Saturday, 23 January 2010

Day 110-113-My Name Is Eva

..and I am a Catalan gypsy. You know we originated from India and are sometimes called Romani? Many in my family have moved to settle in Catalonia, near Barcelona, and I will too soon, but not yet..

I have been told often that I am pretty, especially when I am donning the violet mantilla veil over my Peinitas. I made the Peinitas or the Spanish high comb myself. Usually we wear our veil over the comb but not me. I need to show off my craft. And who knows, maybe my style will start a trend.

Apart from being a talented tailor, I am also a wonderful dancer, although dancing is not my true profession. This is my flamenco dress which I had fashioned from our famous Catalonian laces. You know us Spanish just love laces. We use them more than the French do and we use them for everything, down to our unmentionables. But mostly, we use them to make our mantilla and the ruffles in our skirts. O yes, never forget the red rose for the dress and of course, our coin purse, which we must keep as close to our body as possible. Although most of us wear black, not me. The people in Delhi do not like black. They love colours and I want them to love me.

A while back, I sent Sans! some things from Spain, many of them I made. I don't know what made her think it was a lottery win when really, I had just wanted her to safe-keep them for me. It was awkward trying to take my wares back and I had to eventually send a toy elephant to trick her. You must understand I had no other choice, these wares form my livelihood. They are my means to settle in Spain, my ticket to reunite with my family. I have to do what I had to do.

In order to cater to the people in India, I had to adapt some of my stuff to local taste. I started with these boxes. They are good sturdy ones made of thin wood ply but I had to cover them with oriental paper in colours that the locals love.

I then fill up the boxes with laces, ribbons and embroideries. And for the last box, I put in all the sea shells I had collected when I was roaming the beaches of Barcelona.

So pretty these shells are, such perfect creations of Mother Nature, each and every piece a special reminder of a time and a place when I was totally happy. I hope someone will find a good home for them, perhaps to beautify a box or made into a charm or ear piece, even a comb.
Now you know why I needed toy elephant to run. I really must thank Sans! properly and I know exactly how.

I haven't forgotten that Sans! love my sweets. And so I made some traditional Turron, with a bit of a citrus twist, my own recipe. I know she will love it. I will give her a slice and then try to sell the rest.
And in case my patrons will like some beverages also, I have brought along a much loved pot and my canister of wonders, filled with the ingredients for a special brew found in an ancient book called Curioso tratado de la naturaleza y calidad del chocolate, written by an Adalusian physician.
All these I shall carry on my head. Oh, don't be so alarmed, this is but a small feat. I hear in Kathmandu, men carry a load as heavy as a 10-stone object called "fridge" on their head in similar fashion when they move from the valley to the mountains.

As for the rest of the wares, it is not easy, but I manage to fit all of them into 3 baskets. The big one holds my silver door hangings (mainly of the Gods) laces, some Egyptian cotton , a carved toy in the shape of a boat.

Another basket holds my precious tree-of-life ceramic and the last, hang a silver tray and a jug as well as some dried herbs.

And so here we are: my wares, my wagon and my self.
A basket on my head, two hanging from my neck and the last in my left hand while my right palm clasped a precious brolly tightly;
I am a clothier, a silversmith, a restaurant all rolled into one.
And me and my wagon, we travel the world.

And every so often, we find a shady spot and stop.

And to paraphrase Orhan Pamuk in "My Name is Red"

My Name is Eva.
When I load my wares-
items cheap and precious alike,
certain to lure the ladies, rings, earrings , necklaces and baubles-
into the folds of silk handkerchiefs, gloves, sheets and the colourful shirt cloth sent over in
Spanish ships,
when I shoulder that bundle, Eva's a ladle and Chandni Chowk's a kettle,
and there's nary a street I don't visit
Or a word of gossip or a letter which I haven't carried
from one door to the next..

I made this doll over 3 days. I knew, from the moment I opened Eva's parcel, that I wanted to make a peddlar doll to hold all her gifts. You can see what she had made in the picture above or in my previous post on Day 95. I spent more than 3 months wondering how to fit everything onto a doll. Eventually, without a clue how, I just decided to start . I took out one of dolls and painted the dress and then rather miraculously, everything else fell into place, the elephant, the boxes and the baskets, all in 3 days. Sometimes, all we need is to just do it and stop thinking so much. The important thing is to believe that with beautiful things (like the gifts from Eva), you can make beautiful things.

For you, Eva . Thank you!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Day 110-A Toy Elephant

Sans! Sans! Help me please! A small voice called just outside my chamber. I rubbed my eyes. Who could it be at this hour? I wondered. Sans! Sans! It cried persistently. Reluctantly, I walked to the door and opened it slightly.

What do you want? I asked the toy elephant with irritation. At the same time, I was marveling at the craftsmanship..hmm, exquisite! It is not tiny, like most toys. Probably the size of a child, 3 1/2" tall all the way to its trunk and 3" wide from foot to foot. Must be European, I thought. It is all the rage now, what they call a ride-on pull animal. As its name suggest, it is a toy where a child rides on while another pulls it along, causing squeals of delight. Little noises the well-to-do will pay top dollar for.

