Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Babette says 'thanks'!

Ten days have passed already.. ten days from Patches-the special Christmas Market.. a mini (on the grand scale of things) fulfilling success. Must thank organizers, visitors and buyers alike. I loved every smile and every smirk, they were all well deserved..
Loved setting up beneath Our Lady's aluminium shrine with fake ponsiettas and a dead candle, loved the soup and the cupcakes, and speaking with people who care or are well on their way towards caring about such crafts. Also loved having some very unexpected buyers by the stall.. a day full of surprises.
It took me a full ten days to get back to a 'normal' routine where I can fit in a warm drink in between work and more work.. ten days to finalize most of the orders in time for christmas, meet up with people who reserved stuff, plan a meal for 8 hungry relatives, bid my 'students' a temporary farwell and ..breathe.. at last.
So in a sentence.. Patches was good.. actually.. better than anticipated.
*Note to self: do something about the bloody lighting next time round!

Here's me looking all suspicious at a sneaky camera lens. With that look on my face I'm surprised anyone stopped to look at the stuff at all.
Today marks the beginning of the Christmas recess.. days I've planned down to a T..with sewing , sewing and more sewing .. I missed it in the run up for the market .. I also mssed sketching ideas for future projects in my notebook. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about a shoe collection ... would have sketched it down quickly on toilet paper but we were running low ... (withdrawal symptoms!?)
So I come back home to two surprises and I immediately sense that my holidays are off to a good start. A beloved great aunt sends this low waisted floral dress and lacy 'pink' confection of a skirt with my mum. I'm lucky enough to have her exact size from some 30 years ago, so all's good!

Although I've always been of the opinion that the cheapest buy is the most rewarding; I was admittedly forced to reconsider this belief a few days ago. I made an exception last Tuesday. I bought something exceeding my usual average budget of 5 euro (max.) ... being without a salary for so long has made me immune to the pleasure of shopping.. nowadays I only accompany friends on shopping ventures to scrutinize hems and closures for details, looking all dodgy like a friend from hell.. ''tut tut what a badly lined coat''.. ''tissss.. setghaw imqar jaqtaw il keffa dritta!''
Last Tuesday I spent a handsome sum (for someone who sews) for something absolutely beautiful from 'blush & panic' and only felt a little remorse. I felt like I was conducting a social experiment.. I was re-introducing myself to money-spending civilisation.. this cannot be anything but a short stint at it.. I tried it again today but drove absolutely no pleasure from trawling the capital's streets..
SO I'm taking it as a sign that this 'early 40s' dress was made to be mine .. and although neither this photo nor myself could ever do it as much justice as it's original owner, I still think it's a dress that could see me well into my 50s provided I retain the same size (implausible to say the least! but we pray, if only for the sake of this dress)

So a dress and a book about the history of dance are to be my wage-baptizing treats to self. Oh and regular Indian take-out because that, unlike the rest, is a necessity.

Off to work on a project that's coming along nicely.. just realizing that this pink and grey theme is acquiring a fan base, it's attractive in a practical but fun way.. I love grey.. but I guess I've already said that a couple more times.

Friday, December 3, 2010

WARNING: Photo-laden post!

I cannot but start off by mentioning the first ever photoshoot for Babettopolis which happened almost exactly a week from today. So first, think of a photoshoot, then remove all possible related stress conjured up with the image. That was our photoshoot, and I say 'our' because concerned parties did such a good job out of it that I simply want to share the spoils.
Thanks go to the very talented, unbelievably efficient and much-in-demand Denise Scicluna ( and/or and/or for taking the reigns and making me feel blissfully useless (for once!) .. and to Tracey Gatt for being unpretentiously perfect and obliging throughout ... in the face of a short notice and other obvious lackings related to low(no!)-budget shoots.
The shoot took place at my new home so we had to do with very limited resources and a very intrusive cat as well.
Following is a fraction of the results, with which I am overjoyed!

