Sunday, 25 August 2019

Quilts at Last

Atlantic ICW #2
Georgetown, SC 22-25 Apr 2018

Moving north lead us to Georgetown, South Carolina and the informative Gullah Museum.  Pride of place in the exhibits goes to Gullah artist Vermelle "Bunny" Smith Rodrigues’ amazing quilts.  The quilts are folk art story quilts telling the history of the Gullah people and are used to inform visitors at the Museum.  Centre place however is reserved for her famous Michelle Obama Quilt that tells of Mrs Obama’s ancestral connections to the area.  

I was granted permission to photograph these quilts when we visited the Gullah Museum, which is well worth the effort, especially if you sit a while with very friendly and informed docents to really appreciate Gullah history.  Not in Georgetown?  Then read a little about the history here on Wiki.

My understanding, simplistically, is that the whole plantation system revolved around the use of slave labour and many slaves were brought in from West Africa to cultivate crops of rice, tobacco, indigo and sea island cotton.  African people brought into the Low Country during colonial times developed their own creole language and maintained a culture rich with African influences. I found this interesting Pinterest site with lots of exciting examples of Gullah art; not quilting but very inspirational anyway.  

Stop by the Museum in Georgetown to discover the joy of story-telling and quilts.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Many Layers of Blue

Atlantic ICW #1
Beaufort, SC 18-20 Apr 2018

From the Bahamas, we hit the US East coast running, with a plan to “do” the complete ICW (Intra-coastal Waterway) between Lake Worth (Florida) and Chesapeake Bay (Virginia).  Our other challenge was to stop over in places we’d not visited before.  The textile search was on again, however, if there’s one thing I’ve learned is that many small communities don’t have/can’t sustain patchwork suppliers.  I can see why mail order is such a big deal in the US.  That said, I discovered a few interesting textile facts along the way.  So, all was not lost.
A well-kept Townhouse in historic Beaufort, SC...nice blue (just not indigo)

Let’s start in Beaufort, South Carolina.  Located on Port Royal Island, it dates from 1512 and was once a busy hub for Low Country produce.  Its delightful riverside setting drew many plantation owners who built townhouses, leaving for us today an inspiring collection of antebellum mansions. 

Did you know that the State Colour of South Carolina is indigo?  

Flag of South Carolina; public domain image on Wikipedia.

The Beaufort History Museum is located at the historic Arsenal (1798) and it's brimming over with informative exhibits.  Whilst rice was the colony’s economic mainstay building great personal fortunes, indigo is considered the crop that grew the colony in terms of land and population.  Eliza Lucas in 1742 (at the age of 16) is credited with successfully cultivating indigo.  Woad, as it was also known, was well established and growing commercially between 1747-1800.  Indigo production was greatly enhanced by indigo slaves who understood the complex task of processing the dye. 

Facts all learned from our friendly guide at the Beaufort History Museum.  Time well spent!
Indigo dyed fabrics

Spinning Wheel at the Beaufort History Museum

Friday, 16 August 2019

Little Pink Dress

Caribbean & Bahamas
Georgetown 8-10 March 2018

I knew from a previous visit to George Town, Bahamas (in the Exumas) of locally produced batik fabrics.  I was fortunate enough to find at Marilyn's Gift shop a gorgeous little pink cotton dress in Andros Batik and some dotty sandals to match – a nice summery gift for little Miss P.  They also stocked a nice selection of other clothes and decorator products in Bahama's batiks.  The fabric prints and colours just seemed to shout “clear blue waters and sunny skies!” 

The staff were very friendly and explained the story of Andros Batik; it may well be the only locally produced (handmade) dyed fabric range in the Bahamas.  Enjoy their story.  I, as always, am looking for fabric lengths rather than pre-made items.  Why sew a dress when you can make a quilt…right?  Just couldn’t resist a little pink dress though…
George Town, Exumas, Bahamas

Warderick Wells Land & Sea Park, Exumas, Bahamas

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Wax On Wax Off...

