Friday, 23 April 2010

Day 150-151- Tree Of Life

The Tree of Life, with its branches reaching toward the heavenly Father and its roots digging deep into Mother Earth, is a universal symbol illustrating how everything in life is connected. Playing a significant role in science, religions, philosophy and cultures, the Tree of Life has come  to  symbolise  love, fertility, immortality and friendship. 

Some scholars believe that the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that was planted in the Garden of Eden, (you know, the one that Adam stole the apple from?) are in fact the same tree. Some believe that they are part of the World Tree or Cosmic Tree. That is why a tree is used to symbolise the birth and rebirth of Christ on Christmas Day. 

Painting done in 1801 depicting a temple, Bodhi Gaya under a Bodhi Tree.

In India, the Banyan and the Pipal tree,also known as the Sacred Figs,  are both regarded as the Tree of Life. The Bodhi Tree which Buddha sat under when he found enlightenment was a pipal. 

In Islam, it is  said that just before Prophet Mohammed’s birth, his father had dreamt of his unborn son with a tree growing on his back.  This tree was climbing  upward and upon reaching its full height, had emitted a light that spread around the world. Some yogis believe that this was the Tree of Life.

My Baluchi Prayer Rug 
With The Tree of Life
Rug with Helene's Koran

The Blauchi  prayer rug was finished late last night. It measures 7" by 4" without the fringe and depicts a Tree of Life in a mihrab or niche.  I started it right after I finished my last one on 4th of February this year.

The pattern is a traditional Baluchi one with a square mihrab on a camel field. You can see the "hands of Fatima"  (Prophet Muhammad's daughter) in the spandrel which represent the "five pillars" of Islam: profession of faith, prayer, pilgrimage, fasting, and alms-giving.

Prayer rugs are traditionally taken care of in a holy manner. It is disrespectful for one to place a prayer mat in a dirty location or throw it around in a disrespectful manner.  Decorations are not only important but also have a deep sense of value in the design of the prayer rug. Here is Jai with the precious and readable Koran made by Helene.

This Rug Is Special

Although it only took me about 2 months to finish this and mind you, I did not stitch everyday except when I was in Europe, I have managed to overcome my warping problem by listening to friends' advice (thank you, Cindy, Dale, Rosanna). A valuable one from Dale is to try the basketweave stitch which is to stitch diagonally. This time, I also  did not go "outside -in " all the way but worked from the "center-out" after the initial borders. It has taken me 4 rugs and 1 over year of practice but as Higgins would sing if he is my stitching coach, "By George, she's got it! I think she's  got it. The rug is finaaaaaally STRAIGHT!" I made other mistakes, dumb ones like using ink to draw the squares and not finishing the fringe first before gluing. That's why the fringe is messy but I think I can repair that if I want to. I have decided to keep them for the moment  for an "antique" look. 

But that is NOT why the rug is special. 

Setting for a Tree of Life picnic with friends

2 days ago, I emailed Rosanna to say I would get off my butt and finished edging this rug. Actually I have already completed the rug  since March leaving only the edging. Coincidence or not, on that very day, I received Rosanna's parcel from Italy. It was a set of dinnerware with the "Tree of Life" motif! In the accompanying card,  Rosanna wrote:

I remember someone sent you a dish with the tree of life (emphasis added).
In one of my boxes I found two sets with the same design.
One for you and one for me. 
Our dolls might have chicken curry the same day with the same dishes
Keep playing.....

The person who  sent me the dish was Eva who over this past year, has become a dear friend. Eva has not been feeling so good lately and as she wrote on her blog,she was due for an operation on Wednesday this week. That was also the post she did on The Magic Tree:

Everything was sculpted by her, including the birds. Eva is thinking of selling her tree. I took to the tree instantly,I just love Eva's sense of humour in her work. Mostly though, I love the birds, especially the one on top which reminded me so much of the Oriental Pied Hornbill living in my neighbour's garden. I even asked Eva about it but she told me hers is a toucan. Now some of you may know that I have been yearning to meet Mr. Hornbill. Everyone else at home has met him, even my sister, SuZ, who does not live here. Everyone except me.  
 Tree of Life No.1

And this morning just as I was going to do my usual morning run,  Mr. Hornbill  granted me an audience with him. On a tree for almost two minutes, I stood there watching him as he moved his head slowly from left to right and then right to left again. When he jumped to another tree, I told Mr Hornbill , please wait for me while I go in and grab my camera.

