(un)Fashion: Creativity and Translations

Hard to believe that the book (un)Fashion hadn’t yet made its appearance  into my house and blog until this weekend when a friend brought it to my attention.

(un)Fashion presents a kaleidoscope of people from different cultures and portrays how they dress and adorn themselves away from the fashion shows and chain stores.  It refreshingly ignores  the Western conventional view of what’s beautiful and what’s not. Tibor Kalman, one of the graphic geniuses of the 20th century and  editor-in-chief of Colors magazine and his wife, illustrator Maia Kalman created this stunning gem of a book.

Take a look:

Some of the images remind me vaguely of this book: Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa by Hans Silvester, which I blogged about in one of my first posts back in 2010. I’ve always been fascinated by culture and its expressions through fashion, music, film, art  and language.

Right now I’m busy working with languages;  another area that fascinates me since I first learned English 35 years ago in small town Germany . Currently I’m exploring different ways and avenues how to make language learning more accessible, fun and effective using a variety of tools including technology/art/music etc. (Which, by the way is a great excuse for reading French Vogue extensively and spend time watching foreign language soap operas on Netflix.)

Trying to understand what it takes to learn a language is fun and frankly quite creative.  Creating is closely linked to the process of translating or transforming an idea into “an expression”. Without a doubt, creating and translating have a close relationship.

These days I’m in the process of re-orienting myself and re-evaluating this blog, looking into ways of making it more into a cultural exploration.

As an example, here is one interesting clip from the Indonesian version of “The X-Factor”.  The clash between the singer’s voice, her selected music, the format of the show (exported to more than 40 countries)  and her dress display exactly the kind of cultural mélange that interests me.

Once I have a clearer picture of where this exploration takes me I’ll be back.

ISBN-10: 0810992299
ISBN-13: 978-0810992290
Tibor Kalman (Author), Maira Kalman (Author)


Happy 2013

Wishing you all a peaceful, interesting, healthy and inspiring New Year!

My blogging will be irregular, because life has become very busy – in a good way!

Have a wonderful 2013 and I’ll see you here soon.


Fabric Play: Thimbles and The Lord of the Rings

Over the break during the wee hours of the morning, I watched “The Lord of the Rings” while finishing a small embroidery.  And in between, while Frodo spent hours of screen time drudging through Mordor struggling with that darn ring, I drudged through the internet and discovered these very beautiful Japanese thimbles, called yubinuki.  The whole ring theme seemed apt for this month’s fabric play.

The thimbles below are from the Kaga region of Japan, which is known for its textile work and the making of fine kimonos. In the true spirit of Mottainai, to not let anything go to waste the leftover silk threads were used to make beautifully designed thimbles like those below.

Isn’t it amazing to produce such marvelous embroidery on such a humble item as a thimble.

These thimbles are worn between the second and third knuckle on the middle finger of your stitching hand with the needle pushing against the fabric just like in the illustration below from John Marshall’s book, ‘Make Your  Own Japanese Clothes’.

Of course, I had to give that a try. I found great information with easy to follow instructions on Shishi Girl’s blog here. Of course, the Japanese versions are measured to the millimeter and mine are measured with my failing eyesight, but that’s how I like it.

The “real ones” are built and embroidered around a foundation of rice paper and silk batting, and mine are recycling t-shirts and linen, because that’s what I had on hand. I also didn’t follow the instructions, as you can see below, because mine don’t have any batting and are clearly a peasant version of a true yubinaki. Honestly, it’s even a far stretch to connect the two.

I ended up with very few thimbles, as they do require a bit of trial and error.

I specifically like these beautiful and humble vintage thimbles below found on the Wafu Works blog, a shop and enterprise specializing in vintage Japanese art and textiles. Aren’t these beautiful?

Image (c) Wafu Works

I think they are really more like jewelry. The concept would also work for making bracelets or beads…..ah, the possibilities!

Visit Nahtzugabe to see what else has been played with during this month fabric play.


This week we’ll be going to Boston to celebrate Hanukkah. I always decorate the house sparsely for the holidays, because we are mixed celebration household and I like a festive mood without big glitter. We use lots of painted pine cones, light chains and paper stars. Lots of them. Tutorials from and inspiration from past year are here and here.

However, there are two projects from fellow bloggers that are both beautiful and simple: suschna’s wonderfully Asian inspired paper globes (lampshade included) and evi’s filled paper advent calendar each with easy to follow tutorials.

I didn’t manage to create a hand-made calendar this year, but the paper stars will look good on bare branches as well. I tried one and they are great, roomy enough to hide a small treasure in them and easy enough to make a few.

I’ll see you all next week.

Golf Balls and Beer

It’s almost December and as usual, despite promising myself every year that I’m not going to let it get to me, here I am again.

