Monday, May 18, 2015

Week 2 Florence Dreaming

The reason for being in Florence is to research for my next book, and to find some inspirational subject matter, and in that regard this week proved to be a bit of a gem.I caught up with friends who I will go and see later in the month. I have been working on a counter ego doll- Colombina- I want her to track around with me and see the sights. Colombina is a character from the Commedie Dell'arte, which developed in the sixteenth century and she was a servant though often the only one with any sense or intelligence on the stage and the mistress of Harlequin. All the characters in Commedie Dell'arte wear masks and are the basis of the Venetian carnivale masks but in the beginning it appears Colombina did not wear a mask though she did wear a patched dress as a servant girl would and sometimes also the diamond shaped patches of the harlequin costume. Anyway I will look more into her history but at the moment I am having fun with her in weird and wonderful places ( and she is not quite finished yet- that old enemy time and more time)


Yesterday she went to the Artigianato e Palazzo a fair for artisans and their crafts.The  booths were spread throughout the garden, which is quite lovely with formal elements.Lots of potted lemon trees and orange trees, peonie roses and artichokes.


My favourite booth however was the Fabriano booth. My daughter and I have used Fabriano paper in the past and indeed all the cards we made for the Pozible campaign were printed on Fabriano card paper. Sandro Tiberi was demonstrating how to make hand made paper and how to  emboss the paper with designs.It was not very busy as I got there quite early so I asked Sandro some questions amongst which were, whether he would be prepared to try one of my linocuts for embossing. He said yes, so I immediately caught the bus back to the apartment, picked up some linocuts, and took the bus back to the Artigianato. Sandro not only used one of my linocuts but all the four I had brought with me- and I was completely blown away by the results ( he also made a set for himself)- they are so different to  printing with ink- so textural and the feel on the hand made paper is just beautiful- so thank you Sandro for letting my imagination take a leap ! Sandro is based in Fabriano and  runs a Accademie where  the art of paper making can be learnt- you can access it through his website.



  The olive tree linocut came out so gorgeous, I couldn't believe it! The rabbit linocut also came out to great effect- the areas so well defined. The linocut of the vase of poppies ended up coloured because the last time it was used in a transfer printing workshop it had not been washed properly so the transfer paint transferred and as the paper was dried with a heat press the colour turned to black.I quite like the effect.

Last Friday evening I went to the Eataly knitting cafe which was held in the  instruction rooms above Eataly near the Duomo. It was lovely to meet some local people and to have some of their insights on what I should see .It was suggested I go to the Palazzo Davanzati- and I did- and what a morning it turned out to be! I went early ( i find it hard to deal with big crowds of people so  try and get places early so there are less people around) and was  delighted by the Palazzo and it's frescoes and furnishings showcasing a 16th century merchant house.It is also the home of one of the few copies of the the Coperta Guicciardini from the 14th century the original of which is in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The copy was made and donated to the Palazzo by Silvana Vannini Morgantini from drawings by Maria Silvestri Sardini- and it's gorgeous- just a pity it is lying on a bed though of course it suits the ambience it is supposed to  reflect. I have long wanted to see the original , sought permission on 3 occasions from the V&A but was never rewarded with even an answer except once and then could not because you had to  book to see it so long in advance, so was completely delighted to be able to see the copy of it. Then to top of a wonderful morning there was a small concert held in the court of the Palazzo- 3 different short pieces from the seventeenth century beautifully sung- just magical! And all this cost just 2 Euros!




And just some shots of the frescoes around the Palazzo. The Palazzo contains the fresco cycle know as the Chatelaine de Vergy- depicting the story of an adulterous relationship and it's tragic outcome.




And because it is taking me forever to write this blog post I wanted to leave you with and image of these lads in their headgear!


Saturday, May 09, 2015

Week 1 of Florence Dreaming

The first week of being here has already flown by and to be perfectly honest I have not done a great deal in Florence itself apart from finding the Fabriani shop so I could get ink refills for my fountain pen and  I did go to the Artisans Exhibit at the Artigianato e Palazzo . It was a bit disappointing really as I didn't really see anything which had to absolutely go home with me though I did buy a new hand bound  journal from Giulia Materia. I did baste a new travellers; blanket on  indigo dhoti cloth I got from Fiona Wright when I was in India. Now I can stitch it- the colours are inspired by banners and horse blankets ( the one i saw at Museo Stibbert) and the available scraps I had and now I can stitch it by hand and know all those little squares are not going to fall off,It is quite large.


