Tuesday, June 26, 2007

From the British Museum

This is a surprising object. First of all, it looks quite old. And it is in the British Museum surrounded by unique, one-of-a-kind examples of Japanese art. I photographed it because I had never seen a ewer quite like it. I estimate it to be close to 9 inches long. It has a nice porportion and looks like it would serve it's owner well. The decoration fits the form and is beautifully executed.

Imagine how surprised I was to learn that this is a modern piece. It was made around 1990 by Soma Masakazu, an artist born in Okinawa in 1949. The information card reads:

"This ewer is designed for pouring alcoholic drinks. It has a typically Ryukyuan combination of clear, bright colours. The distinctive curved shape, called a dachibin, can be worn at the hip. Soma, the maker has given the traditional local style a modern twist."

The piece is stoneware and was donated by the artist. It would be a great form to experiment with.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Beauty in Objects

Here's a simple bell displayed in the Victoria & Albert in the Viking Section. What a striking, simple form and an inspiration for a teapot handle.

Taken a bit farther in ornamentation, these two bells are real beauties. (Sorry about the quality of the photo--lots of glass-case reflection going on) They look like ancient bells that had been encased at a later time in brass. Makes you wonder how precious they were that they would have this ornamentation added. What were they used for that would cause the owners to embellish them so? Was the brass casing an influence of Irish design; the result of seeing/taking plunder from Irish monastaries? There have been cases of plunder from raids being broken up or redesigned to embellish Viking artifacts. These pieces seem to be examples of this practice.

Two cases held stunning drinking horns. How beautiful they are and how amazing it is they have survived all these years. One wonders how they were used; what went into them? What did the animals look like that had these glorious horns? They were quite large--it would take two hands to drink from them. Were they hung on pillars in the log houses? Were they fastened to packs and taken on ships? Who drank out of them? Were they ceremonial horns or for only special people to use? By the way, the collection of small pots in the lower left of the second photo is a grouping of brass-capped burl knots made into little containers. Quite unique. For Viking chap-stick, perhaps?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Back and Brain-dead

Back home again and still walking around in a fog trying to sort out suitcases, papers, wash clothes and think of something for dinner. Flying from London to Seattle is not pretty. We broke our trip in D.C. for a night's sleep and a re-group, but 6 hours plus another 5 1/2 hour's flight really whacks your clock. Besides which - all the check-in lines, security lines, suitcase dragging and hikes to more lines to catch a train or to be bussed to yet another hike to find a departure gate. T'was getting a bit tedious. Flying isn't fun anymore. We've got our packing down to one suitcase each that holds about 35 lbs and a regulation carry-on. Thank heavens for the compression bags! They really make clothes go flat and save space. But still.....


Went to many museums and venues in D.C., London and Madrid during the trip. Filled up a travel dairy with notes and drawings to use as references for new forms in clay. It's great to get out there and look at so much stuff that you go into total overload. I loved going into the stores and looking at all the new modern things. Europe is so much ahead of us in design. Also spent hours in museums looking at historical collections. I'd love to just rent a room across from the V&A and go there every day for about a month.

This time in London we not only returned to many of our favorite spots (We lived there for 4 1/2 years), but also made an effort to visit the places we never got to in that time. I truly love London and the UK.

Also had a great time listening to the people of Madrid and finding my tongue getting looser every day. Give me a couple of months and I'd be rattling off Spanish again pretty easily even though I haven't spoken it extensively to another soul for at least 40 years. We were also in the Catalan area. I'd never been there before and they put an interesting spin on the language.

Part of the trip was business which meant a lot of social events and a packed schedule, but the London part was purely enjoyment.

More later.........