Sunday, 29 April 2012

A bit about Geisha

I have made 3 quilts for the Orientation exhibition at Redditch Needle Museum, but because
the space is a bit bigger at Minerva, I think I will do a larger piece - for more impact - more along the lines of the Life series I'm working on.

I've been trawling the interweb trying to find out about Geisha's and the Tea Ceremony, and very interesting it all is too!!

I don't know if anyone else out there will be madly interested, but I thought I'd regurgitate some of the things that I've found out.  I've got a rough idea where I'm going with the quilt and here's what it will be based on. (model coming on Wednesday, so not a lot of thinking time left!)  Naively I thought this Geisha stuff was all a very chaste, decorative and zen, but apparently it's not - or at least the roots of it all aren't.

Geisha's and Tea Ceremonies are inescapably linked, but the world of the Geisha is much more complicated. Basically their history starts pre-600's as female entertainers and included sexual services. In traditional Japan men were not expected to be faithful to their wives, who would be a "modest mother and manager of the home" (rather like my goodself!!) and for sexual enjoyment and romantic attachment they went to courtesans. The original "Oiran" (early Geisha) combined being an actress with prostitution, and dancing.  The dancing side was called kabuki and the wild erotic dances became the beginning of the kabuki theatre.

In the 18th century the first Geishas appeared, and were men. (there are still male Geisha today) They entertained customers waiting to see the courtesans.  The first female Geishas were trained as chaste dancers for hire; they called themselves Geisha after the men, and were paid to perform in the private homes of upper-class samurai. They were forbidden to sell themselves for sex to protect the business of the Oiran.  Prostitution was legal in Japan until the1950's and as such was widespread. Since the 1960's girls are no longer sold into indentured service as Maiko and trained to become Geisha, nor are the coerced into sexual relations - her sex life being her own private affair. However I discovered that even in 2001 the auctioning of a maiko's virginity could still happen, and that the men she meets are carefully chosen and unlikely to be casual. Although the ceremony for deflowering a young maiko is supposed to be illegal it's considered a right of passage and part of the understanding a professional geisha should have of the opposite sex, and still occurs.

And if you've stuck with this so far, here's a little bit about the makeup and hair.  Maiko (the young girls who train to be Geisha) have a scarlet fringe on the collar of their komono which hangs very loosley at the back to accentuate the nape of the neck. This is considered a primary erotic area in Japanese sexuality.  She wears white makeup on her face and on the nape, leaving two or three stripes of bare skin exposed.

Her kimono is bright and colourful with an eleaborately tied obi hanging down to her ankles. She takes very small steps and wears traditional wooden shoes called okobo which stand nearly 10 centimeters high. There are 5 different hairstyles that a maiko wears and they mark the different stages of her apprenticeship. They spend hours each week at the hairdresser and sleep on holed pillow to preserve the elaborate styling. They can develop a bald spot on the crown caused by rubbing and tugging in hairdressing and it has become associated with womanhood and a particular hairstyle adopted after a maiko's first sexual experience.  They wear lots of hair combs and pins.  Traditional hairstyling is a dying art and today many women use wigs.

They wear a thick white base makeup on their face with red lipstick and red and black accents around the eyes and eyebrows. The white base was originally made from lead, but was replaced with rice powder when the effects of lead poisoning became known. Its a time consuming process to apply with a wax or oil applied next to the skin.  The white powder is mixed with water to a paste and applied with a bamboo brush starting from the neck and working upwards. Leaving some areas of the neck, and around the hairline uncovered (see above) gives the illusion of a mask.  A sponge is then patted to remove excess moisture and blend the foundation.  Then the eyes and eyebrows are drawn in traditionally using charcoal to colour them black. A maiko also applies red around her eyes.

The lips are filled in with a small brush, and the colour comes in a small stick which is melted into water, and sugar added to give lustre. The lower lip is coloured in paritally and the upper lip left white initially but coloured later when the girl become a geisha. The idea is to create a flower bud so the whole of the lips are rarely coloured. For a brief time Maiko also colour their teeth black to contrast to the white face makeup and make them disappear when their mouth is open.

You don't have to be Japanese to be a Geisha. Liza Dalby in the 1970's, an Australian Fiona Graham, in 2007, and in 2012 A Romanian and a Ukrainian. You are expected to remain single and retire if you marry.

Enough?  Perhaps I'll leave the tea ceremony for another time!

Friday, 27 April 2012

Six and Friends

Do nip over to the SixandFriends blog if you'd like to follow the work and banter from everyone as we work towards the "Orientation" exhibition in September at Redditch Needle Museum, which goes on to The Bramble Patch  in March 2013 and then Minerva Arts Centre in July 2013

Yesterday we had a knees up meeting to discuss progress and meet each other in the flesh. We had a wonderfully jolly time as you can tell and Linda and Laura made us all very welcome.  Linda made some fantastic foccacia and salads, and we toured the garden and clucked to the chickens. We all piled into the DMTV studio and rummaged through the books and saw what was on the other side of that camera!!

