30 December 2012

Tammis Keefe website - cocktail napkins added!

Linen cocktail napkins, in original gift box.
If you are looking for gifts that will make things a little brighter, more liveable, more usable and more sympathetic to human beings, then look for the name of Designer Tammis Keefe.
 - Dallas Morning News, December 15, 1957
The holiday season, full of festive food and drink, in is full swing as we approach New Year's Eve.  Throughout the land, revelers are performing a two-handed juggling routine - balancing plates of tidbits in one hand while manuvering a cup of punch or a cocktail in the other.  Napkins are involved, for wiping a stray bit of onion dip, or to place beneath the mug of mulled wine, saving the party giver's nice furniture from tell-tale waterspot rings.

The career of Tammis Keefe (1913-1960) paralled the resurgence of post-war cocktail party culture, when Prohibition and rationing were distant memories. Thanks to my patient DH, examples of Keefe's artistry can be seen on my website, http://www.tammiskeefe.com/collections.html She did many sets of cocktail napkins, and her designs often have an element of humor, putting everyone in a party mood.
"Out to lunch" cocktail napkin set.
The set in the image above tells a sad tale - start in the upper left corner, and move clockwise to follow the narrative.  Other napkin sets celebrate the manufacture of hospitality, especially the sharing of food and drink.

Mixed drinks.

Don't overdo it, lest you see elephants!

Party music, Persian-style.

Antique images repurposed for 1950's living.

We'll skip the "one for the road" and use a designated driver or taxi-cab for a safe start to 2013.
Thanks to everyone for reading my blog this year and best wishes for the New Year!

28 December 2012

The Stones of Japan

World's most famous stone garden, at Ryoan-ji temple, Kyoto.
In May of 2012, my husband and I had the privilege to travel to Japan with a textile study tour. We saw and did many wonderful things and, of course, took lots of pictures. That's the cliche of the American tourist, isn't it? - too casually dressed, guidebook sticking out of travel bag, both hands around a camera, viewing the world through a lens, literally and perhaps figuratively, too.  The American traveler in Japan is weighed down by much historic baggage, however light the carry-on in the overhead bin.

Well, I do like to take pictures, and to buy postcards, too.  My studio is lined with pictures and printouts, sources of much inspiration, not to mention memories.

It took some time to process my 2,000+ images, but here's a small sampling, with more to come in the next year - don't worry, there will be plenty of textiles!

While Japan's big cities are full of glass and steel skyscrapers,  my Japan blog posts begin with something of an ode to an old material, stone.

As always, click on any image to enlarge it.

Stone can hold up massive buildings.  
Nagoya Castle; stone base survived WWII fires.

The stone base of the main donjon of Nagoya Castle, finished in 1612, survived World War II, scorched but intact. The upper part of the castle was rebuilt in 1959.

Stone can support small structures, too.
Garden porch, House of Takeda, Arimatsu (near Nagoya).

Stone can be massive... 
No, not Cuzco. Nagoya Castle, stone base.
Or delicate.
Detail, bridge at Tokugawa Museum, Nagoya.

Stone can have polished manners...
Furukawa Museum, Nagoya.

 Or be rough and ready.
Nagoya castle stones, with marks of donor clan.

Stone likes water, outdoors...
Garden, Tokugawa Museum, Nagoya.
Garden detail, Tamesaburo Hall, Nagoya.
And indoors too.
Bathroom with shower seats, Jinzenji residence, Kyoto.

 Stone also likes flowers.
Hedge wall, Miyama village.

 Stone welcomes us to sacred space.
Torii gate, shrine entrance, Kiryu.

Stone holds our prayers...
Votive shrines, with paper prayers, Kiryu.

And our words.
Inscription stone, Mount Hiei (near Kyoto).

Spirits live in stone...
Spirit stones, with offerings, Ryoan-ji garden, Kyoto.

As do memories.
Jizo memorial statues at Zojo-ji temple, Tokyo.

Stone paths show us the way,
Restaurant entrance, Tokugawa Museum, Nagoya.

Wherever our journey takes us.
Garden path, Seifu-en ryokan (inn) near Kiryu.

30 November 2012

Cold Weather Root Vegetable Stew

Turnips, parsnips, carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes.

We've had a cold snap here in New England, so it's time for a warming trend in the kitchen.

Root vegetable Stew
Serves 8

1 medium (2-3 lbs) butternut squash, peeled
1 medium celeriac (celery root), peeled
4 medium turnips, peeled
2 sweet potatoes, peeled
5 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
5 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
4 medium onions, chopped
3 Tbs olive oil
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
2 sprigs fresh sage (1Tb dried)
2 sprigs fresh thyme (1Tb dried)
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the butternut squash into  ¾” pieces.  Cut the turnips into ½” pieces.  Peel and cut the celeriac into ½” pieces. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into ¾” pieces.  Directions to cut different vegetables into different sizes may seem fussy, but butternut squash and sweet potatoes cook more quickly than the other vegetables, so need to be in larger pieces to avoid turning into mush.