And even though I had promised myself a break after this something of a milestone.. I kept coming back from work exceptionally driven.. with only two weeks on my hands before the Christmas edition of PATCHES I should probably have the proverbial kit-kat and start logically packing my wares and tablecloths. Instead I'm staying up till really late (for an early-rising teacher!) finishing off stuff I'm kicking myself for not finishing earlier in time for the shoot.
Still, maybe if I did, then the results would have been entirely different and not half as satisfying.
WE ARE HOLY doll-head necklace makes it to my personal top 3

... and inspired by a particularly spoilt Tsarina who in the end got what she deserved: A NO IS A NO IS A NO IS A ... doll-head necklace (although at this point I'm seriously doubting whether I should have been calling them 'Neckpieces' instead)
This is my pending project..
don't forget to look through this site for more information about the big 12th...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

May I just say..

It's been a bad week in general and I'd hate to dwell on it here as well since I've been doing just that since last friday.. and there's still a day to go.. a day full of pasty faced kids and ill treated palettes and paintbrushes in flight.. too close for comfort.. too much promises of a pay and no delivering.. my nail-beds are all shrivelled and dyed in primary colours .. over and above all this one must deal with staff and try and get home in one piece with enough energy to sew and create things.. May I just say ..
I simply want a scone and a cup of tea. Thank you.

The picture above shows a recent acquisition .. just my kind of framed scapular collection (thanks for the word Anita!) on a very nicely faded blue background that matches my new bedroom wall and the presently disconnected LP player for which we have big plans. I shall be hanging it up above my bed-side table shortly. I only have one worry .. every day, precisely at 6am, the cat jumps onto the dresser where the frame now rests and starts scratching the glass .. it is creeping me out.. but I'm going to ignore it and pretend he's trying to bring to my attention the fact that he's feeling peckish.

And below. Someone's awfully happy about the new bookcases. The other one has an empty shelf which I intend to stuff with cooking books I haven't yet transferred or bought.

On the creative front.. the run-up for Patches - The Special Market (Christmas Edition) has been leaving me breathless and really stressed. Trying to strike a balance between finishing work on time and not stressing it.. this is a redhead and peacock feather fascinator affair mounted onto a cosy brown faux fur band. That way one can look pretty whilst keeping their ears warm.

And this is a grey satin cap I've constructed out of scraps from material used for a skirt.. the embroidery took me ages to finish as I kept leaving my box behind wherever I went. But knowing what exactly I had in mind for this paticular project kept me focused throughout as I usually tend to change my plan mid-way through. I've baptized it 'DECO lotus root cap' and I intend to hold on to it unless someone really appreciative comes along.. It's a labour of love and it fits perfectly!

I shall now retire to bed.. it's a warm fuzzy place and it smells faintly of tea-tree oil, day-old linen, favourite companion and my cat's fur. I like the combination ..
This is my mum preparing wholemeal spaghetti for tomorrow. I like this combination too.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Learning to do without a Palazzo

At one point I assumed I was totally over the whole shenanigans related to dreaming about finding the perfect place .. before I used to stop in front of specific doors in Valletta, Mdina, Attard (and elsewhere), slump, roll my eyes dramatically, cry a bit, then 'humph' before I trudge on. I used to curse heavily at mansion-hunting, interior-decorating and palazzo-restoring tv programmes. It perlexes the cat and anyone else in the room. I also thought I was over the night-long, image saving, folder naming marathons (*INTERIORS YAY!, *Exteriors :O, *Venice palazzo DETAILS, *RUGS!!!!; being just few examples).
But I'm not.
Official, on-paper work gives one issues of entitlement. I was convinced I had exorcized all ability to yearn for something so beyond my means (yes even the rugs I have saved in that damned folder) in the time when I was jobless, I had somewhat accepted fate, eradicated hope and went 'fuck it, I'm working class'. I had also learnt to dream less which, in my case, was a healthy turn. But working gave the situation an even worse slant towards GRAVITAS.. I now feel like I deserve to have my own place with that extra room for the chaos that sewing and related crafts bring with them.. deserve but will never afford. It's tragic.. I have now started to cry again at the sight of those particularly heavy pair of knockers (sounds funny but is not!) on the huge faded-black door in Mdina.
Just look at this door below, not a pretentious door in any way, but the paint on the wall is peeling in just the right places and the lighting holds such promise for romance. There will be no stinky shoes lying around inside, the carpets are fuzz-free (the cats hover and brush themselves in the yard whilst I'm out). The entrance is painted light blue with dark red details and the place smells of cinnamon and tobacco leaves.. leather armchairs and a tapestry chaise lounge *sniff sniff die-in-a-corner-alone.
Oh and everyone coming or leaving is meant to wear a hat. Hats make life look like a beautiful Sunday morning in 1933.