We all have a shared passion for stitch, and colour, and texture, and design, but all the work being made is very different and it should make for a very interesting exhibition. There are links on the sidebar to the invidual members if you want to follow their blogs etc.  Cheers everyone!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Lost Gardens of Heligan (spring)

Star rating 4.5/5

(I really loved this place and it would have had a 5 star rating if it wasn't for the rough and ready cafe and it's school dinner food. )

Left: a little bit that's been left for you to see the orginal overgrown state of the gardens.

In 1990 Tim Smit and John Willis rediscovered these gardens which were overgrown and "lost". Tim Smit is also the brains behind the Eden Project, a much more slick and touristy destination. If you have children and were wondering which was the best option, it's not Helligan.

I enjoyed Helligan so much more than the Eden Project - I loved it's plants and vistas and it's quiet spaces, and the fact that you are left alone with a map and a compass (yep, the free compass is provided when you pay your £10 entrance fee) It's also much better value than the Eden Project as you could happily spend all day wandering around the different areas.

We are fast walkers and managed the whole site (and two visits to the jungle and lost valley) in 4 hours. It's 200 acres in size, but there are stopping points such as the Hide where you can bird spot and watch the mouse cam and owl cam, so you might want the two days the guide suggests!!

 We entered via the Woodland Walk which was a mistake as in March as it's not the best first impression. It would have been better to have started in the Northern Gardens and been blown away from the beginning!

Anyway enough chat. Here's the images of the Jungle area. It's a series of pools and planting in a valley.  There's a board walk along both sides and small bridges to cross at various points.

Don't forget it's spring and the lush growth has only just begun to emerge.

Left- the beginning. The top pool.

The Northern Gardens

These gardens are a delightful collection of decorative and productive areas.  There's lots of small rooms to walk through and plenty to see and admire.

Below: 2 photographs of the Italian Garden with its pool, shady arbour, and colourful pots.


 I LOVED this.  It's the potting shed, and outside I counted 12 small beds  in what looked like very poor stoney soil each surrounded by sunken edging stones.  They hold a collection of mint. I've rarely seen so many varieties. This part of the garden is given over to fruit, vegetables and flowers for cutting.  It was so pretty, and an absolute joy.

  Look at the pots all stacked and ready for use. It must be such a lovely place to be when it's raining outside.

 If you look carefully inside the cold frame, you can just see 2 pineapples growing.
 Bee hives, set into the wall.
 The flower garden. Sadly empty except for anenomies. The glass house at the back has peaches in it. They were all in blossom, so the doors were open to allow insects in to pollinate the fruit. It was lovely and warm.
Even the little places were thought of.

Finally we made our way to the Lost Valley.

At first, you might wonder what the fuss is about, as it looks like any other woodland area, but sit on one of the many little seats dotted here and there and listen to the birdsong, and creatures rummaging in the undergrowth.  Very peaceful.

It was a working area for the gardens in centuries past, and the wood was coppiced for charcoal.  Charcoal is still burned there and you can see the kilns. The slopes are quite steep in places and sometimes uneven, but easily manageable for your average human!

Also on the site, there is also a plant shop but the plants seemed to have been bought in rather than grown in the gardens so the choice was similar to any garden centre - perhaps a few more varieties of rhododendron and camelia than normal, but sadly I didn't find anything to treat myself to.

The cafe was not brilliant.  It was very full with limited seating and the menu was restricted. We had a roast dinner and rhubarb cheesecake.  The roast dinner was average and the cheesecake was awful.  Never mind, it won't stop me going again, but next time I'll bring sandwiches!

If you've been to Hidcote Garden in the Cotswolds and liked it, you'll like Helligan even more.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Words on Life 4

The quilt title is "Hello Dear, what did you do today?"

The response is: 

Well dear, I worried. I had coffee this morning. Coffee is the second most valuable legal commodity after oil but is largely grown by subsistence farmers and I forgot to buy Fair Trade.

Then I took our grandchildren to school. Did you know that 90% of all childcare still rests on women’s backs.

On the way to the hated supermarket to buy food, I saw that lady from the house by the park in her burkha who is lonely and abused but can’t tell the police in case her family is deported, and thought about the veiling and seclusion of women and the cult of virginity and the death penalty for women’s adultery, and tried to imagine what it was like to be killed with stones.  I thought of rape and how under Shar’ia law a rape victim needs four male witnesses to substantiate her testimony. In the west we might just say she’s making the whole thing up. I thought how rape could end if men just stopped doing it.