In a large pot, heat the oil and cook the onions over medium heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until they soften. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the canned tomatoes, juice and all, and stir in the butternut squash, turnips, celeriac, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, sage, thyme, salt and pepper.

Pour in the broth.  Add sufficient water to cover the vegetables, if necessary.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, set the cover on slightly askew and simmer the vegetables gently, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes or until they are tender.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Remove the sage and thyme if using fresh. Ladle the stew into large bowls and serve with crusty bread.

Note: we sometimes add two turkey sausages, sliced and browned, in with the veggies. Use sweet sausage or hot, or a combination. 

Adapted from a recipe by Lisa Zwirn, The Boston Globe.

28 November 2012

Cats in Japanese prints and more

Kitagawa Utamoro I. Yorimasa.
Last weekend, stuffed with turkey and trimmings, DH and daughter and I headed to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. After taking in the Postcard Age show (see previous post) we headed to the Asian galleries to view Cats to Crickets: Pets in Japan's Floating World, a small but enchanting exhibit on display through February 18, 2013. The curator selected 18th and 19th-century woodblock prints featuring pets of all kinds, including monkeys, dogs and goldfish, but this cat-lover only had eyes for the felines.  Unless noted, all of the Japanese images are from the exhibit.

Most of these prints illustrate familiar stories or everyday scenes of light-hearted activities and pastimes. For example, in the first print above, a girl watches, hiding her smile, as two boys act out a scene from a popular play, Yorimasa, in which the brave warrior Yorimasa and his retainer slay a monster plaguing the Emperor. In the enactment above, a pet Japanese bobtail cat performs as the monster.

Utagawa Sadakage. Detail, Pride of Edo: An Assortment of Beauties.
The cat in the image above, two panels of a tryptich, is a calico cat - a lucky cat of three colors, orange, black and white. Kitty is indeed lucky, curled up on a blanket over a kotatsu, a cozy Japanese arrangement in which a heat source is placed under a table which is then covered with a quilt or blanket. Everyone sits with their legs under the quilt; the cat has the prime spot right on top.

Modern kotatsu setup. Photo credit: www.johnharveyphoto.com
Speaking of quilts, I've finished this "Gallery of Kitties" quilt top, featuring vintage and contemporary feline prints. The design is a variation of the traditional framed one-patch. The fabric with the tomato-red background is a Michael Miller fabric company "tribute" to artist Tammis Keefe and is adapted from one of her textile designs. Cats and dogs appear on many of the items Keefe designed during her career.
Gallery of Kitties quilt top.

Calendar hankie, Tammis Keefe. Note cat in image under "Oct."

The image above is from my personal collection, http://www.tammiskeefe.com/Hankies/Calendar.html

It's instructive to see how different artists, working in vastly disparate circumstances, abstracted the familiar form of the housecat. An excellent book with many cat images is Sandi Fox's Cats on Quilts; Ms. Fox not only offers up appliqued, embroidered and printed cats, but snippets of cat-themed poetry and prose. (ISBN 0-8109-5725-6)
With what silent
With what light steps
do they creep
towards a bird!
---Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD)
Suzuki Harunobu. Young Woman holding cat and young man holding mouse.

Pets have long been associated with comfort and domesticity, and these prints, with their sumptuously depicted textiles, record and reflect aspirational consumption - the life and leisure of those fortunate enough to have animals whose sole purpose is to amuse and entertain.

Okumura Masanobu. Courtesans Imitating the Four Sleepers.

There is a humorous element to many of the images, and Okumura's print parodies the legend of a Buddhist monk so enlightened he blithely slept alongside a tiger, joined by two young acolytes eager to imitate their elder. In Okumura's print, a young woman, her two young attendants and her tabby cat, striped like a tiger, form a tableau vivant gently mocking the legend of the monk.

Utagawa Kunisada I. Fond [sic] of Goldfish.

No, the above image doesn't have a cat, but the masterly blending of purple into yellow in her kimono was just too beautiful not to include.

28 October 2012

(1) The Postcard Age and (2) Mary Oliver

Couturier Vionnet advertising cards by Ernesto Michahelles.

When my children were young, prior to our annual trips to the Cape or further afield, I would pre-print address labels.  Each night, daughter and son would each write one postcard, to grandparents or a friend.  We're not talking Hemingway here; the messages were necessarily brief and on the order of "Dear Grandma, we saw a whale today and had spaghetti for dinner. It was good!"  Stamped and addressed, with those handy labels, off the card would go.