You must help my mistress, Eva, toy elephant pleaded.
Eva, who? I asked, Eva's Tabla's Diva Eva?
Yes , yes! Toy Ele answered, You must do something for her. MAKE me RUN and until then, DO NOT eat!

And before I could protest further, the toy elephant vanished and I woke up with a start.

The next morning, I went to work as usual and as prophesied in my dream, a parcel arrived from Spain. Of course, it was from Eva! And o my, what a delicious pile!

I eyed the sweets greedily while trying to concentrate on Eva's notes to me. I was told that these were the most famous Spanish Christmas desserts, specially the big one, Turron. The Turron that she had sent was the most typical (Jijona Turron). It was made with almonds, sugar, honey and white. Very sweet...Then there are the smaller ones (individuals), the Polvorones and it is true that........I couldn't wait any longer and before I even finished reading, I had already popped a Polvorones in my mouth. Oooooh, I was in heaven. It was pure ecstasy! An incredible sensation of nutty stickiness and musky aroma exploded in my mouth and I wanted to scream "absolutely delicious!" except my lips were glued together and I could only gargle!!

Arghhh, I suddenly remembered the elephant's warning! And when I went back to Eva's note, I saw that she had warned me too.. "Then there are the smaller ones (individuals), the Polvorones and it is true that they are less sweet. A normal joke here with friends or family is to try to say a long word like “Constantinople” with an entire Polvoron in your mouth ;) Totally impossible…LOL.." I stared at the toy elephant and I swear I could see an evil I-told-you-so grin on its face!

I tried not to panic. Alright, maybe if I can make the elephant run, he can run back to Eva to seek an antidote for me. That's a plan! I quickly took out my tools and the parts required.

I needed a wooden base so I took one of those I ripped off from my dolls and started sanding it down to half its thickness.I then spray painted it silver. With the veneer sanded off, the base had the look and feel of sandstone. Then I started on the wheels. I have kept bits and pieces from the construction kit when I completed the temple in March last year. Finally, I have some use for the little round wooden chips. I knocked a hole in the center of each chip and then fit 2 chips through the ends of a tooth pick. I then spray painted the wheels "October Brown". When the paint dried, I glued the silver bits onto the wheels to make them pretty. I then fixed 4 "hooks" for the ropes, 2 by the side, one front and one back. Finally, after I glued a filigree silver piece onto the base, I glued the elephant on it.

I tested it and yes, it could run. Quite fast too for wooden wheels. I then added the quintessential feather to its head and wondered how much the palace would pay for a toy like this. By the time I finished, it was past midnight but I still could not open my mouth. There was nothing much I could do and so with a heavy heart, I prepared for bed. I did not sleep well.

It was almost dawn when I thought I heard the door hinge squeaked. I thought I was dreaming again but the next morning, toy elephant was nowhere to be found. And neither were my sweets!

I opened my mouth and heard myself shout "absolutely delicious!" The curse was broken! I could speak again! And I could brush my teeth! No bad breath! I sighed with relief.

Much as I am happy the curse is gone, I do hope however, that toy elephant will return, maybe with Eva. But definitely with the sweets. Shucks, I haven't even tasted the Turron yet!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Day 109- An Alchemist & The Druggist

I learned that the world has a soul, and that whoever understands that soul can also understand the language of things. I learned that many alchemists realized their destinies, and wound up discovering the Soul of the World, the Philosopher's Stone, and the Elixir of Life. But above all, I learned that these are all so simple they could be written on the surface of an emerald.
-----The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

I am an alchemist. I can turn gold into brass. And as The Alchemist in Paulo Coelho's book propounded, I learned that it was "so simple they could be written on the surface of an emerald".

I did start the very next day as promised in my last post. I began with the little porcelain boxes because I thought they were too shiny and new.

I thought how sweet it would be if I could indulge in a bit of alchemy and turn the gold into antique brass. The boxes would then match the rest of my furnishings in this project.

So I took out my acrylic-a dollop of copper bronze, a hint of zinc silver and a fair bit of gunmetal black-and starting mixing. By the way, you do know that brass is an alloy of 1/3 zinc and 2/3 copper? That makes the 2 of us, I didn't either.

I then sand the gold down and collected the dust to make into a ring..alright, I am not that nuts. Anyway, I didn't have metal primer so I skipped that step and started converting the metal.

Half a day later...

A day after the "conversion" and after the paint had dried, I applied a layer of varnish to "fix" the "antique brass". I then tried to carve all this onto an emerald and realized that only Paulo Coelho thought that was simple. I know, groan away...

