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.