Cape Verde Islands
Mindelo 5-13 January 2018

Of course, I had dreams of finding lots of cotton wax batiks available in Mindelo but not to be.  The shop stocking those exuberant Ghanaian textiles in Mindelo (Sao Vicente) I had read about was long since gone (hopefully relocated) and the market was full of cheap polyester substitutes. 

We had a day trip planned on neighbouring Santo Antao and I had hoped to see fabrics in markets as we drove around the island.  The demand though is for ready-mades (for tourists & locals) and I may have missed noticing any cottage industry in textiles.  There appears not to be a huge demand for them either.  Driving across Santo Antao however, is a delight, with pockets of green tucked into steep sided hills, so the day was rewarding in many other ways as I have already noted in this post.  African cottons…well, I guess it’s back to the drawing board and lots more time on the computer researching.  Or perhaps even planning an African textile adventure.  Now there's a happy thought!

For now, here's a start with a few links to Wiki:  African wax prints and Kente cloth but my photos I'm afraid, are only of the wonderful Santo Antao scenery.
A small fisherman's harbour Santo Antao - only for very brave fisherman ; )

Santo Antao interior

Santo Antao's steep and rugged coastline.  

Included this one of Mindelo's busy waterfront with the main market square over to the right (behind the buildings) 

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Canaries & Rastas

Canary Islands
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria 17-30 December 2017

Having not had to check in to Madeira (we left from Lagos, Portugal), this "Completing Clearances" process led us to some interesting areas in Las Palmas; probably not ones frequented by most tourists, although not far from the seemingly endless cruise ship dock and the vast behemoths strung to it.  Luckily, we had our trusty bicycles so attending to such chores and indeed prepping up for an on-board Christmas Celebration, was easy.  Bike paths have been well planned through the city enabling us easy access, so we were soon were done with domestic duties and were able to consider time for a little light entertainment too!
Decoration on outside of  buildings in Vegueta. 
Adam & Eve clearly enjoyed draperies of the day too?

The weather was sunny or .... not!  This was not a December beach day, nor the anchorage the place to be.
Unless you were Christmas cruzin' and dock-side on one of those enormous ships 
The Canaries, or at least that part we saw, are vastly different to Madeira – opposing planets almost.  We felt a car was essential to escape the city surrounds, but neither of us wanted to drive in the Christmas traffic, so stuck to pedal power, back roads and shops within easy reach. 

My guide book and an interesting web site described a walking tour that included the Casa de Colón (Columbus House) and, given we were following in this explorer’s wake, we rode along the grand cornishe to a small museum in nearby Vegueta dedicated to his achievements.  This building was a stately home for the first governors of the island and it is believed that Columbus stayed here in 1492.  It's not hard to imagine these Islands as an essential stop along the voyage to the New World, remembering that Columbus’ wife came from the small island of Porto Santo near Madeira.  Though the Museum is not really a textile find as such, it was interesting to see a reconstruction of Columbus’ cabin on La Niña, admire a collection of really old charts and maps and of course, do a little "snooping" through one of the area’s grand homes to appreciate how life must have been in the 1500's.  
Casa de Colón (Columbus House) main entrance
Reconstruction of Columbus’ cabin on La Niña

Breathtaking timber detail in Casa de Colón (Columbus House)

Life was not all about battles and trading ships.  Ladies of the time would certainly have appreciated silks and an abundance of natural dyes for those glamorous dresses. The Canaries once supported these industries, with a production history that goes back to the 16th century.  Now however, the Silk Museum in El Paso is (so I’m told) the only place to find a working silk weaving studio.  Cochineal natural dye is another matter and is commercially grown on Lanzarote.  Sadly, there wasn't time to visit either venue due to Christmas closures and our hectic schedule. Well, maybe next time.
Only the best silk for this dress?
Great views from the Cathedral

Watching the dinghy fleet from the Cathedral Bell Tower

Monday, 1 July 2019

Dancing in the Streets

Quinta do Lorde 4-15 December 2017

Having enjoyed the Azores in 2011, we had high hopes for our visit to Madeira; albeit a winter arrival that we could do little about.  Funchal was lively and its mild climate attracted those visitors wishing to escape Europe’s chilly December snowfalls.  Christmas celebrations were in full swing and there was much to occupy our time.  Perhaps the best feature of these activities was our entrée to regular cultural events practised on Madeira since its discovery (1419) and subsequent settlement.

