Saturday, 2 September 2017

A short break and a long post

I’ve been away so this post isn’t about textiles but about some highlights of my trip with a few textile references thrown in for good measure.

I flew to Los Angeles towards the end of July to visit family and to get away from the Melbourne winter for a couple of weeks. The flight was uneventful and while sleep eluded me, fortunately the Qantas entertainment selection was much better than the last flight 4 years ago.  I found ‘The secret history of knitting’ amongst the documentaries and couldn’t resist taking a photo of my sock next to the screen. 

In case anyone is worried about taking knitting on planes I had no problems.  I had short bamboo sock needles and even though security did x-ray my bag twice, I just stood there looking innocent and pretending that it was someone else’s bag, and it was fine.

One day we had an expedition to Catalina Island about an hour’s ferry ride away.  It was a perfect Summer’s day, not too hot and with a cool breeze.  There were plenty of people swimming

but I wasn’t tempted to join them.  I found the only yarn shop in Avalon, the only town, and managed to find some sock yarn I liked.  There wasn’t a huge choice, and I suspect that if I got all my yarn out from its many hiding places, I may well have more yarn than was on display.  The colours remind me of Catalina and the first sock is almost finished.

We went on an eco tour run by the Catalina Island Conservancy.

Our driver very sensibly asked us if we wanted to look at the views at the beginning of the tour or at the end because there was a good chance that if we went straight to the middle of the island we would see bison.  We chose bison over scenery and were rewarded with great views of the bison. 

Apparently years ago they were taken to Catalina for a movie and when it was finished they were left there.  They’ve adapted well and have become quite an attraction.  We were lucky that the day we were there,

they decided to graze along the edge of the road – we were so close we could smell them.

A couple of days later we went to Laguna for the Sawdust Art Festival and the Pageant of the Masters.  This is one of the times where it helps to be staying with a local as I suspect that the average tourist would never find it.  The Pageant of the Masters was started back in 1932 when a local farmer allowed a group of volunteers to re-enact paintings in his field.  It might sound odd but I’ve found the best way to explain it is that the finale is always Da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’.  There’s a painted backdrop, a table with food and the cast members come out in costume and sit around the table.  It’s no longer in a field but now has its own newly renovated, purpose built open air theatre with orchestra pit and a full orchestra playing.  There was just one textile connection where they re-enacted a portrait of Emma Hamilton, Lord Nelson’s mistress, spinning.

I was somewhat surprised to learn that she was into textiles but gather the portrait was painted to give her a more domestic and wholesome image.  Of course, if you think about it, film and television are major industries for Los Angles and so there are plenty of people with just the right skills to run a festival like this.  It’s all done by 2 crews of volunteers who work the whole summer but taking part could well be an advantage to anyone starting out in film or television.

As you walk into the theatre area there’s a high end art and craft display with great work but no textiles and across the road is the Sawdust Art Festival a mid-range craft exhibition but again not a lot of textiles and I didn’t find any weaving at either show.  I bought a couple of stunning marbled silk scarves, thank you Cindy Stalnaker of Laguna Beach Silks, and after I spoke to Cindy, I suddenly knew why there were not a lot of textiles.  She told me that she was there from 10 am to 10 pm for 66 days, I’m sure she was counting them.  I guess it would be possible to work all the year for just one festival and then sell for 2 months straight but it could be a very big gamble.  It’s a pleasant rustic environment with a lot of wood chips on the paths, hence the name, but the booths are smallish and not completely enclosed. There’s barely enough room for a small floor loom and life would be very difficult if it rained, possible but not all that likely in Southern California. It’s a very long commitment, especially if nothing sells, but on the other hand if sales were very good, there would be no time to replenish stock unless you could weave all night, or maybe employ an assistant, preferably one called Rumplestiltskin.  In case anyone is tempted to take part, it’s restricted to Laguna residents but I’d recommend all the events in Laguna highly if you’re visiting the area in July or August.

Another expedition was to the Huntington Library, Art Gallery and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, near Pasadena.  We started with the Library where there was an original Gutenberg Bible from 1455 on display – between 150 and 180  were made, 48 still exist in whole or part.  There was a history of science exhibition, the sections on light and medicine really appealed.  I realised how well we had been taught optics as I recognised almost all the names on the original documents on display.

We then went into the Art Gallery where a couple of the standout exhibits are Gainsborough’s Blue Boy

and Thomas Lawrence’s Pinkie. 

Both very well known to those of us who grew up in the 1950’s when school girls collected playing cards, known to all as ‘swap cards’. Swapping involved exchanging less desirable or poor quality cards for better ones.  Blue Boy and Pinkie were right up there amongst the most desirable.

I was also fascinated by this portrait of a young girl by Jean Baptiste Greuze, 1759,who had fallen asleep over her knitting. 

She’s not very old and that’s a pretty impressive sock she’s making.  I also liked this little cherub,

but can’t remember the artist.

It was fairly hot so we didn’t spend a lot of time in the gardens but we did lounge about on an open verandah where there was a great planter full of bromeliads.

We visited the Japanese garden for a while and then remembered that we had booked for high tea and were running late. We rushed up the hill to the tea house and collapsed in the door, a little red faced and flustered but still able to do justice to a very fancy high tea.

I managed some shopping, mostly shoes, clothes and underwear but also made it to Newton’s Yarn Country

where I found a few additions to the stash.

And then it was over and I was back in Melbourne, arriving on what turned out to be the coldest morning in twenty years, there was ice on the car window.

I’d started in a tee shirt but just kept adding layers so I was OK but some of my fellow travellers who’d come in tank tops and bare legs looked a bit surprised when they left the terminal.

Life has returned to normal and I’m off to the craft market in the morning, just one day fortunately, not 66.  I managed to get 3 of the Bumberet tea towels

finished, there were 2 more but they seem to have developed a couple of rust spots so more wet finishing is needed.  I did find some very good display stands at Michaels while I was away,

not too heavy and once the bases are screwed off very easy to pack, I wonder if the customers will like them or the goods on display
Here's hoping for a busy day at the market


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