Other than that I have taken a few side trips to Prato and Lucca. I went to Prato to visit the Textile Museum which was exhibiting the collection of embroideries and old laces that once belonged to the Countess Antonia Suardi. There was some lovely pieces in the exhibition and it was beautifully displayed ( though it was difficult to photograph because of the subdued lighting) I particularly love old lace and my particular interest this time has been to pursue textile things Italian There were also some lovely embroideries dating from the 16th century and as always I am in awe of the workmanship  and fineness  of such ordinary things as pillow slips and even the little sampler was full of zest!













Prato itself proved to be a charming outing, The Duomo though smallish is  quite quite beautiful and unusual. There was a marble pulpit designed and carved  by Donatello, on the outside of the  Duomo with a umbrella shaped roof which is quite spectacular and unlike anything I have ever seen. And then there is the recently restored Fresco cycle of Fra Fillipo Lippi- which is quite wonderful... breathtaking actually and just the best surprise! I spent more than an hour taking it all in and even better there was only a handful of others there at the same time. It is believed that the John the Baptist cycle was largely created  by  the workshop assistants but even so there is a beauty and grace in the figures . Then  as I was looking for somewhere to eat Eugenia( as she told me her name was) led me down the road to a small vegetarian cafe frequented by Monash uni students when they come and do their intensive Italian courses.



Then after spending a few days putting together the basted top for my Travellers' blanket top I went to Lucca. Many years ago a young articled clerk in the law firm I worked for said I must see Lucca as she was a Lucchese-I promised her I would but somehow it never quite happened, but I am so glad I finally did. Lucca is a walled city not far from Pisa-  and is not anywhere near as over run with tourists as Florence or Pisa. It is a delightful city with many towers ( where it was once fashionable to live until it became more fashionbale to live on country estates) my only lament is that there is very little evidence of the silk trade which once made Lucca a rich small city state.

I even climbed the 207 steps of the clock tower to get a view over the city and a rather remarkable roof top garden. Isn't it just sensational!



 On the right  is  the curving walls of the houses and restaurants facing the Piazza Anfiteatro which is round and is entered by covered archways. I could not resist the photo of the two elderly ladies who were fine tuning there plant display in front of their little house which faced onto the Piazza. And I also love the juxtapositions of our 21st century way of life ( bicycles in this case as that seemed to be the most popular method of getting around Lucca apart from walking) with the mosaic fascade which almost looks Byzantine of the Basilica di S. Frediano
 The floors of the Cattedraledi S, Martino would likely set any patchworkers' heart skipping, but I particularly liked the marble inlaid pictorial scene in the middle of the cathedral.
The  marble inlaid floor on the left was quite lovely, full of movement if you follow the loops around the central medallion.
 And as a tourist, a sightseer you always seem to be looking into things and through things. So I could not resist the metal grill looking towards a triptych in the background and the keyhole  in an old metal door which on closer inspection revealed two wasp cocoons- treasure within treasure. And last  I did light a candle for all the mothers, daughters and all the women who care in whatever form- we can be the change in the world by our caring, and we can create a better world.




Sunday, May 03, 2015

Florence and the Museo Stibbert

In Florence in a small apartment about 2 km away from the San Maria Novella Railway station. I did an overnight bus trip from Narbonne and as the bus was full, the trip was not the most comfortable- then add the fact that arrival day was 1 May a National Holiday in much of Europe and well nothing much happened on my first day here. As it is a holiday weekend ,all the main museums are free, so I thought better of  standing in a queue though I will do some of that later in the month.In fact i was not going to do anything at all, except have lunch at the little restaurant I found yesterday- but I was 10 minutes too early( hey my stomach has turned french on me lol!) and  went to the market instead and bought fresh vegetables and cheese and wine. Cooked my lunch and then thought I should walk and see the Museo Stibbert which is not far from here and which the owners of the apartment had impressed upon me as a must see, and you have to listen to local people right?

Well what a delight it was and I seemed to have missed most of the costume collection somehow. The museum was a gift to the city of Florence  from Frederick Stibbert who was born of an English father and  Italian mother in 1838. He rode in  Garibaldi's campaign to unify Italy and collected widely though mainly suits of armour and  things associated with those, though there are also a large number of paintings in the collection, as well as collections devoted to particular countries such as Japan. During his years of collecting , his collection outgrew his first house so he bought a second, which he connected with a grand hall which was designed to house a life size cavalcade.So i have to admit armour is not my thing at all, nor are pieces of equipment of war, or things that kill people, but I have to admit the collection was pretty amazing- sheer size, idiosyncracy and well passion saw to that. You get a sense of his passion because it is housed in his original house to which he added bits in order to house more things.And then the decoration of the house to support his collection was of itself amazing. My only complaint was the completely awful lighting- things can be improved a great deal in that department!