There is a story, that helps me create an anchor for the end of the year. It’s the story of the professor and the golf balls.

A professor stood before his philosophy class, placed a large jar on top of his desk and filled it to the brim with golf balls. When the students were asked if the jar was full, they of course, said “yes” and wondered what this was all about.

But it wasn’t full. The teacher then added pebbles to the jar which filled the cracks and asked again if the jar was full. “Yes”, most students replied, but a few were hesitant.

Of course, the jar wasn’t full yet, so the teacher added some sand, until nothing else would fit and everybody agreed, that now, it was full indeed.

However, he wasn’t done yet. He opened 2 cans of beer and poured them into the jar over the sand. The class laughed.

The professor then explained: “The golf balls represent the most important things in your life. Your passion, your family, your health and your friends. The pebbles stand for other things that matter, like the roof over your head, your job, your kids education etc.
The sand is the small stuff. The potluck dinner you’re invited to and don’t want to go, the dirty apartment or house that needs cleaning, the little worries that get in the way and everything else in between.”

The metaphor is obvious. The jar represents your life and if you fill it with sand first, there is no room for the golf balls (or the pebbles). In other words, make sure, your priorities are clear and  straight. Passions, love, family and health come first. There is always room for cleaning the house and dealing with the small stuff.

So what hat are the beers for?

The professor smiled and said, “Well I’m glad you asked. The beers show that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers with a friend.”

We all have busy lives and most of us feel at times, that one more thing will cause the cup to overflow.

I’m writing this, because the other day I was freaking out. So much to do and so little time. New work and challenges, the frantic nature of self-employment with all its worries, no time to play or to blog . However, once I read the story, I had a beer with myself and put things back in perspective.

After the beer, I sat down and did, what I thought I didn’t have time for….writing this post.

Did I find my “inner” calm after that?

No, but I did pick up some fabric glue, now that I have my priorities straight.

Fabric Play Date

Now that we are in the darkest time of the year,  I decided on light and shadow as this month’s fabric manipulation theme, but given my limited success, it soon morphed into a surface and texture exploration.

It started small. A balloon, some wool and a combination of white glue and cornstarch to create…. a light perhaps. It didn’t work.  It wasn’t that exciting and not manipulated fabric either.

Usually I don’t combine fabric and glue. For some reason they don’t go together in my world and if it wasn’t for fabric “exploration” I might not have ventured further. However, there is something quite satisfying about sculpting with threads and paste, which I discovered by making this rather strange sheet of “fabric” below.  It’s not soft, but I think it would qualify as fabric in a broader sense:

There is no real application for this, other than shining a light from behind and make a “light sculpture”,  but the pliable texture is interesting. I essentially embedded different threads into a concoction of white glue and cornstarch. The cornstarch made the end result somewhat flexible. It’s also possible to cut it into different shapes or forms.

Below was more interesting, not in terms of the outcome, but as a technique to be explored further:

I cut a random piece from an Urban Outfitter catalog which was then pasted onto a finely woven piece of handkerchief linen.

The result is a foggy image which seems like a memory,  faded and barely accessible. However, as the paper was printed on both sides, it came to life when lit from behind:

Ahhhh – suddenly there is another guy in the story. So this is what happens when things come to light, a whole new dimension.

My next attempt will be adding text on the last layer instead of an image. It would make a perfect table light or lampshade. It is also a great project with kids and very satisfying because of its quick results.

This image below is from the same catalog and pasted on the linen. Some hand stitches would be interesting on the texture.

Here is the original to see how it changes:

And then I found Chris K. Palmer on the web, master of playing with light and shadow. Look at what he does by folding starched fabric:

His book is called: “Shadowfolds: Surprisingly Easy-to-Make Geometric Designs in Fabric”, if you would like to give this a try. It doesn’t look so “surprisingly easy”, but I want to believe it is.

I thought Pojagi would result in a similar effect and it does:

But then Thanksgiving arrived with its requirement of cooking rather than concocting fabric manipulations; so that’s where I left it.

Hope you had fun with your own ideas!


Let’s take a look who has experimented this month:

kaze played with the concept of fabric as origami

t.tally folded fabric into a beautiful representation of November

suschna converted fabric into berries and a light purple November flower

siebensachen experimented with embossing velvet

nahtzugabe created a beautiful accessory inspired by light and shadow.

machwerk was inspired by cording and made a beautiful “Utensilo”

KunstundKleider artfully combined crochet and felting in unexpected ways

tinitaschen created a pretty pouch using pleating and a silk

“Force Majeure”, Thanksgiving and a Pizza Recipe

Yesterday, I had an adventure.

The day started out like any typical busy Monday; the normal frenzy to get the lunch ready, the kid up and dressed and fed, the homework together, the instrument packed for band practice and out the door with my husband who had to trek to the next block over to get the car, because the city is replacing a drainage pipe right outside our house and closed the street.

