Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Setting the Table

The time has come to start shooting our next book. The crafts are finished, thanks to Jody, the props and tables have been rounded up from all the flea markets, the crew is arriving by plane, foot and wheels, the food will be gathered at the Silverlake Farmer's Market, and Michael is working on getting the horse to the chateau! Usually I lose sleep leading up to one of these shoots, but I have tried to let go of the anxiety and just go with the flow. We will be setting 8 different tables - some small, intimate meals, and some larger family meals - each will have a few craft ideas to help embellish the table and event. My plan is to try and capture the process of how we entertain - how we prepare the table, food and atmosphere before we gather friends around. Here we goooooo!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ticking Swatches

My friend and textile mentor, Elizabeth Baer, has a swatch of every ticking she has ever found. Blue and whites, blue and reds, red and whites, red and pinks - every color combination you can imagine. One day, when I was visiting her and we were having tea in her cellar (a cellar that has over a dozen rooms!) she pulled out this scraggly little book of swatches and showed it to me. I think she could tell that I coveted it - she let me look at it and then put it away quickly.
Elizabeth tells the story of how, many years ago, she was driving down some old rural road in the countryside of France when she spotted a vide grenier sale (attic sale) - she found all sorts of treasures within the old house and then asked if they had any other textiles for sale. The pointed her towards the old barn. When she walked in, she saw turn of the century bed tickings from floor to ceiling. The tickings had been stripped of their feathers and were left to be burned. The farmers had taken the feathers to sell, but the cloth was useless to them. Elizabeth bought every last ticking from that old French barn and started decorating with them - she covered sofas, club chairs and settees.
The old tickings are getting pretty rare to find in France - as are most of the old fabrics. Every once in a while, I get lucky and run into an old dealer that has a trunk full of stripes and's a part of French history that has slowly disappeared over the last few years - slipped into private homes and chateaus.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Back to the Loom

I am in my second weaving class now - it's still as overwhelming as the first. It took me almost three full classes (that's 9 hours!) to warp the loom. My warp is old white cotton string that someone had dyed a melon color - almost 20 years ago. It's a beautiful warp and it's finally on! It's those damn hedels that drive me a little crazy. This time around I am going to weave a runner for Sofia's bedroom floor. I am using all different shades of old coral, pink and salmon - fabric, wool, cotton and linen - all woven together to form somewhat of a rag rug.
Since weaving is a luxury for me, I have to remind myself - if I am not in a relaxed state of mind, it shows on my weft. You have to almost escape and let your mind wander about nothing, because if you start getting stressed about what you are going to make for dinner, how your car is rattling (again) or the latest deadline, you stress out the fibers and they look funky.
This stand-up on the bench idea looks interesting - but not very comfortable - I don't think weaving is a luxury for this woman - I am sure it is a necessity.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rouge et Brun

The most primitive color palette - red and brown.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Taking the Waters

Living in New York, we used to escape the craziness and drive north a couple of hours to Saratoga Springs. Within Saratoga State Park are two bathhouses, the Roosevelt and the Lincoln.  It's a destination well worth the trip.
For more than a century, sophisticated travelers flocked to Saratoga Springs to soak in the region’s culture and charm, as well as the area’s famed, soothing mineral waters.
By the mid 1800's, bathing in the mineral waters had become a common health treatment. The historic Roosevelt Baths and Spa opened in 1935 as a bathhouse. Many believe that regular bathing in mineral springs is an important factor in preventive health care and that using the mineral springs assists in reducing stress and strengthening the body's overall functioning. 
At the bathhouses, the mineral water is combined with hot tap water to bring the water temperature to ninety-seven degrees Fahrenheit. This keeps the carbonation at its peak. During a bath the gas bubbles form on the skin producing a gentle stimulation. Some carbon dioxide is absorbed through the skin, thus dilating blood vessels and improving circulation.
This all sounds quite debonair and fancy, but in reality these bathhouses are anything but. The bathhouses almost have a medicinal feel to them - there are plenty of white tiles, all oxidized by the water minerals and the average age of the women helping you in and out of the tubs must be early nineties. These women have worked their whole lives in the spas assisting the sick and the healthy. The first time I visited, during the summer of 1994, I was able to soak at the Roosevelt bathhouse, before it closed for renovation. After I had soaked, for almost an hour, a 90 year old woman came in and said "Oh honey, you got it, you really got it" - I guess she must have known that I really needed it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Dying Art

