Hi. My name is Dargie and I’m a yarn junkie

I’m not kidding you when I say I have just spent the last hour googling “Feza yarns” in hope of finding good photos of Alp, Premiere or Dazzle, and figuring out what sort of yarns they’re using, how they tie them together, what happens to the ends, how long the individual pieces are, and are they always in the same order?

Not familiar with Feza? The pic to the right is Feza Alp. Have you ever seen anything more delicious-looking? Lengths of what look like velvet ribbon, bulky wools, eyelash, mohair, nylon ribbons… I can’t imagine knitting with this and not saying “oh WOW!” every few minutes.

So far I’ve discovered that the order of the yarns is always the same, and the types of yarn used are (predictably, had I known that Feza had a large line of yarns) all the Feza novelty yarns. Based on some patterns I’ve seen, the lengths look to be pretty consistent and not terribly short, though depending on how a garment is knitted would make a difference. I’m guessing they’re between two and three feet. And I found one site which states that they’re always in the same order, which does make sense if you look at the patterns.

The tie-offs remain a mystery since I can’t make heads or tails out of that wild spaghetti of fiber in any photo I’ve found, but I guess that makes it all the more intriguing. Because I’m going to try making my own. Yeah, yeah, I know. Nuts, right? In spite of a high price tag (Prices range from ($18.50 to $36.00 depending on the source.) it’ll probably cost me much the same to make my own. And time? We’re not even going to go there. But my plan has two advantages. First, I have total control of what my yarn will end up looking like. And second, and probably even more important, it’s going to be fun.

See you in about twelve years.

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Eep! I’m so excited!


I just bought this chandelier. On clearance! I’ve been wanting a swag lamp for over my bed, so I’d have better reading light, and I’ve been looking longingly at those multi-color chandeliers from Germany, but apart from the price, which I couldn’t justify, they weren’t quite what I was looking for. But this? It’s perfect. There’s more than enough room for embellishment here,and already I’m seeing the shades trimmed in beaded fringe and colorful braid. With the addition of other colors of crystals, and some draped chains of colored beads, etc., it’s going to be gorgeous.

I can also change the shades if I like, which is awfully handy for changing the look. But I’m currently on something of a red binge right now, and also mad for color, so the other two chandeliers in this line — pale pink or pale blue — didn’t quite cut it. And they were $50 more expensive, so I really lucked out here.

I’m aiming for a modified fin de siecle look. Colorful, Bohemian, rich, warm and yet elegant. Not much to ask? I have several project ideas in the works, and will be shoving large pieces of furniture around in the next two days as a beginning.

I really enjoy decorating.

The Hidden and the Exposed

masks 006Carved wooden mask given to me by a friend.

I love masks, though this wasn’t always the case. When I was a small child, I read about the Iroquois and their False Face Society, and found the masks terrifying. Later, I began to understand their purpose, and that they were considered living things as well as evocations of healing spirits, and fear became curiosity and fascination.

There are all sorts of masks from the simplicity of the Halloween or Mardi Gras mask to ritual and theater masks. There are also protective ones, such as surgical masks or sports gear such as goalie masks. This latter type has been turned into a very potent horror icon by the “Friday the 13th” franchise, prompting hockey leagues to drop its use entirely. It’s a good example of how masks can take on meaning that was never intended by their makers.

In Midori Snyder’s “The Innamorati” the masks are living things which speak to their maker. They are stylized masks such as the Polichinelle to the right, which are icons of the Commedia dell’Arte characters. The novel is a colorful and complex fantasy that explores the ideas of identity, and the masks we hide behind to protect ourselves. Snyder, one of the co-founders of The Endicott Studio and who blogs regularly for Endicott Redux does a brilliant job with the twists and turns of the labyrinth within a labyrinth, the person behind the mask and the mask as a substitute for the person.

Unknown ninja, Norwood Park, 2005

Masks don’t just hide identity, they can bestow it as well. They can expose what lies beneath the face which is wearing the mask. Behind a mask, we are free to be someone else, something else. Children put on masks at Halloween to become Power Rangers, monsters, ninjas and princesses. What they choose says something about how they see themselves. As we grow older, our choice of mask says more about how we would like to see ourselves, but at the same time it allows us to be that thing, if only for a night. The wearing of masks is liberating.

