Friday, July 27, 2012

Look at those Legs...

Today's legs, #marimekko bag & dress Legs today... Funny that they were matching @paintergirl legs! Heading to work... #marimekko It's a red tights kinda day! Graphic and patterns! #marimekko #knits It's a mustard tights kinda day... Where's my hot dog?!!!
Bit of a photo bomb of some of the photos of my tights and shoes that I've been taking. It would make a pretty amazing tapestry. Great colours! I also love my kitchen tiles too, they are super retro.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Buy Nothing...

Today's outfit: #marimekko striped cardigan & bag... Colour rules!
Grab your bag and get ready to shop?

I have been thinking about consumption for quite sometime, heck, I even spoke about it in my Masters thesis back in the day but a recent article in The Age about Buy Nothing New Month and it's founder Tamara DiMattina made me want to share some thoughts about buying stuff.

In the article Conscientious Consumption, Tamara spoke about the Buy Nothing New Month concept:

''It's taking the month of October to reassess how much we buy, what we buy and why. It's saying every time you're going to buy something, think to yourself 'Do I really need it?' If you do - bingo, proceed to the cash register. It's really trying to get people to think: 'Do I need it? Are there alternatives? Can I reuse something at home? Can I get it second hand? Can I borrow it or can I swap something for it? How can we really maximise the stuff that we already have instead of constantly acquiring new stuff?' ''

It's a great idea really but something that I think that needs to be continued throughout the year.  Don't get me wrong, I adore shopping. I love window shopping even.  I even enjoy going to the airport early to peruse the duty free shops.  However over the last few years I have become much more selective in my purchases and it all started when I thought about how much landfill cheap and poorly manufactured clothing was contributing to.

As a home sewer and knitter, I get so much enjoyment out of spending time to create something special and 'well made'.  It is the thought of achieving something at the end but also having an item that fits me perfectly, is original and will last that keeps me making. 

ikea dress 002
In one of my favourite creations!

A few years ago, I went on a super spree of making my own clothes.  As a New Year's resolution, I committed to not buy the expensive dresses I had been (albeit of high quality) and instead to sew dresses that met my needs - what can I say, I love pockets in my dresses!  So I sewed and sewed and only purchased items I needed like underwear and shoes for work.  I got so many comments on my hand made dresses and I realized that they were being worn over and over and not falling apart! I started to add up in my head the 'real cost' of 'affordable' t-shirts and tops and decided that I had to stop.

I have to admit that my 'sewing a wardrobe' comes in spurts.  I'm ok with that  and really you need to work when you have the inspiration.  The same with my knitting, and I have recently discovered the joys of hand made socks and also making socks out of the left over bits of yarn from other projects!  How's that for using up stuff!

So I have a bit of a mantra now about my consumption.  It works for me, it may not work for everyone but I know that I sleep better at night and also I feel that my life isn't so crazy either!  So here are some of my changes in the attempt to be a conscientious consumer.

The Bargain Bin (image courtesy of here.)

  • I've stopped being persuaded by sales.  Yes, I still buy items on sale but only if they are from good quality and reputable designers.  You won't find me at the bargain bins of Sportsgirl, Forever 21 etc.
  • I only buy clothing that fits me and that I find comfortable.  I figure that if I love it and it's super comfortable then it's going to get worn alot! It's like shoes, I prefer to support artisans who can hand make me some super shoes that will last me for many years.  Spending a few hundred dollars on shoes that I wear several times a week over 5 to 6 years is better than spending $80 only to throw them out after 6 months.
  • I don't frequent op-shops as much.  I know this sounds crazy but the amount of times I've bought items that didn't fit well or I didn't love 100% because they were $5 only to return them to the op shop in a years time.
  • I check the fabric and look at how it is made.  If it looks like it isn't going to last for more than a year, I don't buy it.  My winter coat is something I bought in 2009 and I'm still wearing it around well!  Having a good knowledge of how fabrics react means that you can make more informed decisions on quality and wash and wear.  I rarely send items to the dry-cleaner as they are harsh on fabrics, instead I gently wash items and hang them.
  • I polish my leather shoes regularly and have them re-soled by a cobbler.  Having a father who was a bootmaker, it was drilled into me about looking after your good quality shoes.
  • I shop from designers who I admire, have great quality and styles that suit my body type.  If you have something that looks great on, you are going to wear it and look after it, therefore it lasts longer.  I don't necessarily buy timeless pieces but I buy pieces that fit 'my look' and wardrobe. I don't need the latest trends.
  • I don't shop as leisure time.  I do shop when I'm on vacation but still follow my mantra!  Instead my leisure time is knitting or sewing with friends, gardening, reading etc.
I understand that it is hard to make changes and these are just changes that I'm making.  There are people out there who can't afford to buy 'high quality' clothes and I have the luxury of doing this but if everyone thinks about what they are buying and if they really need something, we will all be making a change for the better.