I took a deep breath and sat with my cup of coffee  in front of the computer. My husband comes back and we start to work.

Ten minutes later we hear a loud bang just outside our door, followed by an angry hiss. My husband goes up to investigate and I hear  him run down the stairs and shout: “Out of the house, NOW!!!!” It wasn’t a polite request, it was an order and not one to mess with.  We run out of the house through a cloud of nasty smelling gas, my neat looking husband and I, a sorry mess in flimsy ballet slippers, a thin long-sleeved t-shirt, at 43 F (that’s 6 Celsius for the Europeans!) standing in the street, unwashed with greasy hair. It was cold.

The street construction crew broke a 4 inch gas main with the  noxious and flammable gas funneling straight into our house.

After 3 minutes of standing there, the excitement wore off and I realized how cold it was and how unprepared I was to be standing there. This was obviously not going to be a ten minute fire drill. We had 5 dollars in our pocket and nothing else. No keys, no phone, no wallet, no purse, no shoes, no jacket. To cheer me up my husband painted a situation of me taking a shower with shampoo in my hair while  simultaneously being thrown out of the house and I had to admit, given the alternative, I was lucky.

One large heavy construction worker with blond hair, a grey beard and sparkly eyes, told me not to worry. “It’s probably not gonna to blow up”, he said reassuringly. “Last week we had two houses blow up like popcorn, wasn’t anything left but the foundations, but the pipe was 2-inches bigger than the one you have.”   While he was talking I was picturing our house blowing up with all of our belongings floating slowly over the city. It was a poetic image. Then I thought about our insurance which would probably deny any claim on the grounds that this was “force majeure” or an act of god. Well, force majeure with a shovel.

After 4 firetrucks, the gas company and the press arrived, we quietly retreated without being noticed and went for a cup of coffee, basically because I didn’t feel very photogenic and my cold toes started to make tinkling sounds.

The entire time I was thinking how little in that house I really needed…or even wanted. If I had to name ten things of importance, it would have been difficult. Yes, the travel memorabilia were irreplaceable, but the memories were already with me. To lose some of our friends original art would have been very sad. If I expressed myself more through “tangible objects” like art I know I would feel very different. If you were thrown out of your house, what would you rescue?

After a few hours, we were allowed back into our house. The whole episode was a reminder of what’s important and what’s not.

It’s Thanksgiving this week and I’m very much aware of how thankful I am.

Now that you’ve made it this far, below is a half finished post that I started Sunday night. It has some links to food, a good pizza dough recipe and a reminder that Sunday is fabric play date.

See you on Sunday!

Food is on my mind, because on Thursday we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving here in the US.

I’m hosting and will be cooking all day Wednesday while sipping champagne, one of my favorite parts of the celebration.

The NY Times Harvest Tart was on our menu last year and deserves a repeat. Not only does it taste great, but it also makes a beautiful centerpiece to replace the Turkey if you happen to be vegetarian.

And while I won’t make pizza, I made this one the other day and it’s worth sharing.

– 1/2 cups of tepid water (more if dough is too dry)
– 2 1/4 tsp dry yeast
– 3 cups of flour
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/2 tsp sugar
– 2/3 tbs olive oil

Stir yeast into tepid water and dissolve.
In a separate bowl mix flour, salt and sugar.
Dump dough on kitchen counter and make a volcano.
Make a “crater” and pour the water/yeast mixture inside.
Move the flour from the outside into the crater until dough is partly mixed.
Add olive oil and knead the dough with your hands until it’s smooth, but not too dry and can be pulled apart. It’s more a matter of feel in the hands than the result of precise measurements.
Place dough in a bowl, cover with a clean damp warm dishtowel and let rise for about an hour until dough has doubled. Quickly knead once more and divide into four balls for small pizzas or 2 for larger ones. Let rest 15 more minutes.
Roll out four pizzas

Top with sauteed onions, red pepper, steamed broccoli and black olives, which is our favorite nowadays. In summer I like fresh tomatoes and basil. And if you are adventurous for a fall pizza (with pumpkin!) Chloe Coscarelli has an interesting sounding recipe here.

Fabric will be hosted here on Sunday. I’ve been playing and the results are interesting so far.

See you on Sunday!

Hearts of Palm and Mop Toddler Suits

Monday was painting day.

One of the great things about a house that has been neglected for many years is that with a bit of love and paint, it improves. It also means that a 10-year old can freely experiment with a budding sense of home improvement and color exploration. Luckily, I have a 10-year old at home who was thrilled at the prospect to take on the task and explore. She painted for hours on end and loved it. The color was “Hearts of Palm” and is a clear upgrade from beige-ish ochre color that I once liked, but grew to hate. It’s about the third time we’re painting this room. Love the color now, but then again, let’s talk in 2 years.