Instead of driving the proverbial (daintily engraved ivory-inlaid gold) dagger further into my innards, I'll just go through a couple of favourite things I've finished recently..
Here is a pair of shoes I designed and had made-to-measure for a lady who wanted something special. I love an opportunity where I'm allowed to come up with something on the spot for someone.. and then follow it through the whole process.. I ended up asking my shoemaker to gather the extra leather scraps from the shoes, from which I constructed an abstracted pearl-dotted tropical bird to wrap around the front and sides. The chosen colours are two kinds of candy purple, forest green, coral red and two tones of caramel.. *nom noms.
The three following items on the other hand, are things I managed to somehow finish after work.. detailed work that sees me into the wee hours when I ought to be asleep gathering energy points for the morrow. A pair of emboidered, manicured vintage gloves with added embellished braid and glass button for closure.

The tattoed baby (one-off, slip-cast) skull is now part of a bigger picture. It has become a statement necklace cum mobile with added diadem and crystals.

And a small bracelet I kept from when I was young and had relatively smaller hands, was turned into a HOLY HEART necklace which I have a feeling will be leaving it's basket sooner than expected.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Make things for people to fall in love with

Let me open this post with the cape that, given the chance, would re-align the world's axis it's so beautiful. The same cape which set me off on a week-long sketching marathon one particularly sticky afternoon last summer. For me this cape classfies as one of those rare moments that happen to and alter one substantially. I look at perfection, at pure balance.. it has just about everything I could ever want in a cape, the geometry, the colour scheme, the transparency, just enough translucency and length.. Still we are talking about a mere cape, a jewel within its own league but really and truly just a piece of cloth in the bigger scheme of things.
At one point in my life I had solemnly sworn not to take all things related to fashion too seriously for several reasons; but mainly because such issues simply aren't all that worthy.

I detect an almost immediate whiff of a dozen contradictory arguments, crossing 'virtual' mileage at the speed of light .. but guess what, I only dabble on the outskirts of this so-called field of fashion. I am as far removed from the artistic, socio-political, statement-driven forces that have, across the ages, substantiated Fashion (with the capital 'F'), as I am from those freshly filled kannoli (so far faar faaar away). I want to make precious things that make people happy.
And yes.. I do accept counter claims that all of this might very well be an escapist, non-committal, defence-mechanism-induced argument. I'm too non-serious about this not to.
However, in everything else connected to what I do, I am dead serious.. and to stretch the simile even further into the realm of action, I am about to prove how serious I am about perfect finishing and perfect fit and my 'one-off' service (unless otherwise stated) by actually leaving the comfy depths of my sofa and walk across towards the kitchen counter where those heavenly kannoli lie in a sterile tupperware box.

Following are photos of two projects I finished in the past week, projects that had been left hanging for quite a while.. torturing me with self-induced anxieties related to potential spoiling of the material as well as the fnal result. Worries that keep me awake (tis true!).. fears that accompany me to the last stitch.. I am pessimistic by nature.. especially where my true concerns lie.. I care about giving the client what they need but not necessarily what they want and since I'm not exactly the most diplomatic of persons, I worry again about pitching my idea as the natural option. I worry about not having 'the perfect' background in tailoring to embark on such projects; I worry about trying to introduce longer hems; about making sure that, since my time has become so limited, I attempt only portfolio worthy projects (but this rule I break everytime, much to my surprise and ultimate satisfaction); and I also worry about worrying too much.

This coat (above) was adapted from a souvenir kaftan big enough to shelter a family of 5.. it has hidden pockets, is fitted with handmade glass buttons which the said lady-client selected herself, and, given the lightweight material, the coat sways should she choose to dance in it.. the rounded 2-piece sleeves allow for easy movement and give the coat an overall casual-jacket feel reminiscient of trapeze coat shapes from my favourite period in fashion. The pattern helps greatly in this regard as well.

