Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dia de los Muertos cocktail cup trio

And so it all started when Carla (a friend and fellow appreciator of beautiful things) and I decided we wanted  to host an imaginary radio show called 'TIKI BAR'.
Ok, rewind a bit.
I was sewing away as per usual and going through every episode of 'NO RESERVATIONS' I could find on Youtube. When you work from home, you pick up such wonderful habits!
I came across an episode in which Anthony Bourdain discovers the Das Racist crew in his fridge (fun times!) and so I felt duty bound to forward said episode to Carla.
Later on in the episode, the wonderful/surreal/all-encompassing experience that is 'spending an afternoon in a Tiki Bar' was revealed to us for the first time. We felt like TIKI virgins, parched, in awe, jealous of all of those within walking distance of such a plastic-flower-and-fairy-light-bedecked temple of joy. Every hour is cocktail hour at the 'TIKI BAR' .. we wanted our bar, we wanted a hammock (come to think of it, 2 hammocks would have been more convenient) .. we wanted a cocktail-hour Radio show.

we basically wanted to escape the terrifying run up to 'teaching-practice' and 'meeting a wedding-commission deadline'.

Instead I decided to tackle this little dream in, perhaps, the smallest but, at least, realistically achievable way.
I decided to make some tiki-inspired cocktail cups in the shape of Day of the Dead skulls because (1.) I can, (2.) I am allowed some cross-referencing artistic license, (3.) end of October/beginning of November was coming up and I just love all Halloween-related activities.

So here's the Rita C. Colomba cup ...

... round and bulbous ...

... and fit for the best new teacher on the block!
Carla now teaches rowdy acne/hormone-ridden boys going through their problematic early teens
so  it is no wonder she's left craving some liquid gold (and a cocktail umbrella) after a hard day at it.

Don't you just love a cold and sweaty cup.. I say, spice up your concoction with some chilli, ditch the coasters, sit back in your favourite chair and YOLO-it all the way to the weekend/mid-term holidays!

three cheers for Miss Carla tal-INGLIXX! *hip hip

Second one up .. allow me to introduce to you: Florinda
the entirely fictitious spirit of a miserly grandmother ...
no longer flesh
morphed into clay
re-visiting her estranged grandsons in the shape of a vision at the bottom of their
drink come the 1st of November 

This, on the other hand is the Rancho de la Luna cup
inspired especially by:
 Josh Homme's Dessert Sessions
my persistent 'road-trip through the desert' dream
cravings for tequila based cocktails
the resilient and master-of-disguise cicada living in my barren excuse for a yard

This mustachioed cup has a large white cross and cactus for ears,
a blue cow skull tattooed on the back of its head and a hell of a lot of hearts in between

Ok, so here goes.. it worked once.. let's hope we're twice lucky!

Some months back I posted a short blog post and accompanying photos of a hat I made in honour of the ever so lovely, impeccably dressed Tziporah Salamon. To cut a long story really really short, Tziporah got in touch, and the hat somehow made it to New York. Seeing as I'm a sucker for romantic endings (sometimes, when I feel like it ..) and love knowing that what I make ends up in its rightful place; I want to dedicate this cup to Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme.
Some, (and by 'some' I mean my friend Carla who finds this notion amusing to say the least .. bzutt Carla)..
so, where was I.. oh yes.. Some might say I'm pushing my luck here, but come on, is it so unusual to want to give out gifts to people whose work and purpose/role in life you admire. I'll be watching the band live for the first time in Birmingham this November (I'm travelling, I need the break .. and it's not like we Maltese actually have a choice.. in order to see our favourite bands live we have no option but) and I'm really excited about the whole prospect. Will be travelling with just a small carrier bag and crossing my fingers that airport security won't deem this cup 'too hazardous a container for air transport' (pah!).
This cup will keep spinning in its newspaper and bubble-wrap nest until it gets to its rightful owner so all I can do is try. No use waxing lyrical about how much I love Homme's contribution to music here... but if I could (and if I wasn't off my face on left-over wine) I definitely would, because I've listened to very little else for the best part of the past year(s). I'm really quite tipsy at this point.. so I beg of you, please excuse the hyperbole.

Hyperbole apart,
I'm a big fan and I would like to somehow have this cup reach him in one piece as a sign of appreciation from a far away land.


