(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)


Six Words to Describe Your Life

Do you read in the bathroom?

I always thought everybody did, but then found out that it’s a no-no for many people. My whole family firmly belongs to the bathroom reading crowd with books, newspapers and magazines tucked away in every corner. My daughter hides her old Archie comics and reads them over and over, which makes her bathroom trips as long as shopping trips. My husband reads the Economist and I read whatever the others leave behind or what I can remember to bring. When the bathroom is bare (rare, but possible), the ingredients on my soap bottle will do, although that reads more like the content list of a dangerous insecticide.

My family also reads at the kitchen table when one of us is eating by him/herself. We do have a “no-reading- at-the-table” policy at family meals, so please don’t think of us as one of those dysfunctional American families with nothing to talk about when we’re having dinner. But when the grown ups talk politics (and how can you not right now), I watch my daughter tune out and read about the beneficial qualities of oatmeal and how it lowers cholesterol. Words are like gravity, they pull us right in.

My bathroom and kitchen table reading right now is this: “Not Quite What I Was Planning. Six Words Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure”, based on Hemingway’s famous six word story: “For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.

The title says it all and here’s a taste:

Poet locked in body of contractor.” – Marilyn Hencken

I still make coffee for two.” – Zak Nelson

Fell in Love. Married. Divorced. Repeat.” – Lori McLeese

Stole Wife. Lost friends. Now happy.” – Po Bronson

When it comes to writing a memoir, it’s hard to imagine a bigger constraint  than using only six words to express one’s life, but it’s surprising how much information and emotion can be packed into six words.

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a party, where the guests had to sum up their lives in six words after dinner?

I’ve been thinking about my own six word memoir….What I came up with spontaneously is not Hemingway, but it became clear that all of them related in one way or another to traveling and being uprooted: “German born. Nomadic now. No regrets.” Or  “Now, where do I go next?”

Constraints do help remove the “noise” from what’s essential and worth listening to.

This one by Margaret Hellerstein is particularly good: “Followed rules, not dreams. Never again.”  Doesn’t that say it all?

Can you sum up your life in six words? What’s your theme or “red thread”?

Update: Forgot book info, here it is:
Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure
Rachel Fershleiser (Editor), Larry Smith (Editor)
ISBN-10: 0061374059
ISBN-13: 978-0061374050


Junko Oki / Woky Shoten – poesy

Remember this post about my favorite embroiderer Junko Oki and my efforts to get my hands on one of her books? Well, I finally succeeded and yesterday received a copy of her wonderful book ‘poesy’.

It features her beautiful embroidery, bags, clothes and simple cloths, some of which are photographed in the context of a room or the outdoors to highlight their beauty. The book came with an introduction written in English where she explains her dreams of becoming a poet.

This is clearly what she is: a poet armed with needle and thread.

In her own words:

” When I have needles, threads, and other special materials in front of me, something stirs deep inside my unconscious mind in spite of myself and I am filled with strong emotion. That is when I regain my true self.”

Here are a few impressions from her book:

It was hard to chose which pictures to feature, as something always gets lost in translation.

But here is the good news: if you would like to purchase the book, you can and it is easy and fast: The price is 2000yen plus postage.

Contact Junko Oki at: mmtukj(at)nifty.com and she’ll send you an invoice through paypal. As soon as you pay, it’ll be on its way and 3-5 days later you’ll hold it in your hands. If you order one, please say hello from me!

Junko Oki is a wonderful source of inspiration and thank you Momo (her sister) for helping with the translations.

….poesy – another day another walk

Stitching, Books and the Human Experience

Isn’t it interesting how hard it is to stitch freestyle? Or is it just me?

After a few more stitches on my practice piece, I once again realized that stitching is only meditative when I know where the needle should go next. Free style stitching without any plan is not relaxing, but there is something new for me to learn here. Not sure what yet. Maybe patience?

On another note we’re in the midst of our bi-annual booksale and this weekend hardcover books were down to 2 dollars each. Imagine an old warehouse filled with thousands of books. It’s heaven! This is a selection of what I schlepped home: Dorothy Parker’s Stories, Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and a German version of The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan by James Justinian Morier of “the many adventures of a nineteenth-century Persian rogue, none of which involve honest labor”. It’s from 1829 and the oldest book I now own.

To touch pages that are over 180 years old is wonderful. They’re almost transparent and the book is in great shape; it has been treasured and well taken care of. To imagine that it was so special to someone that it was brought by boat all the way from Germany and has made it into the 21st century.

One book that I am particularly looking forward to reading is “Cloth and Human Experience” a collection of essays by anthropologists of the role of cloth: ” Cloth in Small Scale Societies”, “Cloth and the Creation of Ancestor’s in Madagascar” and “the Changing Fortunes of Three Archaic Japanese Textiles” are just some of the exciting chapters I can’t wait to read.

While searching for the amazon link, I stumbled over another book, which sounds equally intriguing: Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. I just read the first few pages and the book starts by looking at the reasons why sewing and cooking were women’s work for thousands of years.

The premise is that in order to not lose women’s productivity in the childbearing years, they had to be assigned work that allowed easy care for children. After all, children were nursed much longer than they are now. The work had to be somewhat repetitive and boring so it could be put down or picked up easily, when a child needed to be fed or taken care of; work, that was not dangerous for the mother or child and could be done from home. Food and clothing both fulfill these criteria.

Does this come to full circle in the blog world? Look at all the food and sewing blogs out there, many by mothers with small children.

While in the past sewing was shared with family and local community, now the sewing circles have become much larger and that’s a wonderful thing.

Thank you internet!

The Art of Reinventing and a Very Special Give-Away

My dear friend Maya has written a beautiful book: Reinvention: Sewing with Rescued Materials. It features 28 great projects made from recycled material celebrating creativity, sustainability and resourcefulness. If you haven’t found your own copy yet, here’s your chance to win one, courtesy of the publisher Wiley. Just leave a comment below with your contact […] Read more »

The Greatest Human Strength

This morning I awoke at 5am. After 8 hours of sleep (yes, very early bedtime yesterday) I was reasonably well rested, but for me there is no such thing as too much sleep. The bed was warm, soft and cozy, it was still dark outside and the air was crisp. But I also knew that […] Read more »

Microcrafts – Because Small is Beautiful

Today is birthday party time. My daughter’s friend is turning 9 and we’ll be having a vaguely themed Miniature/Japanese party. So we were thrilled to find a gift that relates perfectly. The book Microcrafts features many tiny craft projects from different designers including miniature-books, miniscule animal companions, a small pouch pendant to keep pictures and […] Read more »

Alabama Studio Sewing + Design

When Natalie Chanin’s latest book “Alabama Studio Sewing + Design” arrived at my mailbox yesterday, my heart skipped several beats (don’t worry, I’m fine now). It’s her third book about hand-sewing and creating a sustainable wardrobe; and although I said this about her last book, this one is my all time favorite. It features an […] Read more »

On Writing

Have you ever wondered which famous writer you write like?  Well, here is a way to find out with the website: “I write like“.  It’s easy, just enter a paragraph of your writing and after a brief moment of analyzing, the author’s name pops up.  I know, it’s a stupid computer program that compares some […] Read more »