And this is an olive green silk wonder.. primly belted at the waist, with a half oval cutout and aged motifs .. The long slits on each side gave the dress a distincly asian feel.. and it somehow came to remind me of In the Mood for Love ( a film I had enjoyed slightly too much for my own good. The wearer carries it perfectly and I still think a pair of coral suede shoes would look best with it.
In conclusion... look at this painting by Kirchner. I had been a great admirer of his work for some time before I came across this (supposedly) portrait of his wife; so just imagine how my admiration tripled when in the picture I could see no-one but myself next to a primitive statue I happen to own. I enjoy entertaining thoughts about past-lives where I smoked cigarettes elegantly and a possible time warp where I still wore statement brooches and drank hot drinks in tiny cups.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tokens and trinkets; heads and hands

What a lucky coincidence. This is a favourite place I visited relatively recently, when my epic search for a job was still at its beginning. The museum in Birgu which houses La Vallette's sword and hat (and a swank hat at that), then absent from its gilded shrine since it was on loan. But my selective memory chose to rest on this head of a mourning and perhaps even penitent lady, the ex-votos and a general view.. a dramatic interior .. and some other religious tokens, yellowing documents and altars.. some three of them if I'm not mistaken. I found a job in Birgu and it feels promising.
I find myself trying to justify this obsession, in the wake of (very) amusing accusations, not directed at me personally, but put into even more amusing songs, tagging similar obsessions as (god forbid :o) 'hip' obsessions. But I won't be dwelling on this. I only court such thoughts when I presuambly run out of things to do.. which of course is never really the case; therefore I am not ready to exist on a false premise. Oh and I could never be hip because I actually have 'hips'.
So instead I'll write about how I kept shunning my father's craft until now. When I tried to throw my first vase I was given some 6 equally sized spheres of clay. The first flew off the wheel, as did the second and the rest. I wasn't a natural but my dad wasn't too keen on teaching me either because I ws keener on making my own dinner set rather than make an artistic career out of it.
Nowadays I stick to one or two types of clay and engobes and try to avoid working in the garage when the dad is there.
I need the material to serve my needs. I need to realize my superficial needs, those little dreams with holes pierced through them to serve as charms or tokens for the jewellery. At one point, after almost everyone you know has generously donated you every little piece of unwanted and odd object they owned, after all the scavenging at jumble sales and bazaars and the life-long hoarding.. you find your little creations actually begging for something else. Often, I find, it's direction and a fundamental idea.
To cut a long story short: I stopped pooh-poohing the possibility of creating something valid (within the superficial boundaries offered by all things bling and fa'xx'on) and created some hands and heads.

These heads and hands are slip cast and hand-drawn.. tiny paint-brushes, magnifying glass and all. Each carries its own little story: one carries favourite lyrics about the risen christ, another has tea-party cut-outs, skulls, tattoos, anatomical diagrams, architectural plans, dodgy menus and a tribute to red-heads. Bleeding hearts, mustaches, dramatic statements and pretty dolled up faces. Gloved hands, apple trees, sailor's hands, heraldry, and HOLY CROSSES.

What are 'labti' called in english?
Threaded plastic encasing displaced realities.. trifles really.. moments in spoken time and surprisingly related pictures. Neck pieces, mobiles, objects of security... although the feathers and teeth are still missing from the small equations.
I need to thank all of those who donated me so much of their stuff.. tin boxes and all. (which I must admit always come in handy when one insists on keeping every stray button). I have tried to give new life to these trinkets.. hopefully they will find new homes..
Just like those stories we grow up listening to.. travel realted stories, ghost sightings, familiar anecdotes that pass through you and are somewhat altered. Poetic license, shifting ownership.. an organic affair.
My great-grandma had 20 children. 16 of them died at the age of two. The second survivor child, my grandma, was brought back to life when her dad placed a live fire under her cot. The story carries numeric resonance and I've carried it with me since I was a child.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Loves that make you kill or die