On a side note, the items that I have bought this year have been worn heaps!  I'm not afraid to wear my dresses more than once and I have dresses that I wear all year around, with a sweater and tights.  Last year I cleared out loads of clothing items that didn't fit me well or I didn't like that much.  They went to good homes, sold on eBay or at at Take 2 Market or to charity.  My wardrobe is much more organized and I'm wearing things that I bought 4 years ago and I still love them!  Keeping a list of our consumption really makes you think about what you need.  We don't have to be saints but it's a great conversation to keep having.

* This post has mostly focused on shopping for fashion or clothing otherwise it would of been too long and crazy but I will post about conscientious shopping for other things in the future.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

So Tapestry is the New Black...

Always happy to get an eye done... Inspired by @catcallmusic !
Image:  Mardi Nowak, tapestry in progress, 2012.

There's been a bunch of tapestry folk sharing this recent article from the Independent Newspaper in the UK and I wanted to add it for others to read here too.The original link to this article can be found here.

'Weave Got Style: From Marc Quinn to Tracey Emim, tapestry is the art world's latest love.'
by Charlotte Philby.

Forget dusty old wall-hangings – tapestry has become the coolest art form around.

Think tapestry: what springs to mind? Fusty wall-hangings in stately homes? Grim scenes of wounded animals caught up in battle? Probably not modern art. But it may be time to think again, as a new breed of weavers re-imagine the art world's most laborious form for the 21st century. Last year, Tracey Emin exhibited a series of pieces, created with the help of West Dean Tapestry Studio, at London's White Cube, while Penelope's Labour – a show of new tapestries from artists including Marc Quinn and Grayson Perry – wowed crowds at the Venice Biennale.

Right now, massive, mind-bogglingly graphic woven epics by the celebrated photographer Craigie Horsfield on the theme of the circus are causing jaws to drop at Art Basel. Decades after artists like the Icelandic Dieter Roth, and feminist icon Judy Chicago – whose needlework and textile series, Birth Project, caused a stir in the 1980s – led the charge, the number of contemporary artists having woolly ideas is growing at a rate of knots.

So what is the draw of the loom? Adam Lowe of Factum Arte, the Italy-based studio that makes digital tapestries for the Louvre and the British Museum, believes a surge in interest over the past 10 years was inevitable: "Artists across the disciplines are attracted by the materiality and complexity of tapestry, particularly in a new age where the generation of the image – and often the output, too – is digital."

Like Grayson Perry's enormous Walthamstow Tapestry from 2009, a subversive Bayeux Tapestry of our time featuring Chanel handbags, Superdrug and a woman giving birth to the Devil, which was woven from digital files on a Jacquard loom (an automated, rather than human-operated, machine) in Belgium. It returns to the public eye at the opening of William Morris's London home next month, just weeks after six of Perry's new pieces (also digitally-woven, using a mechanical loom to create his images in tapestry form), The Vanity of Small Differences, launched at the Victoria Miro gallery.

But the human touch is by no means obsolete. A hundred years after it was founded in 1912 by William Morris's weavers, Edinburgh's Dovecot Studios is holding the torch for cutting-edge hand-weaving. Having been saved from closure in 2000, Dovecot has for the past four years occupied a vast space on the site of the city's first public baths. Now in its centenary year, the studio has been transformed beyond recognition.
On the day I visit Dovecot, the excavated ladies' pool is in the process of being styled for a fashion show. The day before, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra was playing one of a number of regular chamber concerts in among the looms, with guests looking on from the original gallery that circles what was once the main swimming pool; the walls are lined with abstract wall-hangings and colourful tufted rugs featuring geometric shapes and lighthouses, by artists including Alan Davie.

In August, as part of an ongoing series of centenary celebrations, this space will host a musical history of the studio, A Tapestry of Many Threads, co-written by creative polymath Alexander McCall Smith. It is all part of an attempt, explains Dovecot director David Weir, to break down the boundaries between artistic disciplines. "We've always occupied an unusual territory," he says. "Tapestry is a craft-based skill but the studio has always worked with contemporary designers," Weir, who used to work as a laywer, knows what he's talking about when he adds: "We don't live our lives in a single dimension."

