Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Containing Things--Mosaics and Otherwise

Since summer heat was not conducive to mosaicking (no air conditioner by my work table), it was time to finish a few plant containers. Here are two pots made from 3-liter olive oil cans.

The sides of the container on the right have wing motifs suggested by broken tiles and in line with the wing theme inspiring two stitching projects on which I'm currently working. 

They will sit in the wall spaces around the patios.

An aside. A fair number of rocks and stones can be found out in the fields so I collect the bigger rocks into piles and my husband occasionally remembers to bring them home on the tractor. Recently, he said peevishly, "I see you haven’t used the rocks I brought you."  Ok,  ok. 
I now have a rock pile sculpture on the kitchen veranda, unscathed by the big hailstorm. And two new containers grace the stairs to the roof. The lineup:
              The first one sports a band of circles and a top border of tiny pieces.
The design for the next container started as (wild) flying geese, however, the wing theme inspired me to add extra triangles to create a flurry of wings. 
A flying geese design in light green echoes the white wings. At least the mosaic containers stood up to the hailstorm and I suppose my poor ragged plants will manage to revive with the pleasant autumn weather. Now I better get to planting the new additions.

And Best Wishes to all celebrating Aïd.

News Update: The Tunisian government is now officially in limbo although it continues to function. The Constitutional Assembly's mandate ended on October 22. They had one year to write a constitution (which they could have accomplished in four to six months), but, they have as yet to produce a final document. It appears they appreciate their hefty salaries. The ruling religious party claims legitimacy because they were elected. Voters say they voted for a group of people to write a constitution within a year. Elections have been proposed for June 2013, however, who will organize (and control) that process remains unclear. So far protests and demonstrations have been peaceful, with the exception of the lynching of the leader of the Tataouine Nida Tounes Party (an opposition party) on October 18th by ruling party demonstrators. An unheard of horror that provoked anger among Tunisians, especially since nobody has been arrested despite a large number of witnesses. In any case, nobody wants a vacuum in power, which could lead to a civil war. And so the lid remains on and things are contained...for the moment.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Extreme Needleturn, Part 2

"Extreme" seems to be the word of the day. Yet, sometimes things work out the way they should. Fortunately, my garden took center stage last week, even though it was gasping, because Friday night a hail storm that lasted at least 20 minutes with hurricane-force winds beat it up. Every tree is moping, especially the fig trees that usually sport gloriously huge leaves, which are now shredded. The citrus crop, which begins to ripen at the end of October, is mostly on the ground. It was in the high 80°s, low 90°s during the day and here’s what we found outside the kitchen door after the storm in the evening: 

The hail measured about an inch across (2-3 cm). Several inches piled up like drifts of snow.

The foot looks chilly--it might need a sock!

Just another example of the extreme forms of weather facing humanity. Guess we better get used to it.

On a more cheerful note and with cheerful colors, I turn to my favorite subject of needleturn appliqué. Many years ago, I tested out some easy ins-and-outs in "Etudes" (Studies), seen here, and then played with more complex improvisations. Improvisation I  (Jan. 1992, 31” x 30”/77cmx79cm), which you might recognize as the side frame of my blog, suggested the possibilities of complicated structures that resemble mazes, although it is machine appliqué and not needleturn.
It was made from the small scraps of a bigger project.
The following piece, Improvisation II: Où sont les tigres? Où sont les Hommes? (Where are the Tigers? Where are the Men? March 1993, 41.5"x36.5"/1m06x93cm) contains a few bits of tiger/zebra stripe fabric in the pieced background.
Tigers are an endangered species, and Men? Living in a country with a dictatorial regime led me to wonder how much people could take and what had happened to the Men who would stand up to its violence. The viewer can find the tiger fabric, but the Men?
And yet, this piece makes me very happy. My needleturn technique converged with subject matter and color taking me along a path to my own visual language. I'm glad to have had a reason to revisit it.
                  I end with a piece in the "early extreme" style--a study in forms.
Improvisation VI: Bonheur et bonne humeur (Happiness and Good Humor, June 2000, 44"x63") is a cheerful exploration of the possibilities of needleturn without a maze, just one color at a time. The background provides contrast thanks to its white layered, raw-edged cottons and uneven side edges.
However, the background now seems a bit empty. I'm tempted to come back to this piece to add stitching. The border, a commercial fabric, could use some, too. I think I'll add it to my l-o-n-g list of works-in-progress.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Gasping Garden

My garden gasped through August, revived with four days of rain and slightly lower temperatures in September, which gave a second spring.
Now it's gasping again during the Indian summer with temperatures in the 90°s F. (35-38° C.), dropping only slightly at night. The warm weather doesn’t fool me—I know it’s time to prepare for winter, so the roof got it’s coat of water-proofing (the back-breaking inconvenience of a flat roof), and then out came the paint cans and brushes. While my husband takes care of repairs, the shutters, doors, gates, and railings have been getting my attention. 

I like the freshly painted shutters--no dust. That will last for about a week.

Have you noticed that people on Pinterest have whole boards about gates? Which made me appreciate my no-nonsense garden gates made of pallet wood and freshly painted. 

Besides being kind of cute, they serve to keep our farm dogs off the patios and out of the raised flower beds.
A few new objets trouvés (sounds nice in English, fancy way of saying ‘found junk’) have been added to my kitchen terrace garden. I discovered a bicycle chain and sprocket in a field. I resisted the urge to paint the sprocket (round rusty metal object on left, below).
                                   I like the sculptural effect of the chain.
On the right, an old bird cage got painted along with the shutters. Good plant protection from the cats. One of my cats just walks into, onto, and over potted plants--even prickly succulents. 
For this project, I cut wires on the side of the cage to be able to open it up and insert pots.
           Of course, I must point out that my bidet (which began here) is looking better than ever. My dentist stopped by for a (friendly) visit and when he saw it, he decided to put an old sink and bathtub in his garden to plant. As I've mentioned before here, Tunisians love to accumulate and now he's pleased that he kept them.
On the left you can see a rusty piece of wrought iron railing that showed up out of nowhere. I’ve got to get a grip on the junk around here!