Lately, I have been dying a lot of our old hemp and linen sheets. I think I might have overdosed on the whole clean, crisp look of white linen - and now, I am loving the deep, rich, saturated colors the cloth takes on once it is soaked in a bath of color.  I have been using a dyer out in the valley - who specializes in dying t-shirts and once in a while he will throw a few of our sheets into the vat.  The linen and hemp love the dye - they eat it up.  Sometimes, when the sheet has been woven out of different fibers, each fiber takes the dye differently and you get a striped effect.  You can see the different wefts used in making one full sheet.
My good friend, Polly Lyster, from Gloucester, is a master dyer.  Polly uses vegetable dyes to color natural fibers like cotton, silk, linen and hemp in rich contemporary colors.  She then designs and sews furniture covers, cushions, table linens and bed covers.  Whenever I am in England, Elizabeth and I pay Polly a visit at her Tasha Tudor like cottage on Frog Woads Lane. On her property,  she has set up a full operation with multiple dying vats and washing machines.  There are always beautiful, old sheets hanging from her clothesline - drying in the sun, fading out just the right amount.  Once in a while, Polly's mum will be visiting from India - where she moved 20 years ago -  she regales me with stories from Rajasthan to Jaipur.  Together, Polly and her mum scour the Indian textile market to find antique indigo textiles and document fabrics.
If you haven't dyed anything lately - put on a big pot of boiling water, add a package of Rit Dye and a handful of salt (the salt helps the fabric absorb and hold the dye better) and throw in some white pillowcases or napkins that have seen better days.  Once the color you want is achieved, rinse with cold water and set out to dry.  You will be amazed how quickly you can revitalize and recycle old textiles.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Textile Printing

We're starting a new project this month - and I am over the moon about it! After all of these years of collecting, buying (even hoarding!) old fabric - we are being given the opportunity to design our own collection of textiles.
Moda, a multi-line fabric, notions and finished product manufacturer, has been printing fabric since 1975, and has a roster or creative designers working with them.
Moda didn't actually say, the skies the limit, but in my mind...the skies the limit! I have been having fun pulling out all sorts of old fragments of early 18th century red florals and tickings that I have collected over the years from my friend Elizabeth Baer in Bath. I have a scrap off of an old French boutis that I am trying to stitch together in order to save the fantasy flowers.
And then there are the birds. Over the years, I have searched out all of the early botanical, tropical and aviary indienne prints I could find. These prints were popular during Queen Eugenia's reign when she had a love of everything from insects to arbors. The collection will have lots of shades of red and be grounded with beautiful indigos and browns - and hopefully will be classic in design but contemporary enough for our living spaces today.
Our collection will be available in 2009 at fabric and craft stores worldwide - as well as Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Flowers and Fabric

BLOOM : a horti-cultural view.
Bloom was created in 1998, in response to the ever-growing lifestyles inspired by trends in flowers, plants and gardening. Bloom is the first magazine of its kind, filled with informative and inspirational photography and reports on the major trends in this area, and how this relates to fashion, interiors, design, packaging ,cosmetics, food and culture. Bloom speaks to all levels of the industry, from hybrid creators to growers, buyers, distributors and florists, as well as to the general public at large.

Launched in 2004, Selvedge offers the world’s finest textile photography, unparalleled design and peerless writing
Open a copy of Selvedge and you sense there is a philosophy that readers subscribe to. A belief system based on a cerebral and sensual addiction to textiles in all forms. Readers share a belief in the importance of their material surroundings and a passion for the beautiful and beautifully made.

These are two of my favorite magazines - they are hard to come by - but if you ever feel like splurging on the good stuff, subscribe to one (or both!) of these. You will refer to them over and over and get all sorts of inspiration and ideas.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Strange Overtones

I have a deep admiration for people who are really good at what they do - I am easily moved to tears at the theatre, during a film, listening to a concert...even watching the Olympics. But, I'm not easily smitten by people - in fact, very few people actually impress me.
David Byrne is an exception. I am so taken with him - I think it's because I have been listening to him since I was a kid and I am still in awe at what he is producing.
He just released a new album, Strange Overtones, with another amazing talent, Brian Eno, and, once again, I am so impressed.
I also love the way they are marketing the album. No big, fancy hype - just good, old word of mouth. Here's what David had to say:
"I’m also wondering whether the web-curious will allow news of the album to spread more or less by itself. In the past, I might have undertaken all kinds of expensive marketing plans to prepare for a record release: there would be a teaser, live shows, posters, magazine ads, interviews, and advance CDs sent to writers and reviewers. We’ve done a few interviews, but that’s about it. It will be interesting to see if audiences find out about this song — and the record — without all those marketing techniques, and solely through Internet word-of-mouth."
Molly turned me on to David's journal where you can download his new song and read about his comings and goings - and maybe even listen to his current play list....he's numero uno in my book.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Let's Make a Deal

