Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Vintage belt buckles and buttons from great Aunt Myrta's stash + Robert Indiana, Japanese art and architectural details

Bakelite-era plastic belt buckles and buttons that belonged to my great Aunt Myrta (1896-1980).

The bright colors and geometric shapes-within-shapes make me think of Robert Indiana's work.

... I like how she threaded the matching buttons to the buckle.
Looking through the collection, I imagined her examining each piece the way I do, responding to the shapes, colors, sculptural qualities, the decorative details, perhaps thinking about which buckle or button might work with which fabric or dress pattern, because when she was young, either she or her mother made most of their clothes.

Japanese influence is everywhere in the design. Materials such as coral, jade, ivory and laquerware come to mind, as well as the colors seen in Japanese prints, like this one by Utamaro.

This diamond-in-oval motif reminded me of this curtain design from the book, "Japanese Detail: Architecture"  . by Sadao Hibi.

The cut-outs in these buttons brought to mind the wood slat detail in this window, an image from the same book.

It's interesting how such small things can tell us about a person's taste and affinities. Aunt Myrta must have really liked triangles because there are a lot of them, like these Deco pin/pendents.

 There are triangular pyramids...

... and pyramids in circles.
In the buttons above and below, the same motif  takes on a couple of different spins.

This metal button (there's actually a few of them) was a wild card in the bunch-- nice architectural details in the center surrounded by hearts. At first glance it struck me as being different than the other pieces, in both the material and decorative motif,  but if you think of the design as a geometric shape within a circle, it's consistent with the others.

     This is Aunt Myrta with her Franklin car, in a photo taken here in central Texas around 1915.  Love the outfit, and particularly the way she's slung the big belt loosely over her lightweight (probably cottton?) dress - very Southern Girl-Goes-West (and the focus on the belt just might explain all the buckles she saved...)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Applique wall hanging made of vintage fabrics, bird drawing on old cotton sheet, catfish line, and old yardstick

The back is lined with an old sheet.

These are a couple of early mock-up photos:

You can see that cutting back into the textile and inserting the bird was the last thing I did, an after-thought.

The orange and black strip along the bottom  is the leftover digital print silk from the scarf in this post,  and for the sides, I cut up some of the appliques based on turtle shells.

The green woven cotton is from curtains in our house 1960's-70's, the brown basket-weave cotton is 1950's upholstery material, the brown and ocher-flecked cotton was a pair of pants my sister made in the 80's, and the floral is kettle cloth, also from the 80's.

Cat and bird. Ha!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bird's nest pillow

(click for slideshow)

Here's the bird's nest pillow completed, as well as the original layout.
I didn't change the fabrics too much other trimming them to fit the pillow-- the biggest change is the web of stitching.
It's made of  linen, cotton, and wool scraps, some of which are pieces of 1960's cotton curtains and the tea-dyed fragments of a 1920's cotton bedspread.

         I originally designed it oriented as shown in the top right photo, but it's fun to turn it all directions and see how it changes-- Tilllycat thought so too.

This morning I was just starting to sew up the edgestrip textile into a pillow, but ran across these pics I took a couple of days ago when I was experimenting with a color-block strip at the base.  I like the shift in scale.

Since making my bedspread , I'm still hung up on the trapezoidal stonework at Machu Picchu.

Here it is with a green strip which I vetoed immediately.
Still thinking on this one.....

Saturday, May 3, 2014


(click for slideshow)

This is a textile I'm working on made of the edge strips  trimmed from the fronts of these two pillows and the tragopan bird pillow

The strips are sewn onto cotton muslin from this old curtain.
I'm using leftovers of textiles made of leftovers and even using up the old thread left in my mother's and grandmother's sewing stash.

There's an abundance of old fabric around here, and my sister, a Tasmanian devil of cleaning and organization,  has been excavating things from family storage which, fortunately (and sometimes overwhelmingly) for me,  includes an ever-increasing amount of vintage fabrics.

There are vintage velvets-- some possibly silk?-- stashed in some pretty cool boxes.

A Japanese-inspired cotton print of peonies, which, if  I'm ever in the mood for sewing clothes again, I'd like make to into a garment.

the "Mrs. Blume" collection of 1960's-70's fabric samples courtesy of my grandmother's decorator friend, Mrs. Blume.

-lots of Japanese and African influence in the designs.

a scrap from an old apron with a print that could be a great idea for an applique design

yards of large-scale cotton prints my grandmother used for curtains:

tiny prints that, when you look closely, contain some big ideas...

scraps of upholstery from a 1950's aluminum chaise-- alas, long gone.

and a strange peasant-people print which kind of creeps me out.

Definitely time for a break so I step outside to see what's happening.
My favorite tree top is leafing out....

...and a squirrel is on the roof ridge

....which brings to mind a letter we found that my grandmother wrote to my sister when we were little in which she talks about making a dress for my sister from scraps, what kinds of birds are out and about, and squirrels playing on the roof. She also calls my sister a "good house cleaner"...one of those traits that manifested itself at an early age, I guess...

Even good cleaners need a break ... nothing a little magical realism won't cure.

When we found this hand-pieced pillow sham made of upholstery samples-- which I haven't seen since I was probably ten or so--  it went a long way in explaining my love for color-block paintings-- like "Elysium", by Hans Hofmann

or these by Sean Scully

I was looking through a book on Sean Scully recently and found this beautiful photo of the stone end-wall of a shack

It brought me back to thinking about humans looking about them and constructing something with whatever is lying around.

...physically lying around-- like a pile of scrap fabric, or like the burlap fibers and gauze I used to make the "light jackets"  a few years ago--

... conceptually lying around, like this Serge Poliakoff image I've been looking at for a few weeks now--I wonder about the connection between the stone wall and Poliakoff's big shapes....

...or even subconsciously lying around, like a dream I had this past week in which Otto Sander's angel character in Wenders' film "Wings of Desire" says to me-- "Stop worrying. I have something else in mind for you."