PS and disclaimer: every skull cup is totally handmade; hand painted in one-off designs and largely improvised brushwork. Should you be interested in anything similar I'd be (time-permitting) very happy to oblige. However I stand by my own word when I insist on never repeating a design (at all costs and in every thing I do, sewing and hat-making included). Repetition bores me no end and I just noticed the first frown line on my forehead..
I guess, what I really mean to say is that I can't help feeling that time is running out really quickly and repeating the same thing quickens said pace further. Creating exclusive items comes easy to a restless mind and I intend to keep that up for as long as I can.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

These are a few of my favourite October things ...

Why bother starting every blog post with a 'sorry, it's been long since..'
I'm not going to excuse myself, I've been busy.

'Busy' is my favourite mode.. perhaps, masochistically so, even 'a little bit stressed' is good.
I like having a full day, when the mind just has no option but to stop wandering and focus FOCUS.. if I relax I do not create.
When I relax, I drink cocktails and eat, a lot, go out, a lot .. there is no way in hell I'm going to be in a right mind to create if I'm relaxed. So, fuck relax.

This is possibly the best looking thing I've done in a long while. Don't get me wrong I love almost all of my commissioned work; I love sketching and making every piece. I'm lucky  because, to a certain extent, in my line of work I can be selective as to what commissions I accept. However, rarely do I get to meet someone with such similar taste and the best figure to carry off the dresses I constantly dream about. I hadn't experimented with simple flat Japanese cutting in a long time so this dress came as a most welcome distraction from other (only slightly) less palatable work. I was so excited about the prospect that the fact that I had to make it out of such delicate silk didn't even worry me one bit.

Just for the record - this is very much the direction I'd want my ready-wear collection to take..
and I hope I'm not giving away too much when I say that.

*thanks dad for taking over the 'throwing' duties since I'm still struggling with that* meh
 And whist my sewing room at home was inundated with scraps of ivory chiffon (more about that later) .. back at my parents' I was getting my hands dirty once more for a wedding gift commission. A rushed order that made me hold my breath and cross fingers several times throughout the process. Making it just in time didn't even come as a relief.. I'm still high on the adrenaline of last week. Proof of that - insomnia made worse by late night teleshopping channel browsing!

I insist .. everyone needs Marilu' (or equivalent) for a friend.. a very very thoughtful friend who commissions the most wonderful (if I may say so myself) personalized gifts. This hand painted 50s themed breakfast set intended for newly-wed couple Mr. and Mrs. Fifty (we'll call them that because from what I can understand, almost everyone else does as well) has a (also hand-painted) dedication at the bottom of each item. Emblazoned with their nicknames and polka dotted all over, let's just say I would have really liked to hold on to this set and *hiss* at whoever touches it! 

Out of the kiln .. we made it just in time!

and whilst I was at it (in Maltese we have the most useful saying ‘kif kont fiz-zifna’ .. I really like this saying by the way) I made a mug I had promised my friend Rachel ages ago. She needed one for work.. one that said ‘ Hey, this is Rachel’s mug and I’m really not into sharing bacteria’. I opted for a teenage-angst-fuelled dripping-graffiti font to ward off anyone who dares disturb Rachel's sacred first-tea-in-the-morning ritual!

Rachel loves squirrels - Rachel does not love sharing mugs

This is one of several sketches I made late one night in a bid to compensate for the fact that, after all, I never became an Egyptologist. When I was younger I had promised absolutely everyone, including granparents, teachers, tea-sets and stuffed bears, that I'll become 'an explorer'. At 25 I'm finally coming to terms with the fact that this, along with many other things I had thought possible in one lifetime, is in fact pretty much impossible/improbable. It's ok .. at least I can sketch these things out to exorcize them. Wouldn't want to wake up in my 40s with my dreams of being an Egyptologist all bottled up and hallucinating about scarabs in my cereal bowl.