The recipient was thrilled and the children learned to record observations about their day in this child-friendly form of written communication.  As they progressed through school, in-class essays never held any terror for my children; the postcard practice helped them approach the blank page with less fear.

I still love to send and receive postcards, so imagine my eagerness to see a new exhibit at the MFA, The Postcard Age, drawn from the 100,000+ collection of Leonard Lauder.

Cards by Ilona Mate, circa 1906. 

We're all familiar with the static, depopulated photographs of monuments. This is not what Mr. Lauder so thoughtfully amassed. Instead, he focused on cards which captured the spirit and activity of a specific time and place. Propaganda, advertising, technology - it's all here, not to mention The New Woman, sports, and transportation.  Graphic artists created masterpieces in a format of 3.5" by 5.5" inches, working in art nouveau and other styles, proving once more that limitations - in this case size - can be liberating.

In addition,  for anyone interested in fashion this is a must-see exhibit, as you can tell from the images I sneaked for this blog.  The curatorial commentary is excellent too.

Blow-up of postcard advertising bicycle tires; note bloomers!

After looking at the exhibit I took a seat in the Remis Auditorium at the museum for a sold-out poetry reading by Mary Oliver, shown  below graciously signing books after the reading. The last image below is of her hand, writing.

Ms. Oliver signing my books.

Ink, pen and paper.
Ms. Oliver is a Pulitzer prize-winning poet now living in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

I Go Down to the Shore

I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall-
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.
Poem from A Thousand Mornings, by Mary Oliver, The Penguin Press, 2012, ISBN  978-1-59420-477-7.

23 October 2012

Tammis Keefe website - tablecloths added!

Collage of tablecloths by designer Tammis Keefe.

Kindly click on any image to enlarge it.

Due to an outstanding effort by my DH, tablecloths have now joined handkerchiefs and linen towels as categories on the website www.tammiskeefe.com.  Tammis Keefe (1913 - 1960) was a woman textile designer who deserves to be better known and, slowly but surely, we're creating an online catalogue raisonne of her oeuvre.

Party tablecloth.

It's exciting to find Keefe's work in contemporary books and magazines, and I was delighted to discover the Party tablecloth featured in William Pahlmann's eponymous book The Pahlmann Book of Interior Design, first published in 1955 (wikipedia date is incorrect).  Pahlmann was an influential decorator and product designer who led the interior design department at Lord & Taylor before establishing his own independent firm.  He was also responsible for the first incarnation of the Four Seasons Restaurant, in architect Philip Johnson's Manhattan masterpiece, the Seagram Building.

Party tablecloth, The Pahlmann Book of Interior Design.

Party tablecloth, detail.

Although my copy of this book is a library discard, indicating that the collections manager found the book out-dated or superseded, I find Pahlmann's advice still timely.

 Small dining spaces for informal family meals are often included in kitchens and while I hate to refer to these as the breakfast "nooks," that's what they grew out of.  See that this space is well-lighted and attractive, since you should always eat in attractive circumstances if you want to preserve your digestion. Children, especially, need light when they eat. These eating spaces usually accommodate a table and four chairs, but some people have reduced them to counters, where the family lines up.  There is always something sketchy and hurried about a counter meal and, personally, I prefer a table where there are children in the house. 
 --Pahlmann, p. 230

Amen - especially with a Keefe tablecloth on the table!

19 September 2012

Juji-tsunagi sashiko sampler

Completed sampler.

I recently completed an Olympus-brand sashiko sampler in the traditional pattern called juji-tsunagi, which literally translated means "filled with groups of ten." The Japanese character for the number ten looks very much like the Western alphabet lowercase "t".  By stitching a field of linked "t" symbols this pattern invokes prosperity - may your fortune increase tenfold.

I chose to stitch the sampler, ordered online from my wonderful supplier, Miho, in two colors, Olympus # 10, a denim blue, and Olympus #5, a mustard yellow, which is one of my favorite colors in their range. This is going to be a teaching sampler, and the two colors will clarify the exact stitching sequence, which is very straightforward anyway in this pattern.  I also just like the combination of blue, yellow and white.

Blue stitching complete, braided skein.

When I've taught sashiko before, the biggest challenge seems to be with beginning and ending a line of stitching using the backstitch approach. So the stitching in this sampler, which is a teaching demo, starts and stops with just simple knots. To end the stitching I used a "needle knot;" my recent attempts at shibori dyeing have improved my skill in this detail, which is similar to making a French knot in embroidery.

To form end knot, loop thread around needle.

Tighten loop.

Using fingernail, hold loop at fabric surface, pulling thread through.

Knot complete.

Completed sampler, right side (left) and reverse.