31 March 2017

Stitching and building

A little pot in the making

A big bookshelf, started at last!
(Any resemblance to a guillotine is coincidental)

30 March 2017

Poetry Thursday - Aunt Jennifer's Tigers by Adrienne Rich

Tipu's tiger (via)

Aunt Jennifer's tigers

Aunt Jennifer’s tigers prance across a screen,
Bright topaz denizens of a world of green.
They do not fear the men beneath the tree;
They pace in sleek chivalric certainty.

Aunt Jennifer’s fingers fluttering through her wool
Find even the ivory needle hard to pull.
The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band
Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer’s hand.

When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands will lie
Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by.
The tigers in the panel that she made
Will go on prancing, proud and unafraid.

               - Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

The poem was written when Adrienne Rich was a student at Radcliffe College - see the manuscript here. In his foreword to her first poetry collection, published in 1951, WH Auden said that the twenty-one-year-old’s poems “are neatly and modestly dressed, speak quietly but do not mumble, respect their elders but are not cowed by them.” Certainly, neither she nor her poems were cowed. By the early 1960s, Rich had largely abandoned formal verse and developed a personal, often confessional, narrative voice.

To me, the poem is as much, or more, about the power of needlework as personal liberation as it is about suppression of women in the bonds of matrimony. You've undoubtedly got a mental picture of Jennifer's tapestry, nor could I find a photo of something appropriate, so instead the image is another reflection of the poem, perhaps an idea that went through Jennifer's mind as she stitched. 

29 March 2017

Myths that inform architecture

The Ziggurat of Belus at Babylon (via)
One of the short talks at "RIBA late" referred to Lethaby's 1891 book on the stories behind elements of architecture. The book is still in print, and also available in e-form, from this site.

The table of contents gives the types of stories Lethaby finds told in architecture:

 1. The world fabric
 2. The microcosmos
 3. Four square
 4. At the centre of the earth
 5. The jewel-bearing tree
 6. The planetary spheres
 7. The labyrinth
 8. The golden gate of the sun
 9. Pavements like the sea
10. Ceilings like the sky
11. The windows of heaven and the 360 days
12. The symbol of creation
The stories behind the ziggurat frontispiece appear on p.127 - in the chapter on the seven planetary spheres. Ziggurats were built by the Chaleans, to "imitate the mythical mountain of the assembly of the stars" and served both as a sanctuary and as an observatory for the stars. Rather than temples, these are "Mounts of Paradise - terraced altars".

This ziggurat was described by Herodotus as an enclosure two furlongs square, with gates of solid brass; the tower was a furlong each way at the base, with a resting place and seats halfway up the path that winds around it.

Lethaby's drawing is based on dimensions found on a tablet; the ziggurat is, he says, a majestic an myserious suggestion of volume and stability.

The seven spheres, belonging to the seven planets, each have their own colour in the Chaldean system - the sun golden, the moon silver, distant Saturn black, Jupiter orange, Mars red, Venus pale yellow, Mercury deep blue. Whereas in "the Mohammedan scheme" the spheres are composed of emerald, white silver, large white pearls, ruby, red gold, yellow jacinth, white shining light.
Another Islamic scheme of the seven spheres (explained here)
At a quick glance, the book is a treasure trove of symbolism and story. It is written in what we now might think of as a fusty Victorian style. No dumbing down for hapless readers; solid research, solidly presented for people wanting to know.

28 March 2017

Drawing Tuesday - Museum of London

The fancy metalwork (sheath for a dagger) caught my eye
among the swords etc
 Add a bronze hoard and a couple of burial urns, and the pages are full in no time -
 Carol tackled the elephant's foot and lion skull -
Jo was taken by the "water horse", a sort of aquamanile or jug -
  Janet's collection included the head of a god -
 Najlaa collected some metal objects -
Sue quickly captured some medieval swords etc after finishing the statue of Buddha donated by monks from Sri Lanka in 1926 -
 Extracurricular activities -
Carol brought alon the book she's written and illustrated for her grandson

With book group next day, Janet brought along the book they'll be discussing

27 March 2017

Sunday stroll in the 'hood

It was supposed to be a relaxed day ... and when it got so relaxed that it was just about boring, I stopped sitting at the computer and went out into the continuing sunshine, striding up the hill and down the other side, to Crouch End, and to the library. on the pretext of needing a book on medieval architecture to augment the short series of classes at City Lit.

Found this -
Published in 1992, it has illustrations based on some of the 25,000 photos taken (and developed, and printed) by the author's husband, as they travelled 67,000 miles around the 23 countries of Europe.  (The name of the person who did the drawings isn't given, not in this volume (there are three volumes) at least.) Back in 1992, colour photos were a luxury; the entire book is monochrome -
and suffers from strange layouts and overcrowding. Keeping costs down, of course ... yet how much did that illustrator get paid?

