Wednesday, March 22, 2017

New Work: Responding to Trees with Stitch

This work began with a cloth that was buried in the soil beside a Douglas-fir tree. Before the cloth began to decay I dug it up.
It was now my turn to respond to the cloth. 
I liked the bits of leaves stuck to the cloth so stitched over some of them to hold them in place.
Now it was the tree's turn to respond. 
When the cloth was dry I stretched it on a hoop and waited for a windy day. When that day arrived I raced out and tied a little paintbrush to the end of a branch. I dipped the brush into a bottle of ink then held the hooped cloth up to the brush. While the wind blew the branch around the ink-filled brush drew on the cloth - a wind drawing.

Now it was my turn to respond again.

It was time for me to add more stitch to respond to the tree's wind drawing.
The cloth needed a backing to support the stitching I had in mind.
I selected a bedsheet stained during its time wrapped around the trunk of the tree.

I found another unstained bedsheet to give a firmer cloth to stitch into.

I trialled different bedsheets to get enough contrast between the 3 cloths. Even though the colours are soft and subtle, contrast between the different cloths is still needed. 
I used my camera to take black and white photographs to check the value contrast between the different sheets before I settled on this combination.

I wanted to show the little branchlets that break off the Douglas-fir tree during a wind storm.
I went though my large bin of 'white' thread to find just the right ones.
I went outside to find one of these branchlets and made lots of drawings of it until my hands knew the angle at which the needles came out of the branch.
Next, I stitched some samples, trialling different stitch combinations. I settled on a made-up version of couching though no doubt someone somewhere has invented this stitch before. I call it a long-armed couching stitch.
Now I have to settle down and stitch every day to make sure I keep the rhythm going and keep remembering my intention with this work.

Monday, March 20, 2017

James Bond Hotel Amalia Delphi by Nikos Valsamkis

When the family checked into the Amalia Delphi Hotel in Delphi here, while touring Greece early this year, the 20-somethings commented we had walked into a James Bond hotel. 
Built in 1964 in the mid-century modern style the owners have recently renovated staying true to the architect's design so it did indeed look like a James Bond movie set.

The architect Nicos Valsamakis more of his designs here has been called 'the most important Greek architect of today.'
The above image taken in the hotel's lounge shows some of his signature moves: cut outs through walls, usually rectangular in shape, mixing the old/traditional - a Byzantine style icon - with the new - beside the icon there is a framed contemporary weaving by a Greek artist.

The huge lounge is divided up into many small areas defined by different collections of comfortable furniture. Unlike many hotel communal rooms, this room was in continual use by the guests.

The lounge in the bar was more intimate with smaller groups of chairs in warmer colours.
This time the rectangular wall cutout is filled with a fireplace and wood storage.
The blue-grey slate floor tiles in the common areas contrast with the brighter colours in the furniture with a predominance of orange complementing the blue floor.


One of the most striking features of the hotel is the play of material textures and colours. Here a cool coloured, rough stone wall butts up against a warm coloured finely crafted wood and steel wall.

The hallways to the rooms have a rough stone wall on one side contrasting with a smooth white one on the other side while the floor is made of large roughly hewn but smooth stone blocks like many of the stone paths we had walked on all day while exploring Delphi historic sights. I had the feeling I was walking on the bedrock of the mountain the hotel was built into.
The unadorned walls in a muted neutral pallette emphasise their contrasting textures

Tucked into recesses in the white wall is a smooth soft green wall with barely visible entrances to the rooms, softly lite by rectangular shaped overhead lights. One's room felt discrete and private even before entering it.

A tranquil outside garden off the bar lounge is entered by walking on a string of stones across a koi-filled pond.

The grass and shrub filled, flat, green roofs were way ahead of their time. But this 1964 design may be referencing a feature of traditional Greek architecture.
The hotel snugs comfortably against the mountain-side blending in seamlessly and is surrounded by its 35 acres of gardens.
I spent a lot of time observing how the guests used each space. Every area was so often alive with quiet activity - some finding a quiet spot to read, a relaxing place to share a drink with friends, a large enough space for a family gathering.
What a treat it was to stay in such a well-designed building and to have the time to observe it how well its spaces functioned. I will be on the lookout for more of architect Nicos Valsamakis's creations.





Thursday, March 16, 2017

Things Textiley in Greece: Fibres and Fabrics - Old and New


Goats on the road, every afternoon - milking time. 
The huge variety of goat cheeses and other dairy products was a gourmet's delight while travelling around Greece. Each village seems to have its own bacterial cultures producing distinctively different cheeses. It was the same with the many different fermented drinks. The fermented honey mead drink served warm on a cold rainy day was my favourite.
I was reminded of how standardized and limited the range of the bulk of commercially available food has become in North America.
Goat meat dishes were on the menu in most places and in the antique shops, I saw many goat hair textiles, often combined with wool. I suspect the goat has been a key item in the Greek economy for centuries.

The oldest textile in Greece has been found in the Church of Saint Sophia.
These ribbons were made between the 2nd half of the 14th century and up to the 1st half of the 16th century. Using gilded silver threads and metal beads they were woven on a tablet loom and embroidered in satin stitch.

Processing Silk
Local silk production went on during the Byzantine and post-Byzantine periods - 320AD to the 1800s.
Notice the elegant Kelpht guard watching over the work.