I saw that Berger Beads left their information on a post I wrote last week and it got me thinking about dealers. Bead dealers, textile dealers - dealers in general - they are a funny sort. Some of my dealers are my closest friends - and I wouldn't have it any other way....they are funny, direct and at the end of the conversation, they are interested in just one thing - making the deal. When I visit flea markets, I like to find one or two dealers and just buy deep - once I find a dealer I like, I tend to stick with them.
I speak with one of my dealers almost every day - and it's usually the same conversation...but he always hopes that at the end of the conversation I will say, "Ok - send me a few pounds of that opaque lemon druk bead" - but most of the time, we just check in with each other - see how the other one is doing, throw in a bit of bead gossip here and there and then it ends with "Call me if you change your mind" or I say "Call me if you find any glass flowers, birds or leaves!"
Another dealer, here in Los Angeles, stops in French General every once in a while, last week she stopped in to invite me to her 81st birthday party this weekend. Her house is really her trunk - it is filled with textiles from around the world that she collected when she and her husband traveled the world during the seventies while he was a bigwig at Paramount Studios. Half the time she won't sell me what I want, because she is emotionally attached to it (something I also suffer from) but usually, she ponders on it a bit, tells me where she found it, what she had always wanted to do with it and then - let's go. I pay her whatever she asks, because she takes me on the journey with her - it's worth the trip.
Sometimes deals can go bad - but I usually give in before they do - because if I am fighting that hard I know I really want it. Take for example, the morning at Berger Beads last week. I have been visiting this old bead shop for 20 years, and, it still amazes me the old, old pieces they have in quantity. On this day, I knew exactly what I wanted. I went to the back, picked up the small boxes of old glass pearls and walked up to the counter. Along the way, I spotted some old, old, old cranberry dimpled glass on wire - the cranberry glass that was made with the flash of gold, it sparkled.
The dealers spotted me, they knew I had found something beautiful. Let the games begin. I thought it was overpriced, so they came down a bit. I offered. They countered. And on and on it went. For almost an hour!! Finally, the owner walked in - I had been dealing with the counter-dealer - there was a bit of hushed talking between dealers. Finally, I said to the owner, this is what I am offering, do you want it or not? - he quickly said, Done! I loved it. My brother said he heard the counter dealer cry out, "OOOOOOHHHHH" - as if she had lost. The owner knew it was a good deal for both of us and we were both satisfied. But oh what a struggle!!
I guess that's what some business is all about - a good deal at the end of the day.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Inspiration: Old Red

That's all...just some color swirling through my mind. Red is for good luck. Lots of things are red in China. It carries a positive connotation, being associated with courage, loyalty, honor, success, fortune, fertility, happiness, passion, and summer. That all sounds good to me.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Calling Cards

Remember the good, old-fashioned business card? The business card was designed to swap with an acquaintance in order to exchange information. For years, I always carried one, had to have one, gave one to whoever asked for one. I spent long hours designing the perfect image with just the right type and flourish. I would take my artwork and go to my printer (can anyone really live without a good printer?) and I would print hundreds of business cards.
I've lived the past ten years without a business card - nothing to hand out...unless I dig up some old card I printed years ago. I like it and I don't. On one hand, if people want to remember who you are, they will find a way. On the other hand, I look like a fool for not handing out my business information to people who might be interested in doing business with us.
The Japanese love a good business card, in fact, they hand you their card before you even have had a chance to exchange names. The networking is important. They have learned that to be successful it is important to spread the good news - let everyone know what you are doing and how can you connect and do something creative together.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Field Trip: Grand Central Market

Today, my brothers, Dawn and I all decided to take the day off and take a little tour of some of my favorite spots in downtown Los Angeles. We started at Berger Bead, strolled through Michael Levine's and ended up at the Central Market on Broadway and 3rd. Central Market dates back to 1917 when well-to-do Angelenos rode the Angels Flight Railway down to the best open-air shopping in town. At the market, they could find an entire world of treats for all the senses and all the family. Today you still can. Over 38 vendors offer the finest selection of produce, delicacies and unique items from around the world - but mostly, it is a Latino market. Homemade mole, overstuffed pupusas with loroca flowers, and piles and piles of dried chiles. The visit was filled with color, scents and tastes - just what I needed to get my creative juices flowing.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Entertaining Writers Block

It's true - when writing a book you think about everything else you want to do, but write the book.
I need to work out the menus for the different tables and then I need to figure out where to find a set of pink lustre teacups and then I need to write to Chimay and ask if they will send me some of their wonderfully perfect shaped beer glasses and then I need to look through old textile swatch books to think about color combinations and early indienne prints.....what else can I do?
To me, writing a book is as much about writing as it is about inspiration - what is moving me now, what is making me feel fresh and new - how old can something be and yet still feel contemporary and fit in with how we entertain today?
Sitting and writing takes my full concentration, commitment and focus - I have to give myself inspiration time and writing time - so that, hopefully, the two will meet up somewhere in the middle and create a story.
I have to remember......stay calm and carry on.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Just for the Record

We had a family of ducks living in our pool during the winter. We had a baby skunk living under our deck this past spring. On a couple occasions, we've had raccoons come inside the house to chomp on the cat food. The backyard is filled with squirrels, hummingbirds and an owl. Today, when I went to swim, there was a coyote in our backyard - a coyote! He scurried over the fence pretty fast, but I couldn't mistake him for anything else - it was a wild dog. We live in the middle of Los Angeles - and I feel like we are living out on the prairie!