Sunday, August 26, 2012

Visiting Friends, Part 3: Nellie's Garden

While in Tennessee last April, I visited textile artist and blogger Nellie Durand of Nellie’s Needles. Her lovely home looks like an art gallery except it's better. However, I’m getting ahead of myself. First of all, I’d like to show you her garden for which she and her husband, Lee, have collected fun and beautiful works of art.
The entryway garden contains a quiet slab fountain (with frog on top) in addition to metal and ceramic pieces.
               Notice the collection of bells in the tree attached to a horizontal branch.
                                         Metal bird sculptures promenade.
                               The driftwood garden king dominates the corner. 
                              Ceramic and wrought iron pieces decorate the wall.
                                           Another metal bird sculpture.
               And in the upstairs balcony, birds made from garden tools strut.

                               A flying girl joins the garden tool birds.

Nellie's own work shows her interest in the surrounding environment. 

Spending summers on Lake Michigan, she has created a series inspired by the lake and its changes in light and with the seasons.

                                      Her masterpiece, The Lake (9' x 7').
Photo by Nellie Durand, from her blog (here).
              And as seen in Good Goods Gallery (Saugatuck, MI) where it sold.
Photo by Nellie Durand, from her blog (here).
Nellie is generous with her ideas and techniques, which can be found at her blog. Currently, she battles cancer, but the prognosis is good and she has the support of family and friends. So I hope to see her back up to full steam in the near future. 
                                         Get well soon, Nellie.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Weekend in Cairo, Part 3: The Best for Last

As promised and back by popular demand, more work by the Tentmakers of Cairo.
                   To begin, here’s an amateur video of a Tentmaker working: 
                               note the enviable speed of the hand movement.
Shopping is not high on my list of pleasures or priorities, and admittedly, I don’t need more quilts, however, I went to the Tentmakers’ Street looking for just one beautiful piece to remember my Cairo visit. I wanted a worthy souvenir. 
The colors of this bed-sized medallion caught my eye, so I nudged my husband sharply in the ribs, gestured toward it as discreetly as possible while he tried to recover his breath, then left the shop so he could haggle for it.
            A similar piece as a wall-hanging (not in my possession, unfortunately).
                            Another bed-sized appliqué of the same design, 
            slightly different arrangement of colors (not in my possession, sigh).
                          This intricate star is breath-taking (also not mine, alas).
And THE best for last: A picture of the following wall-hanging, which I took on my first visit to the Tentmakers’ Street, made me gasp. Tucked in among so many other beautiful pieces, its full splendor was not immediately apparent to me.
                   So on my second visit to the Tentmakers’ Street two days later, 
                    I hunted it down and broke my own rule of only one purchase. 
                        It is now the center of attention in my dining/living room.
                And for all those who have completed the month of Ramadan, 
                I wish you "Aïdakoum Mabrouk" and a happy Aïd celebration.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Grandma's Boot Camp

Gd5's last painting at Grandma's Boot Camp
Despite continued blistering temperatures, the end of summer approaches. The Little People, my 5-year-old granddaughter (Gd5) and my 10-year-old granddaughter (Gd10), have come and gone. We had a good time and I miss them, but school beckons. Here’s a review of the summer program at Grandma’s Boot Camp (so named because Grandma tries to stick to a schedule as opposed to everybody else letting things totally fall apart as befits summer vacations).

Science study: 
We visited the beehives and opened them up.

We found a baby bat that fell out of its nest under the roof tiles. I love my bats. Six or seven reside under the roof tiles in very tiny spaces and come out at sunset. They eat bugs, especially mosquitoes, so I have no objections to their presence. They have amazing agility, using a sort of finger-hook at the bend of the wing to get around. Unfortunately we couldn’t find the nest to put him back. 

Art projects: I set up a table with paper and paints and notebooks and other supplies.
We did art journaling and used Dawn Davies Sokol’s book Doodle Diary: Art Journaling for Girls, which I would recommend for others who might want to organize a summer boot camp.

However, the campers seemed to prefer drawing and painting on blank paper. 
Each camper had her own loose leaf notebook and pens, which she received at the summer birthday party where we celebrated three birthdays. And so, we painted and drew.
Gd10's fig tree

We drew the fig tree in the yard one morning. 

Music, Reading and Language Arts: Campers practiced piano almost every day. They also had French and Arabic, immersion-style. Of course, reading time was part of the schedule. Gd5 is learning to read with Grandma (she got through Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham) and she chose to incorporate words into her fig tree drawing as well.
Gd5's fig tree

So words are very important at five. While reading Green Eggs and Ham, we came across the expression "here and there" many times. I explained the sound that "th"makes and Gd5 practiced it. Then she said urgently: "But Grandma, it should be "d". It's "here and dare"." !!! 

Gd5's Two Hats & a  Box
Watercolor painting was a popular activity among campers. Somehow Gd5, before even attending kindergarten, has developed a rigid critical inner voice. Drawing within the lines is a must.  

Gd5's dot painting

Painting with watercolors helped her express herself more freely.

Gd10's Chair and Trees
Gd10 started with backgrounds and then built them up from there.

Then one day she picked out her favorite colors.
Gd10's Color Spiral

Gd10 also had a field trip into Tunis with her mom and took her sketchbook.

More science study: 
We watered the garden and watched the zinnias bloom.
                           Yes, the Little People have come and gone. 
           It was a busy summer that flew by, but now, the silence is deafening.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Weekend in Cairo, Part 2: The Tentmakers

The Tentmakers work in Old Cairo on Sharia Khayammia or the Tentmakers’ Street.

Approaching Sharia Khayammia. 

One side of the ancient gate doors. 

For generations, hundreds of workers (male) were employed here, making beautiful tents often used for ceremonies such as weddings. The appliqués were on the inside, giving a sort of stained-glass effect.

Today, only about forty shops remain. The tentmakers rarely get orders for handmade tents because of the cost. They have had to adapt to different markets and (tragically) now sell the printed fabric that has replaced their work.

However, they keep working.

On the positive side, their appliqués can now be seen in wall hangings, pillow cases, and bed covers. The small, narrow shops are crammed with beautiful creations.
                                       Now do I have your attention?

                                The lotus is a frequent design element.

                                       The bird designs were unusual.
                One can find tentative pieces that stray from traditional designs. 
It would seem that these artisans wish to test the waters to see if they can expand their repertoire while still pleasing clients. 
Amr has a Masters degree in philosophy, 
but has followed in his father's footsteps. 
He finds himself bored by the constant repetition of traditional designs and seeks new possibilities. Other young men of Tentmaker families seem more interested in the commercial aspect of the business and less interested in plying needle and thread. Given the economic problems in Egypt and changing social conditions, the Tentmakers may be next on the list of endangered species. 

I would be surprised if this brief tour hasn't given readers an overload of color and design.  Ahhh, but I'm saving the best for last!
NB: 1) All photos were taken with permission of the Tentmakers.
       2) August 22-25 the AQS is sponsoring an exhibition of 95 Tentmakers quilts in Grand Rapids, Michigan. See their site for more information.