Dirae (the terrible)
Originally uploaded by dyyanae.

And sometimes masks have lives of their own. “Dirae” (right) seems to me to be one of these. I can’t help but feel that if you gaze too deeply into those empty eyes, you will see yourself, your past and your future, and the most terrible thing of all: the truth.

I love masks.

Paris, Belle Epoque

Senderens 02 Last night, after a lovely supper with friends, I went to Borders and found a stack of French design magazines. One of them, Art & Décoration, had a large spread on restaurants in Paris, most of which dated from the Belle Epoque, or which were last remodeled during that era.

There are no eras more appealing to me than the Fin de siècle, so the ‘zine was a must-buy. And when I got home, I read until past three this morning, in my reallyreally cold apartment, hardly noticing either the time or the cold. I scanned the photos today and added them to my inspirations file, but I thought I’d share some of them here.

The one to the left is from Senderens which actually dates to 1732, when it was The English Tavern (La Taverne Anglaise) and later Taverne Lucas, after its new owner. In 1890 it was purchased by a man who in 1902 decided to redecorate in the current Art Nouveau style.

Senderens 01In 2005 it was renamed Senderens for its current owner-chef, Alain Senderens. The restaurant was redecorated to reflect more current tastes, but much of the turn-of-the-century flavor was preserved with the gorgeous wood carvings and paneling, and the original lighting. I think the result is quite beautiful.

(For larger versions of any of these photos, click the image and you’ll be taken to Flickr.)

Maxims

One of the most famous of all Belle Epoque establishments is, of course, Maxims. It began life as a café, but soon evolved into a restaurant which has almost become synonymous with “Belle Epoque.” It’s not hard to see why, either with its sensual and sumptuous Art Nouveau decor surviving intact, it’s almost like a time machine back to the early years of the 20th century.

Bouillon RacineLeft, Bouillon Racine, which has also survived intact, is a very different sort of Art Nouveau. No less beautiful, but lighter, airier, and less formal-looking. And below, Vagenende which looks very bistro-like with its mirrors, bright lights and no-nonsense seating.

Vagenende Sadly, it’s rare to see such preservation in this country where the thrust is always for the new, the “cutting edge” of design. This sort of decor exists only as an homage to the era, and is frequently the only thing which will recommend an establishment. I remember from my childhood, restaurants and other establishments which dated to the beginning of the century, and which had survived pretty much intact into the fifties. But eventually they grew shabby and were remodeled or closed, and a little something was lost in the process. It’s nice to see that the real thing still does exist.

La Fermette Marbeuf

Julien

Connections

I’ve said many times that my job at the bead store was the best one ever. I loved being around all those beautiful beads, talking to beaders, loved having the opportunity to work on projects in my down time, taking classes… teaching classes. I can’t think of anything about the job I didn’t like except the fact that it ended when the store closed.

One of the things I enjoyed most were the bead gypsies. For anyone who has never heard the term (I hadn’t) a bead gypsy is someone who travels around the world, buying up beads and other crafted items directly from the people who have made them. Then they bring them to shops to sell. Having a good relationship with a number of them always ensured that we had a lot of unique items.

They’d typically show up out of the blue, but Gwen and Donna would always make time to sit down with them and have a visit over a cup of tea before they got down to business. That was part of the business, really, the human contact. I always thought it was one of the reasons why these people did what they did. They met people all around the world, and got to know them and their cultures. They carried news of what was going on in the world, and in fact we heard how dangerous Afghanistan was becoming back in the early 90s from a pair bead gypsies who had traveled in that area for many years. They said that the trip they just finished would probably be their last until things cooled down. And then they laid out their wares: bracelets, rings, necklaces, beads made of lapis and carnelian. Wonderful things. They gave us fantastic prices, and were willing to sell directly to each of us for the same price which is how I snagged the three silver rings above. The blue stones are lapis, the orange, carnelian, and the bead in the center ring is what we called a “Mecca” bead. It’s red glass with a crescent and stars imprinted on its face. I paid $5 each.