'Metaxi present and past'
A new textile installation. The title plays with the 2 meanings of metaxi - 'silk' and 'between'.
It refers to the "unknown princess" whose clothing and hair was found when her grave in the church of Saint Sophia was excavated. 
Currently on display in the Museum of Mystras are her silk undergarment and her silk outer garment, remnants of her leather shoes and her hair still tied up and decorated in a variety of silk laces. These silk garments plus the history of silk production was the inspiration for this contemporary art installation. 'The 3D arrangement of yarns form linear patterns and reshapes the structure of the dress, reconstructing an immaterial and ethereal female figure.'
'By using yarn as a raw material, the weaving of a cultural bridge is achieved. A bridge that connects notionally the historical weaving position of women in the development of history and cultural meaning through a colourful path between past and present.'
The history of Greek textiles is long and interwoven with every aspect their culture.







Monday, March 13, 2017

Things Textiley in Greece: Peloponnese Peninsula Traditional Costumes

Vocha, Corinthia, Greece, early 20th century
Layers of wool and cotton heavily embroidered. Silver ornament.

Belesi, Argolid, Greece, early 20th century
The heavily embroidered red vest is all the more eye-catching when worn with the white over-vest.

The many different types of embroidery reflect the many outside influences over Greece's long history.

Turkish influences in style, techniques and materials.

Both men's and women's garments were densely embroidered...

....while in some areas they were elegantly simple.
Women's costume from Hydra in the 20th century.
The wide -sleeved blouse with the fitted, woollen, embroidered jacket are elements seen in the current Evzone guard uniform I looked at in the previous post.

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Man's dress 'Kanavista' of the Argolid plain, Peloponnese, early 20th century.
I'm sorry about the quality of this image because I just love this garment.
It looks simple but close inspection shows the masterful use of a plaid material. 
The padded areas over the shoulders and across the chest and the ease of movement allowed by the pleated skirt suggest it is derived from a working garment or a garment worn in battle.

And I thought different coloured buttons on a garment was a contemporary thing.
The many layers of multi-directional pieces would add strength and warmth to the fabric

Bridal costume, Argos, Peloponnese, 19th century
This is an interesting bridal costume because it showcases so many different fabrics, embroidery techniques and threads all on one garment.

Apron: Appliqued ribbon, rick rack and lace.
Pin tucks, lace inserts and ribbon rosettes.
Machine made.

Cross stitch on cotton and woollen fabrics.
Blackwork in running stitches and whitework using satin stitches.
Densely worked wool on wool in a variety of stitches.
Hand embroidered.
Is the bride showcasing her embroidery and dressmaking skills?

Modern Greeks dressed to be outside for a cold winter's afternoon on a public holiday.




Thursday, March 9, 2017

Greece in Winter - 2016 Family Holiday

We looked up

We looked down

We climbed

We looked up

We looked down

We climbed

We walked and walked

And once some of us ran - on the first Olympic track, ever

We fact checked

And every evening we warmed up, sampled unique Greek drinks and talked about what we had seen that day.
We roamed Athens for a few days then drove around the Peloponnese Peninsula for 10 days.
Greece is having a quieter than normal winter with colder than normal weather so we often had the famous sites and the hotels to ourselves.
It was a wonderful family time in a unique part of the world.





Monday, March 6, 2017

Things Textiley in Greece - 12 Parts of the Greek Evzone Guard Uniform

Here is one of those pesky tourists standing beside one of the famed Greek Evzone - guards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the president's mansion, dressed in his Sunday uniform.
To join this elite division of guards one has to be over 6' 1.3"/1.87m tall.


The guard's uniform evolved from the Klephts' traditional clothing. 
The Klephts were Greeks who avoided Turkish rule by escaping to live in the rugged mountains. While surviving as thieves they formed the core of the resistance to the Ottoman occupation of Greece and with Greek independence became national heroes. 
Costumes in the Nafplion Museum.

Of the 12 parts of the uniform, the most striking and symbolic is the kilt-like skirt - the fustanella. Made of a 98'/30m length of cotton, each soldier irons in 400 pleats then his partner helps him to belt it to his waist. The 400 pleats symbolise the 400 years the Greeks endured Ottoman occupation.
The blue and white waist fringe, also held in place by the belt, are colours symbolising the modern Greek nation, the colours also in the national flag.
Over a white cotton long-sleeved shirt is worn another white shirt - the ypodetes - with its very wide long sleeves that billow out as the soldier marches.

The scarlet, wool fez - the farion - has a long black silk tassel. The soldier's aim is to hold his body upright while marching to avoid tangling the silk tassel.

The waistcoat - the fermeli - is densely hand embroidered wool. Traditional designs are worked in white and gilt thread. One of the coded messages in the embroidery is the military rank of the wearer.


Silk tassel garters, 2 types - the epiksclides and the anaspastos -  hold in place 2 pairs of white woollen stockings - the periskclides.

A rifle with a bayonet is part of the uniform.

The red, leather clogs - the tsarouchia - have a pointed toe adorned with a black pompom. One source says the pompom is to keep water out of the hand sewn join where the 3 pieces of leather meet at the toe. It is also known as a place to hide a small blade.
Each clog has 60 nails embedded in the sole and a horseshoe-like metal plate on the heel. Apart from making the clogs very heavy, up to 7 lbs, the nails help the soldier from slipping on the stone tiles. As a group of soldiers raise their right legs high then strike the ground forcefully with their clogs it is said to make a sound of war.
This year our family holiday was spent in Greece.