Despite Madeira’s relative isolation, its position as a vital seaport on the “Columbus route” across the Atlantic to the riches of the West Indies, allowed its culture to survive.  I wasn’t able to locate an ethnographic museum as such in the time we had, but a vibrant Christmas Market in Funchal more than made up for it. 

A wonderful diorama of island life unfolded as we walked the length of the market between the Cathedral and the old Fort.  Stalls of local produce and foods included island grown fruits and vegetables (a rich, almost tropical collection), meats and deli items, tastings of boutique beers, and a smattering of spirits, local brew poncha and wines.  Madeira included, naturally!  Shakespeare mentions Madeira wine and Winston Churchill savoured it on holiday here.  We were also treated to traditional song, dance and music, enhanced by colourful costumes, those fascinating carapucha caps and lively performers.  It was all so welcoming and fun, yet unpretentious. 

Madeira Cathedral

The closest brush I had at the Markets with textiles (other than costumes, of course) was an older lady preparing wool for spinning.  Language of course, kept me from knowing more about the extent of home-based weaving on the island.  Madeira, however is famously known for its lace work, the best quality produced by hand.  It is said to have been introduced to the island in 1854 by an Englishwoman, Elizabeth Phelps.  There was plenty of opportunity to purchase a piece in shops at the regular market or tourist souvenir shops.  Buyer beware however, and if you want an authentic piece made from Madeira linen, ask at Tourist Information booths for directions. 

I have to confess that I did not buy any lacework as I have tablecloths a-plenty from India (and you’ll appreciate the connection here) as we ordered from a Convent via a supplier in Goa, a former Portuguese colony (1510-1961). 

Here are some links to more (brief) information about Madeira textiles:  Madeira Live;  Visit Madeira;  &  KDD & Co

For visuals of Maderia Lace enjoy: Bordal  &  Madeira Sun

And, if you’re tempted by all the talk of markets and food and want to cook some delicious Portuguese food, then this blog, Easy Portuguese Recipes, looks interesting for those authentic recipes.  I particularly loved passionfruit juice, “O Maracujá da Madeira”, even the boxed supermarket variety was delicious.  So was the passionfruit poncha.  

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Learning from Others

Yes, sigh, I know; nothing for ages and then two posts in one day.  I've spent the day consolidating my list of outstanding posts going back now ONLY to 2015.  I will get there, eventually.  Whilst so diligently engaged, I found this post from a visit to the Portimao Museum, Portugal in 2011 and thought it worthwhile revisiting in light of my OTS (quilts-by-me blog) and other artistic endeavours.   

Portimao: Photo Marathon.  The Portimao Museum had organised a Photo Marathon Competition (2011) and on our visit we were fortunate to see the creative results.  Firstly there were 2 categories – Underwater (serious underwater camera work) and Digital.  Each category was then broken down into a series of themes to which the entrants had to produce 3 A4 sized photos.  Digital for example, had 8 themes and therefore needed to produce 24 photos.  These photos were simply mounted on card (no frames) and exhibited in theme order.

Seeing them made me understand why the winner had been chosen.  His work was essentially the tightest – all photos were portrait, all perfect close-ups that complemented each other, of subjects that spoke clearly of each theme yet related well as a whole.  The colours were bold and dramatic subject lighting was well balanced throughout.  In this way the whole worked as a complete presentation, flowing well as a design, almost mosaic like in quality, which fitted the surrounding old city (and its pavings).

Being a quilter I got a little caught up in this project.  A big part of working in textiles is taking the time to stand back, balancing the “pieces” or blocks into a well-balanced whole.  So, I learned quite a lot about the value of working in series; imagining connections between a single work, a series or indeed of a larger body of work – just like an artistic mind map.  Fascinating.

I sadly don’t have any photos of these photographic works at the Museum (no photos allowed) so I’ve included some general ones from their collection instead to add to the watery theme.

(By the way, I hope the new Tag boxes make searching easier...)