The brass ring above, so big that it fits comfortably on my thumb, came from a pair of Nigerian bead gypsies, who would show up about once a year with three or four huge plastic bins filled with merchandise. They would lay out piles of trade beads: millefiori, vaseline beads, chevrons, vegetable amber, seeds, nuts, brass, bone, horn, clay and stone. They brought Coptic crosses, statues, rings for the fingers, nose and ears, and stacks of mudcloth. I even have a finger knife — wicked sharp — that I bought from them on their last trip, but I kick myself that I never bought a piece of the mudcloth. As expensive as it seemed at the time, it was a bargain compared to what it’s being sold for now.

It was always like Christmas when they came calling. A strange and exotic Christmas to be sure, but always filled with a sense of excitement and wonder. Because as the boxes and bundles were opened, and the wares presented, we were seeing not just rings and beads, but cultures, and the people who created all of it. It gave me a sense of how connected an artisans are to their environment, how much they owe to it and it to them. Sometimes I wished we could convey that to the people who bought those things from us, but increasing disconnection from the source of an item brings a similar disconnection from its greater meaning.

Lincoln Square04 Sometimes I’ll find myself looking up at the buildings here in Chicago, mostly the older ones, and noticing the embellishments, the grace notes which are no longer features of architecture, dismissed as too busy, or not modern enough. And I find myself wondering if there even are people who could create those architectural flourishes anymore. I remember Joey telling me that one of the reasons why he got such a good gig on a building site is that he was the only man on the crew who knew how to build a mansard roof, and I thought, along with “Good on yez, Joey,” that it was a sad commentary on how quickly a culture can disconnect from an art form when that form has lost its value to a society.

I think about workers in places like Asia and Africa, grinding out cheap, machine-made knock-offs of their traditional crafts, and thinking that it’s not worth bothering to learn those traditions because they don’t pay anymore. It’s sad and perhaps inevitable. But then I see artisans in all countries who have chosen to keep up old traditions, and I realize that this is also part of the role of the true artist/artisan. They don’t just create the new, they practice the old as well, and integrate the two when they can. They reconnect.

I miss the bead gypsies, miss their stories and their wares. I miss that job. But I’m beginning to feel as if I have an even more important one now. Reconnecting.

The meanings of self-portrait

For some reason — possibly because journaling is always about self-portraiture — my first page in the Wreck This Journal project got me thinking seriously about self-portraits. Before my mother died, I was playing with the idea of photographic self-portraits, though I quickly came to the realization that even if I had the desire to continue, I wasn’t certain I had the intellectual rigor to make a photo a day really interesting. I did produce a few I liked enough to post on my Live Journal and which I’ve added to the LJ community I administer now that we’ve added self-portraiture to our ongoing projects. Here are a couple of them:

Self portrait, Jan. 28, 2007Self Portraits 015Barnes and Noble sunset

Some of the people in the community have asked about the parameters of a self-portrait, and I had to think about that for a bit before I came up with a definition for the group that seemed to suit all our needs. I said that I felt that anything that exposes something of ourselves in a visual way can be considered a self-portrait for our purposes. And in fact I’d already considered this aspect when I did the following self-portrait in negative space:

Self Portraits 007

Me, defined by the space I left behind.

Today, I did my first “wrecked” journal page, and it centered around a very old photo of me. I was not expecting to accomplish much, but as I worked, so much feeling and meaning came spilling out of me that this is what I produced:

01 -- Home -- 03-22-07

Which seemed to call for something more. Somehow I knew I had to follow it up with a more conventional self-portrait, so I did this one:

03-22-07

I think it’s a portrait of my heart.

More, wilder flights of fancy


N. Colmore Auction Lot
Originally uploaded by crowolf.

I’ve been meaning to blog about Crowolf for a while now. His imagination coupled with his mad Photoshop skilz has produced so many photos which surprise, delight, intrigue and even horrify me that it’s difficult for me to pick out two or three to show here in an attempt to get you all to go see his work on Flickr.