I find myself alone with an instant capuccino (blehh) and a list of favourited sites I haven't visited in a very long time: friends' blogs, sewing forums, facebook 'concept' albums, haberdashery online stores which make me cry etc. Alone because I'm back for a night at my parents' house.. in my old bedroom which feels alien to me now... and because the Mad Men series is saved on a laptop I have no access to.. but also alone with boxes of items I need to bring together, embroidery details which I always end up postponing. So it's a productive lonesomeness.. or rather, potentially productive.
I can't help being distracted by the vast network of sites a click away.. I know I could spend the next hour oogling through randomly selected pages from books I'm too poor to purchase like this one..
someone sent me the link a while back and I've been returning to it ever since..
I've been obsessed with Erte's lines and general aesthetic for a very long time.. and if providence hadn't wisely provided me with only little more than the bare necessities in life, I'm quite convinced I'd be travelling the world on a secret mission to gather every lost sketch of his, every lost coat and gown by Poiret and Fortuny and the Callot Soeurs and Madeleine Vionnet..
I just look at this bejewelled tunic.. feel small and inconsequential.. sometimes cry .. and then I re-surface to try and work on something of my own. Something I could only hope is reverential enough towards something this divinely inspired. I fail, of course. But I'd be silly to expect more than that. I fail within limits though.. for, what I do is a reflection of the synthesis of influences working on me, a mix so divere it's bound to be unhealthy. I blame the enlightened forefathers.. they make it very difficult for me as a mere craftslady!

That coral encrusted band at the waist is a band of bloody tears I cry every time I .. (*cough* drama *cough*)

Here's an outfit I had encountered some two years back in the streets of Trieste. The best day of my life.. a Sunday following a Franco Battiato concert and in waiting for a Vinicio Capossela concert that very night.. I had to come across the best morning crowned with an outdoor antique market, kids in carnival costumes and relatively cheap prices. Save for this coat+hat, of course, but you cannot have everything. And that I realize and accept humbly.

Sometimes I also detour through other more obviously deterring sites.. because they're 'wishful thinking' sites when I should either be at my worktable or at least looking through 'how-to' sites. Look at what I end up doing on Polyvore.. damn you lady (you know who you are) who introduced me to this sinner's heaven! :)

This picture was saved under the name 'Rome with (insert friend name here!)' in my folder 'hwejjeg etc'.. I love that folder.. it's a poor lady's haven kind of folder.. and I also have it on my ipod for those sad moments when I feel like life's about to fall apart (like when I'm waiting at those dreaded bus stops)

How will I ever be able to bring together my loves..? my fetish with rococo church decor, the excessive fringing, tasseling, and chandeliering.. the sombre auras of room-fulls of ex-votos, b/w lino-prints and etchings, holy friday processions and jet black ravens.. the studied lines of an art-deco-gown which has had the power to starve a generation down to a T and an I, its minimalist of shape, saturated in detail and bursting with colour. The sheen of pearls, the mosaic Theodora, a Sicilian bride's lace, Turandot's headress, Our Lady's flaming heart and Louise Brooks' sleek bob n'all.

I don't know. I just keep feeling smaller and smaller.

This is the interior of St. Paul's Shipwreck Church in Valletta. My grandpa, George, who was a proud 'Belti' and a mariner himself, used to take me to his favourite church regularly... this is the stuff of first and life-long loves.

Holy Bones!!

I leave you with this song by Capossela*. I want those who outlive me to play it at my funeral. It's probably my favourite song. I think the singer-songwriter manages to do in song what I'd kill to do in my craft. I realize that this kind of grandeaur is hardly translatable across mediums but trying only ever killed the strongest and I'm willing to try. It'd be a worthy death indeed.

*I always liked how, for a very long time, I simply couldn't help confusing Capossela with Compostela and how the symbolic baggage of both is to be forever intertwined in my head.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

No use crying over spilt ink...

It's been a while. I feel as if I'm falling into the traps of the lazy blogger and it does bother me a bit; especially since I'm very disciplined by nature in things related to my craft. However, in an attempt to feel better about myself, I shall henceforth bracket 'blogging' (the act) with eating (the act and related preparation) as pursuits I follow unrestrictedly - no rules related to frequency or need, but to simple sheer pleasure.

