Sunday, 28 February 2010

Indigo images

I went to see the exhibition of indigo embroidered household textiles from Szechuan in the 1900s. The Gold Museum in Ballarat was given the collection of Robina and George Arnott-Rogers, missionary doctor and engineer respectively. George was born in Bacchus Marsh, apprenticed in Ballarat and worshipped at the little wooden Jubilee Hall beside Lake Wendouree.

These textiles, the exquisite household work of the women of Szechuan (yes, I'm using the 19th century spelling), are now very rare. Ballarat may have the largest collection outside China - and the work may have vanished there also.

This is the second showing of the textiles, I went five times before they went on a national tour, and this was my farewell visit as they are going back into protective storage.
I forgot to take a camera so I've had to use images from the exhibition catalogue. Unfortunately they are deceptive, giving no proper idea of the scale of the work or the complex and grand designs on the larger pieces.  Some of the embroideries are bed-size valances and very dramatic.
The work is sophisticated and rich in pattern but they use a small stock of stitches; mostly cross stitch, stem stitch, and stitching similar to European blackwork. The colours are indigo and white, the thread and fabric are cotton.

The catalogue is only $4.00 and is available still as is a $6 folder of embroidery patterns taken from the textiles. They are well worth buying, even if you missed the exhibition.

These embroideries touch a common heritage - since the Chinoiseries of eighteenth century Europe the images of China have become part of our imaginative life too.

And we find images sewn in remote Szechuan over a hundred years ago on our own tables now.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

One plum

Yin and I went to a pot-luck supper, a monthly BREAZE event which was held at the new Buninyong community gardens. It was small and friendly and we had lots to chat about. The food was home-cooked and mostly home-grown.
There are only a few plots being gardened at the moment, as you can see in the photo, but it's a beginning.

When we went home we solemnly ate the one blood plum that the birds left us on our baby plum tree. One day we'll have a little orchard of fruit trees - and one day there'll be an urban orchard in Ballarat with lots of fruit to share.

"From little things big things grow..."

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Lion hunting

A Lion dance

has to have drums

and LOUD explosions

People get into position

And it's really good if you can eat just above the street and hang out the windows when the lions dance by.

But it can be a bit crowded because everyone's jostling each other down at the main dance area

So you might just track down the alley where your lion team is kitting up

and follow close behind

and you can see two teams competing in a dance

and get close enough to choke on the smoke

then you chase after the lion that can do rollovers - spectacular!

and let the drum beat thud into you

you pick up a souvenir cracker

as your lion prances off

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Yum cha

Here we are wandering down Little Bourke Street at 10.30 on a Sunday morning, off to Sharks Fin House.

We have a New Year routine. Get in early and watch the Lion dance teams kit up, eat at the first Yum cha session then race out and follow a lion as it dances around a few businesses and maybe catch the Dai Loong waking up. It's a busy day.

Lotus leaf wrapped sticky rice - the fragrance of the lotus leaf is  wonderful

The prawn and scallop steamed dumpling looked like a flower bud, with delicately pink edges.

Just like a moody moment in a Hong Kong film, yes?

We did the lions and stuff and finally went back to Ballarat via Footscray market.

Where Yin happily replenished our stocks of dried Chinese goodies

and sadly, the roast duck shop was shut.

But we did find one last lion team, of very young dancers with neon ear plugs.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

and just to say

The saffron crocus (crocus sativus) bulbs finally arrived from Lambley Nursery and I am going to have my own  (small) field of saffron next year.

I'm thinking of Crete, of Iran, of Paella.

Eve of the Year of the Tiger

New Year's Eve and a burst of nostalgia (again).

I got out our tin toys, which we always set out, and a couple of token tigers for the Year of the Tiger.

Since Yin's family have happily adopted Christmas, I have had no qualms in adopting Chinese New Year.
They reign over the real stuff - glorious food, ceremony and red packets etc., while I make use of the occasion for mass production of paper cuts, New Year pictures, wood (lino) cut cards, and miniscule bangs and sparkles at our house. When it comes to glitz, glue and glitter I never let a chance go by.

Some of our old knives and ink and seals.  Chinese ink sticks smell fabulous, and even plastic-bottled ink is fragrant. It's worth having just to smell every now and then. 

I think I'll make some new little prints, but not for New Year now, I've left it too late.

The poppers and sparklers were leftovers I found in our New Year box (Yes I have a box for every occasion). They were my attempt to make up to the boys  for the ban on fireworks and crackers.

Don't you love the 'Hello Kitty' red packets? I got extras last year so I could have some too. (They are supposed to go to the kids in the family).

Tomorrow we're catching the train into Melbourne to watch the Lion Dances in Little Bourke Street and to have a family yum cha. Bliss!

By the way I managed to make this a felicitous 111th post!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

A gentle day

Today has been a warm day of mist and soft rain. At times the mist became a white fog at the edges of the road. A favourite sort of summer weather and rare.

I spent most of the day reading. I have read four of  the books I collected together at the end of January. I'm now reading The Plains and to my surprise this time I love it, I'm unable to put it down.
Sometimes this happens, I resist a book for a long time and then I pick it up and I sink into it, overcome. I am finally ready to read it.


Here's a lovely old book I found.

It's a bit battered, but has wonderfully thick creamy paper.

and I think has been well-loved.

John Masefield was a poet who is now unfashionable, but he had a real gift for chantable verse and for telling good stories. He wrote two magical books for children, The Midnight Folk and this one, The Box of Delights. I think I can see his influence in Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising.

There is a affectionate account of his work here, and a rather more cautious one here - he is VERY unfashionable after all. He wrote well about the sea and sailing, being a working sailor himself .

Cooling down

Yesterday, Wednesday, a storm of wind and rain rolled over and a tree lost some branches.

Small creatures escaped from the vast puddles

with great effort

Some members of the household got under as many things as they could when they heard the thunder

and refused to come out even when they were offered a treat.

The rain gauge began to fill.

Wonderful summer rain.