Sunday, June 23, 2019

Little escap(ad)es: Triumphant Scale by El Anatsui


Over the last few years Instagram has become one of my sources for inspiration, information and interesting stuff. Looking at pictures posted by people and on hashtags I follow, and looking at hashtags below, and then clicking there… Certainly a way to spend time, sometimes waste time, but often a way to find out about things I had not heard of. So through some way on Instagram I found out about and ended up in Munich last week, at Haus der Kunst, with the exhibition “Triumphant Scale” by El Anatsui. I have to admit I had never heard of him, and I hadn’t been too good about keeping up with the exhibition schedule in cities around me.
It was absolutely impressive, almost overwhelming. 


I spent a good while walking through the labyrinth in the large hall. 


Quite a while ago I had played around with the idea of constructing a labyrinth for exhibition visitors to walk through, some see-through arrangement of fabrics, I think I was considering using organza and various loose combinations. It never materialized because I could not seriously figure out how to do the hanging from the ceiling. And I guess I was not persistent enough to push it through – I also thought at the time it was a bit wild. Now that I see that it is indeed possible I realized some of my ideas might not be too far off from being good and interesting ideas. Except that it has been done by now, and it wouldn’t be original anymore and… oh well. Another possibility to become famous gone down the drain… Not that I am comparing my stuff with El Anatsui’s…

Looking out from the labyrinth onto other pieces on the wall.

Of course one wonders about how the masses of bottlelabels, 




and it was interesting to read that it started with a found bag of bottle labels that he picked up somewhere and then had sitting in his studio for quite a while. My son is always completely embarassed when we happen to be walking down the street together and I stoop to pick something up. So far I have withheld from picking up bottle caps – although my environmentalist mind scringes every time I see one lyeing around. And there are many many many lyeing around. It is simply annoying to see how people just throw stuff like that around. Even if I had been picking them up I would still be far from amassing enough to put them together into a decent-sized wall-piece. But the audio guide said El Anatsui’s need for bottle labels has become known all over Nigeria by now, he buys the labels from a distillery … My son would be even more embarrassed about his mother if I started picking up bottle caps as well.

There are sketchbooks to see, 



and I also loved his wood carvings. 


A very inspiring exhibition! If you can get there before July 28, by all means, you have to go!

Saturday, June 8, 2019

A success story

Over the past four and a half years I have repeatedly written about my voluntary involvement in a network for refugee integration here in our town. I have tried to keep it out of my posts lately because Germany's policies in this area have been so utterly frustrating and dis-spiriting that it would have got me even further down if I had written about that, and as this is not supposed to turn into a political blog, it felt like it did not belong here.
But today I have a success story to tell about, and that is so uplifting and positive that I will not not talk about it.
We had a surprise visitor this afternoon from a young Syrian whom I met for the first time 4 1/2 years ago at the first 'international café' we organized to get the help circle organized. He was 24 at that time, had been in Germany for just over 4 months and although we were mostly conversing in English he had already begun to teach himself German and was translating for his fellow Syrians. I took him on for one-to-one German tutoring, and he learned quickly.

A highlight in the history of the network: a long and ever-growing
picknick table at a festival on the central town square.

By September he enrolled in the second year of the two-year preparatory 'integrating school class', finished and then began a German-style 3-year vocational training for IT with a global company that has their central seat here in town. It wasn't always easy, and for the first year he still kept coming to my house for German tutoring. But he persisted. We kept in touch, of course, even after he had said that he would not come for regular tutoring anymore because he felt he needed to concentrate on the other subjects (by then he had become fluent enough in German that I let him go with my blessings.) And today he came by to tell us that he had passed the final written exams, that he has a contract with a firm in the next city - and that the firm he is graduating from now has sort of offered him a very prestigious position for within a year that I can't go into detail about here because he hasn't decided whether he is going to do it or not.
His German is almost completely flawless. His vocabulary is impressive, and  I am SOOOO happy for him! I am pleased that I could be a part of this success story - I have to brag, because we spent many hours working ourselves through the intricacies of German grammar. And I think it is necessary to write about him here because with the right-wing backlash we are experiencing in the country right now it is vitally important that stories like this get out into the open. It took a bit of time, and other Syrians may take a bit longer even, but several of his roommates of that first year in the asylum-seekers apartment have found steady jobs by now, or are also getting ready to start vocational training with renowned firms. I wish the public would point their attention to this instead of badmouthing refugees. He has not turned German, but he has found his way in the German system. He has learned many things from me, and I have learned quite a few things from him. This is a special kind of friendship that has developed. And Germany is so much richer for people like him to live here. All we need to do is open up our hearts to them, give them time to grow and our time to support them, instead of only demanding that they 'integrate' themselves into German culture.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

I did it. Again.


And I hate it when I do that. But it happens to me all the time. When I finish a quilt, and it is not immediately destined to be shipped somewhere, I neglect finishing the tunnel. At least most of the time I have finished the binding/facing to take it to be photographed. And the tunnel is at least prepared. But the finishing stitches, they can wait… and then I forget about it, and when it comes to shipping I get into a situation when it is time to send it off and I realize that I still need to finally finish the quilt.
Just these past days I worked myself through this again. I entered two quilts for the WQC, and then the tunnel situation happened. Shapes 29 still had to have the tunnel and the lower facing attached. 


(And I just realized that that one isn't even on the website yet, I really need to get that updated...)

And the Jacob’s Ladder quilt I only finished a little while ago hadn’t even been meant to be put on a wall, so a tunnel wasn’t even prepared for. 