Then I had my hair done and looked in the mirror and saw how old I was. When you get old you cease to exist, people just don’t seem to see you any more. Perhaps I should lose weight or wear high heels to make me taller and show off my legs. Perhaps my nose needs altering or I could get my ears pierced or my teeth whitened. This made me think of trying to look nice and how odd this was when 140 million women have been circumcised and cruelly mutilated because it reduces libido and prevents promiscuity.   No, I’ll just bleach and perm my hair and put on false eyelashes and shave my legs and pad my bra, and file and paint my toenails. I’d best skip lunch or I’ll get fat.

I pottered about the garden and planted some lettuce. I thought of the women who make up over 50% of the world’s population yet only hold the title to 1% of the land, and produce more than half it’s food.  They work 2/3rd of the worlds working hours but receive 10% of the world’s income.

Then I paid a visit to that frail neighbour who The Meals On Wheels lady told me about. She’s sad and alone because her family have had to move to search for work and she’s frightened and doesn’t want to go into residential care but she’s in the system and no one is listening.

Then I collected the grandchildren from school and took them to cubs and ballet and thought of childbearing and the way fertility can be controlled, and the 35% of all Puerto Rican women that were sterilized by the US Agency for Development.

Then I came home to do the cleaning and the cooking, sort out the clothes and do the washing, and remembered what the Ladybird books taught me in school. “Here we are at home says Daddy. Peter helps Daddy with the car, and Jane helps Mummy get the tea. Good girl, says Mummy to Jane. You are a good girl to help me like this.” When I had our children I worked part time for 20 years without sick pay or a pension and tried to nurture you all in sickness and life, and help keep them fed and educated.  If an Englishman’s home is his castle why doesn’t he clean it. Only 3% of PLC directors in Britain are women and only 4% of judges. 78% of all clerical workers are women, but only 11% are managers.

Then I started to work on my quilt, and you’re reading it now. Women artists only earn 1/3 of male artists. So I stopped and made your tea.  That’s how I spent my day, dear, how about you?

Friday, 20 April 2012

Life 4 begins

Life 4 has swapped places with Life 5!!

The piece I wanted to do next is still on the drawing board because I'm waiting for a model. So, I've started this piece instead; it's called:

"Hello dear, what have you been doing today?"

The broad outline is stitched, and I'm in the process of thinking about some words for the body - they'll be along feminist lines.

I'll probably start with "well, I did ...then...then..etc followed by, then I worried a bit. I worried about women being over 1/2 the world's population, who work 2/3 of the world's working hours, receiving 10% of the world's income etc (I'm in the process of collecting data) They'll be a bit about body image and striving to be young and thin. Then I shall go on to mention the worry of rape and sharai law, and acid attacks. The background will have lots of recipe books and feminist books and signs saying Home Sweet Home, and they'll be tea and cake and photos of a family. Well, that's the plan thus far anyway. No doubt it will alter a bit as I go along.

Or it might just be about growing old with someone. Do you like the slippers?

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Llanhydrock Posting 2

If you're really interested in the history, there are a series of journals written by the staff and volunteers at Llanhydrock so you can share their knowledge of the family, artefacts, and history of the house.  You can click on them here.  These journals give you detailed facts, which this posting will only touch on.
Yep, that's a real white tiger skin. Gross seeing it lying on the floor like that. Looks like it's fallen off a very tall building.
The Estate Office. Lots of gorgeous drawers to keep things in, and a very old typewriter. Elephants foot walking stick holder.  Yuck. Lots of dead animals around the place.

I took this one for the beautifully fitted suitcase on the bed.
Dressing Room. Can you see the trousers at the back on the stand. They seemed leather to me and I guess they'd need to be kept stretched.  I wondered if they were those trousers the Horse Guards wear?
Just a hallway stuffed with stuff.
4 eggs and two pieces of toast on the breakfast tray. 3 irons and a crimper.
The Day Nursery. (childrens play room,) and below the night nursery, which I found quite touching.

The Nanny's room, next to the night nursery.

Below: a selection of things to dose your children with.

The school room.  I wrote something a bit rude on the slate.  Corporal punishment for me I think.
I couldn't resist this pile of old leather suitcases and trunks.
Male staff bedroom. It looks very cosy.
More trunks and boxes in a room of their own.  Apologies for the blurriness but the lighting was very low.

Below: Staff livery.

A bed laid with robes of Ermin and velvet.

Having a good scrub was a bit of a palava for this visitor.
A little more luxury.

A beautiful lacy dressing table complete with ear scoops!

Below: set for tea. The cake was real.

The Long Gallery. Whilst I was visiting the room steward decided to play the piano and we were regaled with The Entertainer by Scott Joplin.  The ceiling was amazing, and the cupboards were stuffed with books.