may not be an item that you will be wearing at the Spring Races but for the cooler months, especially if you are flying to NYC for Christmas or Eastern Europe like me, the ushanka is a must. For the lovers of animals, you can purchase from Russia gorgeous faux fur ushankas that are just as soft and realistic as their rabbit fur counterparts and no one will know the difference. Don’t be fearful by the fact that they are ex-KGB stock, those guys knew how to dress. If Dr.Zhivago is among your movie collection, embrace the ushanka. If I had a dollar for every person that petted my ushanka and commented on how beautiful it was the other week while on a girl’s night out, I’d be buying the Stolichnaya distillery and retiring!

Tommy Hillfiger has just shown a fabulous collection of Ushankas in his last advertising campaign and watch out for the new copy of Vanity Fair with Kate Moss wearing not much more than a white Ushanka.

FYI…Ushanka roughly translates as hat with ear flaps but you can wear the flaps up or down.

Celebrity Sightings
This one is a little old but still a good one. With Aussie Idol hitting our screens again and the return of B grade celebrities with a one-year use by date, it’s still good to see good some real celebrities in Melbourne.
While I was recently at the only Sonic Youth gig in Melbourne, I bumped into the ever crazy and gorgeous Johnny Knoxville of Jackass fame. Between you and me, a can of VB never left Mr. Knoxville’s hand and he was well up for some dancing by the time legends Sonic Youth entered the arena. Knoxville and Steve-O also from Jackass were in the country filming parts for the latest Wolfmother film clip, they are huge fans. And they were on the door list as part of some Very Important Guests of Sonic Youth.

Culture Cocktail.
Upcoming opportunities, hope to see you there!

George Orwell’s 1984 directed by Tim Robbins (from the film The Shawshank Redemption)
Warning course language and nudity.
@ the Arts Centre, Melbourne from 12-15 October bookings at ticketmaster
MMM will be reviewing in upcoming weeks
Forget Big Brother, see the real thing on stage with the adaptation of George Orwell’s classic tale 1984.

Meredith Music Festival – December
Tickets go on sale Tuesday September 12 – book early, they go quickly
This year’s line up includes those crazy Norwegians Datarock, who I saw early this year and are not to be missed! Their blend of groovy dance beats and funny lyrics (including an ode to Molly Ringwald ala Pretty In Pink and another Mollie!) These guys in their matching track suits and hilarious dance moves will be the toast of Meredith!

Na zdrowie! With health! Miss Mollie Moscow. xxx

Thursday, December 7, 2006

My Alter Ego Miss Mollie Moscow

I guess I often felt like an only child seeing my brother is so much older than me so that may explain why I love creating alter egos for myself and producing all sorts of bizarre worlds for them to live in. This is Miss Mollie Moscow, generally she's a bit of a trouble maker. She is a vodka connessieur and girl about town. She's kind of like a Russian Carrie Bradshaw from Sex In the City. She always gets free drinks at fabulous bars and she always has her finger on the pulse. Miss Mollie Moscow (or MMM as some know her as) writes a collumn about general things that are going on. She will post some stories for you all to read in the near future.

Some Stuff that's going to Munich

These are a few tapestries that have been accepted to travel to a huge show in Munich Germany called Talente 2007. The show will be held from 8-14 March 2007.
I'm pretty excited about being accepted as it was my absolute last change to take part in it (you have to be under 30 at time of exhibiting) so essentially I will be too old next year!
I made the slight crazy decision to fly over for a week to see the show and hopefully meet some other young/ish craft masters from all over the world. Apparently there are 90 people exhibiting from 25 countries, though Australia has a huge contingent of 8. We rock the craft world...
The first 2 tapestries are the latest things that I've been working on, the Vogue RSVP is an older work but you can still see my love for depicting people and fashion blah,blah,blah...
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