But both of them are done, I hope they will be accepted and it was worth the while - …
But tunnel making certainly is not my favorite part of quilt making. I take detours to distract myself easily.
Such as this one: I have finished my piece that I am donating for the SAQA Benefit Auction this year and will sign it up later today and ship it tomorrow.



Ready to be shipped for the SAQA-Benefit Auction: Shapes 41

And this morning I cut a few pieces of organza that I refound on my cutting table from which I want to make vegetable and produce bags to take along when going shopping in order to avoid using plastic bags.


 I have been using some for a while, and at first people looked at me strangely. Cashiers even unpacked the produce to put it on their scales so they would not weigh the bag. Made from organza, however, they are very light. Then I gave some away as presents and my stack dwindled. By now bags are being sold in various places. So the idea is catching. At least with produce and fruit. But as I am following various organizations on Instagram that are concerned with collecting plastic waste from the ocean I also notice more and more plastic wrappings in the stores. I wonder… 

There are still three more tunnels for me to finish, because I signed up "A Scrap a Day" for the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham. So these need to be finished very soon, too.

In any case, I will finish these Tunnels and then these little bags soon, and once again I have sworn to myself that next time I will complete the tunnel for a quilt right away. Let's see whether that happens indeed. If only I had somebody who would check on me for that!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Matters of Mending: self-experiment part 3

Before the publication of the book review in the magazine of the German Patchwork Guild in the middle of June I want to show the third part of my self-experiment in the spirit of Katrina Rodabaugh's book 'Mending Matters'. Again, it is a mend of a pair of pants in the much-stressed area between the upper thighs. Somehow that is the only area (so far) where my pants need mending. But don't worry, after this instalment I will not show any more repairs of that particular area, if I decide to show other mending activities of mine they will be slightly more original or on other types of garments.
So one of my favorite pair of jeans was worn through on both sides of the upper inner thighs, and I had been saving it ever since I saw the announcement of Rodabaugh's books because I was planning to use it as a test items.


Different from the light colored pair of pants earlier I decided that this challenge could not be met through a patch from the inside. Instead, I chose Katrina's 'outside patch'. Edges were fold-ironed before stitching them over the threadbare area.


With the first patch, I chose a grey thread and first stitched all around the circumference of the patch before filling it up.


For the second patch I decided to be bit more daring in terms of color and used a red thread instead.


Unfortunately I haven't been able to take a picture yet of what it looks like when I am wearing the jeans and I don't want to ask my son to do it ... but I hope there will be a chance to find somebody who will do that for me. Because I am curious myself how much of the mend will be visible.

There are still more mending issues on a stack that need to be tackled in the near future, for example the light trousers I started out with definitely need more work in other places. And the whole thing will be a further process of learning. But I do agree with Katrina Rodabaugh that it is a kind of state of mind to be doing that.
I can't really say how long the life span of my clothes will be extended through this. I don't usually 'wear through' anything but these areas of pants, and yet I usually wear my clothes for many years. And if I do give them away, which does not happen often, I give them to a second hand store, so keeping them out of landfill is not one of the issues why I would be mending. Mending has not been a necessity, but it certainly is an interesting addition to my range of textile activity. I had had the idea of mending visibly myself, before ever hearing of Katrina Rodabaugh or any of the 'sustainable fashion' people, or slow sewists or mindful menders or whatever name, and if you can sew basic stitches it might now be necessary to buy Katrina's book purely for the techniques of mending. But it certainly holds a wide range of ideas if you feel uncertain about how to go along, and it would be a great gift for a textile friend!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Little escap(ad)e: Stockholm

We are having another reunion this weekend for our year as exchange students in Charlotte, NC (as in 2013 and 2017) and Thomas had asked me whether I would like to come to Stockholm two days ahead of time to hang out together without the others a little bit because we haven't seen much of each other lately. So on Wednesday I traveled to Stockholm (delays, canceled train, security measures on board the plane which was a reason for late boarding) and we met at the airport and took the bus into town. Thomas had taken care of the hotel booking on board the former yacht Lady Hutton, which is now the hotel Mälardrottningen and well to be recommended for a special kind of hotel feeling! We had a room with bunk beds, but if you look at the website there might be slightly more luxurious suites available, and it is in walking distance of the Old Town.
We spent one morning at the Abba museum which is pretty good, given the fact that this is a group without any scandals or breaking news during their years of success. Just a bit of story of how the they got together, how they took their first steps, then a lot of success, and how they are now 'taking a break away from each other'.


I really liked this re-creation of the view from the little hut on an island in the sounds outside Stockholm where the guys wrote many of their songs.


In the afternoon we went to the Fotografiska museum, which currently has 4 different exhibitions going on, namely by Jessica Silversaga, Rahul Talukder, Jesper Waldersten and Alison Jackson.
Rahul Talukder photographed a whole series on the collapse of the clothing factory in Bangladesh with over 1,000 people dead and his works are very moving. Jesper Waldersten has an interesting kind of humor, but it helps if you know a little bit of Swedish for some of the pieces. This one is in English, though:

Jesper Waldersten, in his exhibition "All Over"
And I was fascinated by the simplicity of this one.

Jesper Waldersten, in his exhibition "All Over"

The restaurant on the top floor has a magnificent view across the water to the Old Town and after a little bit of waiting we even managed to secure ourselves seats right in front of the window.


The next day Thomas and I took a boat tour through the islands outside of Stockholm and picked our dream mansions. This would be mine (although it is not so much a mansion):


Stockholm is a city on the water, and reflections abound, especially when the sun is out, so I am back to taking photos of reflections on water.


And amongst other inspirational sights,




some found art is around as well.



By now the others have arrived from Norway, China, Venezuela, and the real reunion is on. So good to have friends around the world, and reasons to go somewhere to see something new!