The library's book sale had been on for over a month and was looking severely picked-over, but I found this
and thought it might be worth 50p to help me distinguish the Cluniac monasteries from the Dominicans, the Franciscans from the Benedictines. What delight to open it and find many delightful, colourful images -
All that kingly and ecclesiastical pushing and shoving for power is rather fascinating, in fact the historical bits of the medieval course interest me more than the architectural minutae.

I took the long route home, the streets I've only ever walked on once or twice, despite having lived about a mile away for some 30 years.
Spring gorgeousness

More spring gorgeousness!
Original street sign? The area was built up in the 1880s


Stairway to ... well, just the upstairs flats

Sadly neglected house

Alternative geography

"Strange creatures"


Hare or rabbit?

26 March 2017

Highlights of the week

Saturday - yesterday! - brought sunshine, and sunshine brought energy. Weeks, rather than mere days, after buying fabric for a tablecloth, I finally got around to making it. Only a hem was needed, but this required clearing a space in front of the sewing machine, moving boxes of Tom's painting equipment -

Once the drawers could be opened I rediscovered lost tools and thread treasures, including enough prewound bobbins to last a lifetime -
Turning, pinning, mitring, sewing took less than an hour (including interruptions). Result! -
Then it was off across town in a zipcar with Tom's painting equipment, to Wrentham Avenue: site of the next job, and to  collect another carload of stuff (house still hasn't changed hands) -
 followed by a quick trip to Waitrose Finchley Road to get a few food treats -

and probably my last-ever whizz round the underground parking, with its careful-how-you-go pillars -
 Treats included these "happily handmade" elevenses (raw fish for elevenses??)  on the way back across town -

Other highlights of the week were three talks -
Things found in houses ... why were they put in walls and up chimneys?

Curator's talk about the current landscape exhibition in British Museum Room 90
At Barnard's Inn, a Gresham College lecture on the history of sourdough
Between the two latter lectures I filled the empty hours with a visit to the Syngenta photography exhibition at Somerset House, emerging to notice rather a lot of helicopters hovering noisily - Westminster (and the shocking events earlier in the afternoon) being nearby.

Also last week, another medieval art & architecture class - before which, and after a haircut, came lunch at the British Museum, with an ever-changing [yet ever the same, somehow] view of the courtyard -
and a first visit to the American Dream show of prints - by the time I'd looked hard at Dine, Rauschenberg, and Johns, whose work I love,  I could see no more, and "did" the rest of the show by planning to return (it's on till 18 June), and noting down some names new to me or largely unfamiliar - Wayne Thiebaud, Robert Bechtle, Al Taylor, Edda Renouf, Fred Sandback, Richard Estes, Yvonne Jacquette, Craig McPherson [enormous mezzotint], Philip Pearlstein, Carroll Dunham, Richard Bosman, Robert Longo, Sussan Rothenberg, Chris Burden, Keith So...[can't read my own writing], Orvind Fahlstrom, Donald Sultan, Willie Cole, Emma Amos... The teachers' guide is here.
My fave in the show: Jennifer Bartlett, Graceland woodcut (via)
(another state, monochrome, is shown here)

This week is also notable for the sun coming out and the temperature starting to perhaps feel more springlike. A succession of trees have been coming into blossom, wonderful to behold, a feast for the soul. Soon blossom season will be over and the re-leafing will start ... which brings to mind the Philip Larkin poem and various people, now departed alas, associated with it. (It's been a reminiscent time, one way and another.)

Tuesday's drawing session was at Museum of London, more about that on Tuesday. That was the day I left my backpack in the loo but fortunately was able to retrieve it from the Security office at the museum. Duh. Thanks to Jo and Sue for calming me down! 

Wednesday included a talk about photographing your artwork at Islington Art Society, held in the little gallery at Cass Arts Islington, where committee members were showing some work.
Amanda Eatwell gave the talk - she has work in the London Independent Photography show just over the hill at Crouch End Library, till 2 April.

Took out subscriptions to the Royal Institution (talks about science) and Picturehouse Central (rooftop members' bar - and discounts on film tickets). With the lighter evenings, there's no excuse not to get out. 

Out on Saturday afternoon to meet "the hookers" - rag rug hookers, that is -

A few more pre-ceramic pots were made -
Inspired by my little bags of coins, Tom decided to sort out his collection -
The bag of coppers weighs 8 kg.
Banks allow only three bags of change to be deposited at one go; what's your guess on how long that bag will still be with us?

Disaster of the week - the little brown jug from Cambridge days -
Clean breaks, though; which superglue would you use?