We have lots of rooms that need some TLC. Maybe I’ll set my daughter off on a new trajectory, now that she is having fun painting.

It’s just like the baby that mops your floors while developing its motor skills.  How very practical.

Image (c) betterthanpants.com

In case you’re concerned about my daughter’s well-being while inhaling the fumes of acrylic paint on a cold fall day, there is no need to worry….of course we used Zero VOC paint.

We did it together and had a great time.

And now, we’re done talking about dining room floors and walls.  And that’s a promise.

Dopamine and Empathy

Yesterday night I discovered the answer on why I’m so driven to find questions and their answers on the internet; questions, that arise while looking for answers. And where did I find it? On the internet, of course.

We are all addicted to information and there is a reason. Taking in and processing  information was essential for survival such as scanning the landscape watching for predators or other dangers. And nature has made this an incentive by giving us a warm ‘fuzzy’ feeling through the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. It’s  the same way nature rewards sexual behavior to ensure the survival of the species.

Scanning the horizon yesterday has been replaced with browsing the internet today and that bar that  B.F. Skinner‘s rats hit over and over again for the reward of food has been replaced by the “Enter” key that we press all day for our dopamine fix.

However, what do we do with all that information that we strive so hard to seek? Isn’t it all too much? And what else suffers as a result of this?

Nicholas Carr, who has written extensively about the effects of the internet on cognition, talks about the consequences of information overload in this 15-minute lecture. Hopping from article to article is a lot like multitasking, something we’re all familiar with. But multitasking doesn’t actually exist, it is rather the process of shifting from task to task, adjusting constantly to the new stimulus in front of you.  It’s not an efficient process, because it interrupts a more sophisticated exploration and leads to a lack of important processing skills required for creative  and systemic thinking.

And guess what else it affects and this was a surprise to me…..Empathy!

Research suggests that along with the decline of book reading, college “kids today are about 40 percent lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago” according to Kevin Dutton’s article “Psychopathy’s Double Edge” in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Isn’t that scary?

Here is why the 500+-year old art of reading a book is today more important than ever:

Reading a book carves brand-new neural pathways into the ancient cortical bedrock of our brains. It transforms the way we see the world—makes us, as Nicholas Carr puts it in his recent essay, “The Dreams of Readers,” “more alert to the inner lives of others.” We become vampires without being bitten—in other words, more empathic. Books make us see in a way that casual immersion in the Internet, and the quicksilver virtual world it offers, doesn’t.

- Kevin Dutton

Usually when reading a book we become immersed in the story as the protagonist and imagine life from the viewpoint of the hero/ine. How about reversing this? What about imagining your own life and the people around you through the eyes of a Jane Austen, or William Shakespeare. Isn’t that an interesting thought?

Trying to see the world through someone else’s eyes is not only an entertaining experiment but also applied empathy. Often I try to see life through the eyes of someone I don’t like that much. That usually helps me understand the motives of the other person’s actions and helps me to stay calm.

Empathy is important. And not only for the ones at the receiving end.

Credit for finding Kevin Dutton’s fascinating article and the video above go to Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Beast.


Now that the election is finally over, I can go back and finish my dining room instead of reading polls all day.  I’m still in the midst of plastering and filling holes and my ambition is to celebrate Thanksgiving in a newly painted decent dining room. Wish me luck.

Election time is a reminder how much we’re all connected and that each of us can make a difference when we join forces. This also applies to our monthly fabric explorations, which so far was hosted by the German blogger suschna all by herself. To share in that responsibility, some of us ‘manipulators’ have decided to help out by hosting the monthly event on our respective blogs.

On November 25th, it is my turn. I’m thinking of exploring with either origami or shadow and light. If nothing interesting happens out of that, I’m just picking a random word from the dictionary for inspiration. If you would like to participate, just send me the link to your post at kathrin@annekata.com or leave a comment on Nov. 25 and I’ll link you in. Any projects finished or not, big or small are welcome and very much appreciated.

Speaking of networks and cross cultural projects – last month talented Danish knitter Thea from http://the-knitting-bee.blogspot.com/ (see top image) contacted me . On November 13th she’s organizing  google+ hangout regarding –  in her words – “what is a net, a web, a network and how do we make a blanket symbolizing a net…

If you would like to be part of this, see Thea’s invitation. I’m not a knitter or crocheter (is that a word?), but I’ll be there on Nov. 13th, because I’m interested.

Who knows who we’re going to meet? It will also be a great way to understand google+ better and, as I’m still not on facebook, but love the idea of connecting and meeting people from all over the world, I am going to give google+ a try.

Will you join?

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