And on the 3rd Day, I researched. I learned from my copy of Schiffer's "Perfume, Cologne and Scent Bottles" that

During the Victorian and Edwardian periods, colognes and perfumes were most often purchased by the middle and lower class from the local drugstore. The druggist bought scents such as rose, patchouli, lavender and carnation in bulk quantities and then re-packaged them into smaller, home-use containers....Alternatively, the plainer bottles from the drugstore was usually taken home and the contents decanted into something more fashionable like the cameo or cut glass colognes.These bottles were chosen by the mistress of the house as permanent adjuncts to her dressing table and were re-used indefinitely until discarded for something more stylish.

I also found out that for the longest time, perfume boxes remained insignificant and in fact, non-existent until the invention of Eau de Cologne in the 18th century. With the advent of the perfumed sponge, the vinaigrette, a small silver box and a secret hiding place for these sponges, appeared. Other precursors to the perfume box emerged during that time, including the pouncet box and the pomander (see pair in right pic given to me by Helene. Pardon my ignorance, dear, I didn't know they are pomanders until today) .

The packaging for perfume really gained importance in the early 19th century when gifting perfume became popular. Perfume boxes became as important as the fragrance it held.

Perfume boxes are to be found in every shape and form. Where once the bottle was important, now the box stands for something too, particularly for collectors. Antique perfume bottles that come with their original containers are significantly more valuable than their counterparts without.

Collectors believe that some of the loveliest perfume boxes are the Limoges porcelain boxes (click pic to see range from Beauchamp Limoges)

And of course, this means that the Palace must own some of these exquisite boxes of the best parfum, French no less. With a velvet cardboard that came with a key chain gift and some ribbons, I made the box sets tonight (1 3/4" w and 1 1/4"h).

Thanks to some very fine French Eau de Cologne from Mercedes, I think some lucky harem girls will be thrilled if they are gifted with one .

Now, we will have to find the drugstore that sells these...

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Day 108- 1st 2010 Project

Thanks to the generosity of my dear ones (including my brother who gave me this beautiful blog design), I am ready to start on my mini projects again.

Statue of David Apron from SuZ
( present given because I have been hankering for one-27/12/10)

I put on my apron and started my preparation.

The 1st thing I did was to bring this table from my storeroom to the craft room so that my very own printer has a place and I can work there with my laptop. Where's the printer, you asked. Here it is:

HP Deskjet F300 All-In-One Series from Andrew
(Gift of Love after Xmas 2010)

As you can tell, I am not a fan of appliances and equipment.
I think they are adorable as minis but in real life, they should not be seen.
That's what I did with my spanking new toaster oven as well

Philips Toaster Oven HD 4494 from Banker
(gift redemption from credit card points-last week)

I placed it in the corner of the room right next to the door so that when I open the door, it is well and truly hidden.

I then moved on to the best part of my prep, i.e. taking out the darling minis I hope to use and playing with them.

Imported Perfume Bottles from Helene (less than 1"h)
(Ones below are new-Xmas present-16/12/10)

Took me a while to lay out all these bottles because there were so many. There were the ones Helene gave me on Day 96.
There were also the new ones, 2 of which were made by Mari (2nd tall one from the left of the purple range) & Bendik, Helene's children.
The purple one with the spritzer was made by Bendik and much as I love all of them dearly, Bendik's is my favourite.

Tin Mugs for Chai from Cindy (about 1/2"h)
(1st mini gift received this year-6/1/10)

Cindy gave me these because she had never seen any of my dolls drinking anything.
You can read all about it at her blog.
By the way, this is exactly how chai is served at the Indian coffee shops near my home.
Cindy made two types of tea.

There's the Masala Tea which really looks like it has been brewed for hours. Yes, the chai does "swirl" especially under lights.

Then there's the Saffron Tea. Look closely and you can see that there are tiny strands of saffron in her tea. I just want to take this opportunity to say that I am really proud of Cindy because she is one of the artisans who have put Singapore on the map with her wonderful work.

I looked at the rest of the gifts I have from Helene and wondered if I could use them. Beautiful as they are, will they fit into my 1st 2010 project?

Elephant & Tree of Life "Stained Glass" Bookmarks from Helene - (less than 3"h)
(gift from Day 96)

Old Victorian Little Girl Picture with Frame from Helene (less than 2" h)
(Xmas Present-16/12/09)

Iconic Chanel Handbag from Helene (5/8" h)
Xmas Present- 16/12/09

Then there is the even more unlikely salt, pepper & toothpick holder set from Mum.

Vintage "Gift" from Mum. Something she owned for a long time and which I just took from her kitchen after she sighed and said "oooook". Toothpicks (not in pic) unused.

It is getting late.
So I quickly gathered the rest of the things which I have bought especially for this project.

A Plate Mat made of wood (diameter 11")

2 Porcelain Trinket Boxes (1 1/2"w by 1" h)

3 "screens" bought from Daiso KL (7 3/4" h by 5 1/2 w each)

Tomorrow, I said, tomorrow, I will start.
And promptly packed everything into a box.
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