What first attracted me was his work with the Neville Colmore “Fatagravures”

A Scottish adventurer, inventor, and photographer named Neville Colmore claimed to have constructed a device capable of “…parting the veil of Faery…”. The device, which he called the “Spectobarathrum”, produced beautiful photo graphic plates he called “fatagravures”, through a now lost process. The original “Spectobarathrum” along with all of the images he claimed to have made were believed destroyed in a fire.

Some of these images are amusingly silly, some actually a little frightening, and all touched with a wonderful, highly developed sense of the fantastic.

Crowolf isn’t all about the fantasy by any means. He’s documented zoos, cemetery art, and the lives of his children, including photos of his blind, severely autistic son, in which he tries to understand a little about how his son experiences the world. Whatever else these latter photos have accomplished for Crowolf, for us they show the deep love and concern of a father for his son.

Crowolf also has a website, Crowolf Design, where his illustration and design talents are showcased. It’s well worth a visit. But whatever else you do, go see his photos. Just click through on either of the pics in this entry, and be transported.

Fantastic, Mythic Worlds


My love of geofiction in all its guises predisposed me to find fascinating the work of Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick, noted today at Endicott Redux. Kahn’s and Selesnick’s worlds are fantastic, mythic, and often bizarre, filled with wit and wordplay, and almost overwhelmingly documented with photos illustrating their “histories.”

There are wonderful faux histories of the Green Man tradition in Germany and the British Isles, documented with photos both extraordinary and hilarious. There is a future history of Scottish bog-dwellers, and a story of a city of salt. And there are the Apollo Prophecies:

The ancient command module pilot lift-off-mongers: SCHMITT, ARMSTRONG, SHEPARD, and GAGARIN; these were the ALDRIN-Men. Their power was very great, and they did split the world into four: MERCURY, GEMINI, SOYUZ, and APOLLO. The world was crocodiles, boars, and LOVELLs.

Then GAGARIN did discover the use of the All-Seeing Eye, and when SCHMITT, ARMSTRONG, and SHEPARD saw this, and discovered this, they worshipped GAGARIN and brought him offerings of fruit and wine. Their lands grew cold, and little did grow in them, so fully did they love GAGARIN. But GAGARIN knew that his triumph would only bring evil to the world, and he used the great plow SOYUZ to sow the seed of hatred into MERCURY. Then GAGARIN was much reviled. In a heated fury, ARMSTRONG and SHEPARD stole SOYUZ and threw it down to the earth, which killed many boars and created the hole in the sea. All the lands fruited . . .

It takes not only imagination to produce work like this, but a firm grounding in art, history and myth. These are brilliant pastiche pieces, certainly, but far more than that. They are works to ignite the imagination as well as the intellect. This is the best sort of geofiction there is. I’m amazed that I’d never heard of these guys, but now that I have, I’m not going to lose sight of them.

Adorn


Being very much a what-the-heck? sort of gal, I decided to take a chance and subscribe to Adorn magazine sight unseen. It’s billed as “the crafty girl’s guide to embellishing life” and I figured how can I go wrong with that? So my first copy arrived today and I have to say that it’s a cute little zine, very slick and pretty. It has a heavy emphasis on fashion, which is okay, though not my first choice for magazine content. Of the craft articles, most are on the trendy side, and a little basic. Again, fine, it’s valid even if I’m not as interested in it as I’d hoped. There are a couple of short, book reviews and a lot of must-have-it space filled with fairly generic craft items or and home/personal accessories like polka-dot martini glasses.

It’s probably obvious that I’m a little underwhelmed by the magazine, though I don’t want to put it down. I rather wish I hadn’t subscribed, but I’ll make the most of it. The only thing that really bothers me, and of course this is a wholly personal issue, is that everyone in this zine looks about 20 and is probably a size 2. And yeah, I find that kind of off-putting. Maybe the message is supposed to be that craft isn’t just for little old ladies who raise cats and geraniums. It’s trendy! It’s happening! ZOMG Must. Make. Things. So if that’s about where you’re at with craft, go for it. You may well like the zine and get a lot out of it. I remain interested if unconvinced.