So I'll be off for now. Will leave you with a few snapshots of what's going on in my sewing-room at the moment. Of special importance is my recent breakthrough with scallop edging, crafty experiments with some novel materials and just a hint of what Halloween 2013 has up its roomy black sleeve.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

... and now, on to something musical

as if this wasn't a busy enough week/month for Babettopolis ..

but let's be honest .. it's hard to turn down a twinkly-blue-eyed request
'la famiglia' comes first, always
moreover, I happen to be an actual unbiased fan of the band's work so
any excuse to help out is more than welcome.

it started with a blank sheet of plywood.. many things do in my world
I came home one day to find this in the kitchen..
would have preferred a negroni and a lamb shank but oh well..
cutting out a festive and art-deco-ed 'pavaljun' pattern proved to be
the easiest of tasks in the whole process

My in-laws .. such great help .. super organized and always
carrying bountiful bags of sandwiches!
This is the sandpapering, dusting and crazy-taping stage..
proving, more than anything else I've ever done,  that I am,
really and truly, quite

How cool are they, they even bring me beer ..
beer drinking on the job .. I <3 my job(s)
black undercoat on, black eggshell paint layer on, nail-bed beyond hope or repair!

Alexandra stops by to help with the de-taping ..
and also ruins her nails for a good cause in the process ..

thank you for ruining your nails with me ^_^

under the watchful eye of 2 Safari poster tigers,
I start filling in the de-taped areas in white egg-shell paint.
A back-breaking balancing act when the surrounding black is still very

.. a weekend of drying time and one crafty handmade stencil later ..
it is done

.. and ready to be put up on site ..

photo credit: the lovely Jeanine Rizzo who happened to be walking by this very morning!

.. and for further advertising purposes ..
I also did the poster for the event
.. just the excuse to officially launch my imaginary career
in civic engineering/architecture

yes I'm still young/silly enough to dream I can be anything
 I want to be if I put my mind and pen to it..

.. as from next Monday I'll be launching my dancing career
with my interpretation of Ravel's Bolero..

and this is the poster ..

Last words .. if you're on the island and it's not rainy and feel like a live gig .. see you there ..
everyone involved is working really hard for this.. just so that you know!

related links:

Band Page

Event Page

Ticket Page

PS: I do expect/accept sushi as payment

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Olivia's Mural

This is Olivia's mural.
*sigh of relief*

Today, when we were putting the finishing touches to this mural, we realized that we had started working on this project in 2011. Some things take longer to jot off the to-do list, but in our line of work we've grown accustomed to this. This was, by no means, a quick-fix kind of project .. so *phew* and a well deserved *phew* if I may say so myself.

Oh, and when I say 'we' I mean me and my dad. Despite some very evident differences in opinion, we somehow managed to finish this one joint commission in one piece. Fuelled by one too many tepid coffees and minute-steak sandwiches, we have, today, bid adieu to what we hope will be the first of several custom ceramic projects.

Rewind to 2011.

This is the 'inspiration board I came up with in 2011.
This had to
 (a) convince my friend Olivia that she needed/wanted this mural in her home,
(b) convince her architects that despite my lack of 'rendering' skills, I knew exactly what I was talking about
(c) convince my dad, a no-nonsense ceramist in his own right, that I wasn't being downright silly/difficult.

I am grateful for the trust!

To do list:
(a) source some olive branches from tal-Providenza, l/o Siggiewi
 (*stealth and pocket-knives to go)
(b) grab a big-ass rolling pin and press some sense into huge slabs of clay
(c) let your inner geometry demons and memories of Moroccan rest-rooms take hold of you,
and chop chop chop them tiles

When I'm allowed into my dad's home studio, I tend to take up all of the space available.
That's me in the background, highlighting the olive branches in a medley of green engobes.
When I'm allowed into my dad's home studio,
I also make it a point to sweep the floor clean with my trousers ...
the way I see it, I'm really doing him a favour!

There you have it - the 4 steps before the first of 2 firings

organize, re-organize and keep very very still

this is, hands down, my favourite part of any tile project .. hand painting custom tiles according
to a loosely laid out plan in my head. I know Olivia well and that, to a certain extent,
made my life easy .. but I still wanted to surprise her by inserting some, perhaps,
unexpected details. So alongside tiles that would hopefully remind her of her (then recent)
travels to Morocco and Japan, I took the liberty to throw in ...

... a three dimensional frame with a bird sitting atop it...

... a not-so-hidden dedication ...

... and some bad-ass anatomical detail for good measure!

Yes, this is my favourite tile - it hangs alone at the very top of the
mural right above where the mirror will be installed.
Seen here, my 'manicured' (ha! funny!) hand gently scrubbing it clean. 

On site - footprints in the dust and a whole lot of measuring going on!

cutting and trimming and gluing and fitting ...