We were guided through the museum by a guide( they only let in 25 people at a time and the tour takes an hour and is in Italian, so it is not packed at any given time) and the gardens are free , used by  the citizens of Florence and visitors alike.Most of the outside of the house is nineteenth century and nineteenth century renovations.The plaques on the wall are heraldic plaques.

These images are from the Islamic room in his house, replete with carved walls. The texture on this foot soldiers costume on the left was just gorgeous. The horses are life size and the models used ( which were created to  Stibberts directions as he was also a keen equestrian) are very realistic- marvellous in fact. Even the faces of the people riding the horses were meant to represent real people.





 The photo top left is in the hall that was built to house the cavalcade- life size horses- my goodness quite powerful really and the horse above in its suit of armour- what wonderful texture and sheer visual gorgeousness. And the appliqued details of a saddle cloth in the photo on the left- worn so that the threads of the embroidery are clearly visible.


A lot of the house was renovated to suit the collection but also contained many elements of pure decoration. To say that the experience of entering a room was one where decoration was over the top would not be an understatement- every spare inch has some sort of  decorative element. The image left above was painting on the windows- I could not get close enough but no doubt hand painted. The images on right is of panelling on the walls- which were not your usual wall paper but patches of leather which had been embossed and hand painted- literally hundreds of these panels over many of the walls.




 The photo left above was an alcove covered in tiling and majolica ware- it was like walking into a peacock's tail. And the panel on the right was painted onto the wall- it was quite large, but who painted it? There was little information on the provenance of some of the material in the house itself. One can only imagine the number of artisans and artists who must have worked on this house at various times. And the bed cover on the right is a quilt- it seems very modern and out of place but was made especially for Frederick from silk and velvet sometime in the late nineteenth century. Isn't it gorgeous?


detail of the quilt- unfortunately my detail of the centre of the quilt was out of focus but it almost appeared to be the labels off something( which made me think of it as a late twentieth century quilt)
And last but not least the gardens are a haven of cool in the afternoon sun- almost forlorn and kind of forgotten with elements crumbling and large shady trees which were supposed to be like an English park.All in all an unexpected joyful kind of day filled with a lot of inspiration really.

And then I have been carrying around a bag of scarps for quite some years now. I carry them in case there is just the right bit in there for someone when I am teaching.  But really this time I have grown tired of it. What to do with it? I ironed all the scraps- am still undecided- who knows it may grow into something.
 Don't the scraps look different ironed... hmm maybe it will grow into something- maybe indigo background, maybe the Nepalese rough linen ( was it linen I have forgotten the name) might be interesting to use

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Books & Medieval Project

The books have all been sent to meet my Pozible commitments and everyone should have received them by now. Once again thank you so much for your support in realising our dream- it is so very much appreciated.And I am getting great feedback- so thank you for that too!

I do have some books for sale that I can send from France to Europe,the UK or the USA. The price for the book is 45 Euros plus 7.50 Euros postage so a total of 52.50. If you would like a copy let me know as soon as possible and I will send you details of how to make payment. Just email me and I can be paid with Paypal.

L'Amour du Fil in Nantes was great fun and new friends were made. I did manage to kill my camera ( and I won't tell you how) but the kindness of a stranger before the quilt event( and now a friend)  came to the rescue- so now I can continue to photograph. I was having quite a small fit  as the trip to Florence for the month of May is all about research and very much photographing for the next book.

The Medieval project looked terrific and thank you all so much for sending your work. I know there are more coming and a few did not arrive in time, but they are safe with my friend. They will tour Australia in any case and another event in France at Aixe-en-Provence. I have photographed every piece ( some photos are not great because of the lighting at the quilt event) which I will put up on the Medieval project page in the next week or so. Many people enjoyed your work and your creativity.! The black background worked great for the brilliant embroidery!









 I  am at present in Moux staying with my friend Margo Bimler before I head off to Florence on  an all night bus trip  on Thursday.

There are poppies everywhere... what can I say they need to be photographed and the angel in the little church next to her house is looking over things.