Several feet below the original water-level in what was once a magnificent swimming pool, Naomi Robertson and colleague Jonathan Cleaver beaver away at their looms, producing pieces for Peter Blake and Peter Saville. Robertson replaced Douglas Grierson last year when the latter retired after 50 years as Dovecot's master-weaver and Robertson is making relatively fast progress on a series of woven versions of graphic images for Peter Blake, including a tapestry of his famous target symbol, beloved by Mods in the 1960s.

Metres away, Cleaver is working on another piece called After, After, After, Monarch of the Glen, a group collaboration by Peter Blake, Peter Saville, and the Dovecot weavers (of which there are five). The piece acquired so many 'After' prefixes because it was reinterpreted by a number of artists: Cleaver's woven work is based on a print by Peter Blake of a picture by Peter Saville, which was based on Landseer's original painting, Monarch of the Glen. It is, Cleaver says, a modern take on the tradition of the stag in wall-hangings.

Working eight hours a day, Cleaver has been given three months to complete the work: "Initially we made samples to give Peter and Peter an idea of what we were thinking of doing; there were discussions about layout and lettering; you could do it lots of ways," he says. Eventually, the piece will be reproduced several times as a limited edition, and every piece will vary as each weaver painstakingly blends their own colours as they work.

It is a long slog, but one Dovecot director David Weir says a computer cannot hope to match: "Handmade tapestry is a thought process, everything is slow and deliberate... A machine can't replicate the human touch, the happy accident or the editorial decision." Adam Lowe, whose Factum Arte studio have also made digital tapestries for Perry and Quinn, disagrees: "Traditionally, the arts have been defined by their medium: printmaking, metal-working, painting... We are now in an age where we can take one sense and transform it into another using computers. Just look at the transformation of sound into light in discos."

"As a craftsman and an artist, the point is to build bridges between processes and ideas, and the reason weaving caught on is exactly that, because it is something many artists can do," Lowe adds. Digital tapestry is certainly more cost-effective than handmade – a copy of Perry's Hold Your Belief Lightly, for example, will set you back a relatively affordable £950.

By contrast, Dovecot's prices range between £5 and £15,000 per square metre, depending on the size of the project and the level of detail. "Because of the skill involved and how labour-intensive it is," Weir admits, "tapestry's most prized asset is its biggest obstacle: few people can afford it." It was ever thus: on his deathbed, Henry VIII was considered the world's richest man, based not on his stash of gold or silver, but on his inventory of woven masterpieces. But this rather expensive sense of tradition remains part of the appeal, Weir says: "When the rest of the world becomes increasingly challenging, there is a retrenchment to what is true, respecting the values of craftsmanship and making."

Today, the bulk of commissions for Dovecot still come from corporate collectors such as PepsiCo, which commissioned a piece by Frank Stellar, now hanging in its HQ in New York, and Rolls Royce, IBM, and the London Stock Exchange. While public buildings are still key clients – a 7mx7m Ron Kitaj/Dovecot piece hangs in the central atrium of the British Library, while Castle of Mey, woven for the Queen Mother in the 1950s, takes pride of place in her Caithness home – the number of private collectors, Weir insists, are increasing, with "rich yachtsmen" among a new breed of collectors chasing after the prestige a magnificent tapestry still affords.

However, with the price of wool sky-rocketing (thanks to increased world-wide demand) and with misconceptions about the art form still rife, the life of the modern weaver is still not perfect. "The biggest problem," Weir says, "is getting recognition as an artist in your own right." One of Hockney's first observations on a collaboration with the Dovecot weavers in the 1970s was not well-received, he adds: "Hockney complained that one line had taken three weeks. After a number of conversations, he learnt that collaboration is about a dialogue, about creating something between the designer and the weaver's individual visions."

In order to prove that they are more than mere technicians, in 2008 Dovecot asked its employees to create their own pieces in response to their new site. The results are dazzling. At the front entrance, Naomi Robertson's portrait of a female bather hangs opposite a colourful, more impressionist, piece by Douglas Grierson, in which their former master-weaver depicts a number of artists, including Hockney and Monet – alongside Damien Hirst's formaldehyde shark – in a brightly-coloured work.

"Sometimes I wonder," Weir admits, standing next to a mannequin dressed in a neon-pink woven corset, "what would William Morris's weavers have made of this?" His instincts are that they would have approved.
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