PS: dad's expertise is second to none - there I said it (best daughter in the world etc etc)
the meltdowns, not so much :p

... and trimming some more.

PS: this wet tile saw is my new best friend. Fuck off, rest of the world.

There you have it, after two years of on'n'off work, two scorching kiln firings, the even more scorching wake left behind by two fiery tilers, two large sheets of marine ply-wood that almost didn't make it upstairs into the bathroom and two-hundred cups of coffee - fitted, grouted and dusted.

I've learnt so much in the process - technical terms/buzz words such as 'friza', 'kurrenti' and 'horrox, borrox u il-'grouting' jghatti kollox' as well as how easy it is to blend in a crowd of construction workers at the bar when you're covered in equalizing dust and evidently sharing their main goal (ie: Kinnie and Ftira Bajd u Laham). I want to do this over and over again - bonding time and all!

Olivia,  we await your reaction .. *fingers crossed*
and just so that you know I have never wanted to keep something I've done MORE!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tales of Love and Foliage

Perhaps I ought to have waited a while longer for the pro photos to make it to my inbox.. but I just couldn't resist! This 23rd August wedding had been on my mind since March .. so, I couldn't but share!

Yasmin wanted something figure-hugging that brought together the couple's shared love for everything Sicilian and Lord of the Rings' Galadriel whilst remaining true to the laid-back feel of the whole wedding they had in mind. I went a step further and threw in a nod or two to the Swan Lake ballet costume tradition and Lepape's illustrations for Lanvin. Till the very last day I was still crossing my fingers hoping that I had struck the right balance. One could say that working with such a beautiful and obliging bride who could literally carry off anything she put her mind to wearing made my life easy - however, and may I say, typically - I wrecked my brain with worry that I was suggesting too much or too little by way of design or embellishment! 

In retrospect .. I'm really really happy with what we settled for in the end .. a crepe satin bias-cut high-waisted skirt with just a hint of a train underneath a matching corset trimmed with a wreath of heavily beaded handmade leaves; and a two-part veil hanging from two clusters of leaves at the back of the head. Her bouncy curls hanging loose, I was so relieved to see this bride move around in her dress unhindered by excessive whale-boning or undergarments. A Maltese summer and a jolly disposition require and deserve nothing else but comfort and simplicity.

photo credit: Hauke Eggert

One of several sketches I'm glad to have held on to

early on in the process - I started making the leaves from left-over scraps of crepe-satin and, let's just say, they took close to a lifetime and a half to finish

Some of the leaves were put aside to create the clusters from which the two-part bias-cut veil hung

.. hours later .. the early morning saw me half sipping on some strong coffee, half nodding off whilst taking photos of the finished result

one last late-night fitting before the big day ...

.. and voila! a smiley bride playing around with discreet ribbon loops for the fingers from which the veils could hang

getting a still shot proved almost impossible #infectious_excitement

I was also entrusted with making two dresses for the brides' sister and sister-in-law .. the bride, being the kind soul that she is, wanted to treat her bridesmaids to a dress that wouldn't make them cringe, so after consulting them we came up with a simple design for an ivory chiffon dress with touches of the wedding colour - purple! 
The corseted sweet-heart top of the dress was embellished with a wreath of hand cut purple guipure lace motifs which I then beaded over in pearl and gold - a humble nod towards the rich Indian embellishment tradition so close to the family's heart

a quick shot from our last fitting shows the removable shoulder cape-let in matching purple chiffon for both bridesmaids to wear to church ...

On the day, waiting outside the dressing room for the final make-up touch-ups, both bridesmaids made for the best models one could hope for.. tanned, relaxed and super cool!

And so I leave you with a picture from the 8th of August of a sea of crepe satin and an army of pins. This was my summer and this was my sea. Several spools of white thread later, I'm sitting at my usual chair and the droplets of summer rain outside fail to put a damper on my excitement for the next wedding on the horizon.

A while back, I was considering switching lanes completely in order to take up a slightly more 'useful' career but I just might have to re-consider.. at least for a while longer! I love what I do but I worry about being useful and of real service to society. Why? - that I don't know. The only thing I'm pretty much convinced about is the utter sense of pride and joy I experience when I deliver - literally (in my cranky granny of a car) and metaphorically..

*cheers* to a future of bias cuts and smiley brides!