Ok: now I feel better. We move on.

Have been keeping busier than ever and enjoying every minute. Have been 'visibly and most obviously' keeping very busy. Still my mum decides it is high time we give my rooms an overhaul! .. and panic strikes.. I have to leave my work and organize my stuff for if I were to leave it up to her, I'd have to endure a colour coded system for the next 6 months, where my jewellery pliers sit next to blue tape and blue embroidery thread just because their handles match.

Ok: cutting a long story short.

I came across some old sketches and went all fuzzy inside. I'm not particularly attached to anything I have painted or sketched over the years, but re-exploring old sketchbooks and folders brings back memories of instances of time your particularly selective memory has chosen to part with. Here's a badly photographed selection.

This one, in fact, I think I will frame. Something about it I like.. and it's been so long that I no longer feel as if I had 'inked' it. I like the distance created by time and sheer indifference .. slowly I think I can grow to love it again. I just hope it is something I did after all.

This is not an old sketch. This is an old painting, the existance of which, I was fully aware of. I had given it to my cousin. She took it to Norway. Then a couple of years later her place was robbed and the painting was taken with the lot. I wasn't told of this episode till her last visit this summer and now I love to think that someone actually chose to steal it because they liked it.. that it now resides in a new home (not a dump.. please not a dump! I could deal with mouldy attic.. or a run down mountain lodge but not a dump!)
Ok: probably it was thrown away when they realised 'it was a worthless piece of shit after all'. But a girl has the right to self-flatter.

On another note.. here's a photo of my (yes, stylized) worktable. I am trying my best to devote a couple of hours a day after all the sewing is done, to creating things, objects.. just like I used to. I once spent a month doing just that but now I feel slightly rusty and since the sewing process and the 'crafty' process vary so much (I promise they do.. clean workbench -vs.- all-glued-up workbench), I'm finding it really demanding on my nerves to switch at 10pm just because I need to.

Ok: I will stress less.
Off to prepare for my bartending duties at Wirdien. (!/event.php?eid=146340098724156&ref=ts)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Unearthing Gems

Being the only neice in the family to have followed in several aunts' footsteps and kept up the sewing craft, I happen to also be the sole inheritor of everything sewing related.. from yards of textile and haberdashery items, to odd sewing gadgets and, best of all, old pattern books. When I was relatively younger I started out begging for the odd button or applique motif, then I graduated to off-cuts from current sewing projects the aunts or my mum would have on the go. Only recently did I come into such a bulky inheritance. My growing interest in the craft must have coincided (luckily enough) with the majority of the superiors' menopause(s?); they no longer sew because every other thing gets on their nerves and because, apparently, scrubbing a kitchen counter takes all day. Whoever knew? Counter-productive thoughts of a new bookcase to house piles of these books have been keeping me busy. But meanwhile, I look through them and keep finding new gems everytime round.

How cute is this!? The groom looks like Eric Bana (then again I am known for never quite getting resemblances). The light blue flower bunches makes this such a winner on my list.

Speaking of blue... how pretty is this.. though the print doesn't exactly do it for me, the model really saves the day.

The magazine from which this centrefold comes from is an all-time favourite. Have been keeping it stored away from pets and the elements in the hope of sewing something for myself from it. But of course, such miracles never happen.

This is possibly the only excusable group of friends who colour/pattern co-ordinated their outfits... ever. Tempted to go into a winding and not-necessarily-very-funny vignette inspired by this photo, but instead I'll just let the following photo speak for itself.


One mustn't necessarily take cue from this photo and follow suit; but have you ever wondered why, for some reason beyond your comprehension, back in the day men could get away with an outfit like this? And I dont mean men in the fashion avant garde.. I have photos of uncles in similar attire. In any case this guy seems pretty happy with the effect of the suit on the two ladies
..'Oh I love that plunging V-neck!'
..'Oh I love the stitching at the back! and by the way, my waist belt matches your shirt.'

And just when I thought I was rewarded enough for waking up to work on a Sunday, I happen upon a late 80s festive season pattern book and find this gold+turban+red-lips+green-silk combination which made me happier still.