 Tree of Life No.2 

And wait he did. He even posed for me, jumping from one tree to another.  I was thinking when I took these shots, if they turn out well, I will title them "Trees of Life" . I took a grand total of 4 pictures before he glided away. 3 of them are posted here.

 Tree of Life No.3

This was my last glimpse  of him ( I think it's a him) under the eave of my roof. Right after this shot, he spread his huge wings, flew over my roof and disappeared into the neighbour's. I went back and kept my camera, then  went off on my run. 

When I came back and checked my email, Eva has written to say all was well with her. I was happy, relieved and very amazed.

I am amazed at how everything in life, as the Tree of Life symbolises, is indeed connected. And how if you pray and wish for something hard enough, it will happen.  

Early this year, I have written to 3 friends about how I wish one day we would meet and visit mini museums and fairs together. Perhaps this picnic that I have recreated here with my rug and Rosanna's dishes will happen and it will be with these friends that I have made. 

Happy Earth Day, Everyone!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Day 149-Aubusson and Limoges For My Maharajah

Employing the Aubusson technique, this tapestry depicts an Asian elephant resplendent in its finery as it treks through a mystical forest of exotic fauna. This was inspired by an original, called L'Asie (Asia) which  was first shown at the exposition of Industrial Products in France in 1844. L"Asie  was  woven in an Aubusson factory owned by Charles-Jean Salloundrouze de la Mornaix, sometime between 1840 and 1843, and it is now a permanent exhibit at the Louvre in Paris. 

The influence of the East began sometime in  the 1660s when  tales of the East were beginning to circulate amongst the wealthy in Europe, brought back by Jesuit missionaries from the middle and far East. This created an interest in anything Orient, inspiring many artists. Many of the early depictions of the Orient were not experienced firsthand by artists and were often copied from engravings made by missionaries. 

According to some tapestry experts, this interest was maintained though to the 19th century because the largely non-Christian countries in the East were still sufficiently different in culture, language and customs to seem very exotic to Europeans. Over time this led to the development of a style of tapestry known as Oriental. Always distinctive, they tended to be tobacco colored and featured striking images of exotic creatures and people, set against a vibrant backdrop. Many were complemented with detail of local flora and fauna that was often remarkably accurate. 


It was said that  the French poet, Theophile Gaultier had commented on this tapestry display at the Exhibition of Industrial Products in 1844 with these words "It was especially noticed a large carpets depicting an elephant in an Asian landscape, vegetation bushy, variegated peacocks making wheel, macaws, cockatoos of ..."   

I am not sure of the  poetic merits of that comment, thanks to Google Translate, but one thing I know, a tapestry like this will not only enhance the beauty of my palace, it will bring with it a sense of history befitting of a stately Maharajah's Palace.

I have been  an ardent admirer of  Carmen's work (Las Miniaturas de Marillum) for some time now. I  have read all her posts and often times, she left me in awe and amazement of her artistry. Her miniature tapestries,for example, blew my mind because I thought she had stitched them. Even though Carmen quickly corrected me  in an email to say they were printed, I had thought they were rather convincing. As if she wanted me to see it for myself, that day, Carmen  asked if she could have my address so she could  send me "a small gift". 


I was a little taken aback, to say the least. Apart from that email, Carmen and I have not corresponded. I did not even think she followed my blog. And when she posted on her blog last Wednesday about "Road To Singapore", I thought, half seriously that maybe these gifts were going to another dollhouse lover in Singapore, Cindy perhaps. You see, Carmen did not email me to tell me they were for me, nor was it mentioned on her blog. She kept me waiting, wondering and  hoping. 

Last Friday, the parcel arrived. Inside that bag was her interpretation of L'Asie in miniature, an Aubusson rug, patterned in the style of an elephant paw print, in my view at least and something else that made me dizzy with delight.

I have fallen in love with Carmen's porcelain plates from the first time I laid my eyes on them. And she remembered  probably because  I just could not stop gushing every time she posted about her new ceramics. 

And now that I see them for myself, I am pleased to say I was right all along. Her work is impressive and convincing and utterly lovely. 

All the above are pictures from her blog. Her posts are usually briefly worded , unlike mine. I do know however that Carmen sells her work at fairs and by commission

Here is  a little opulent setting I have created,  in tribute to Carmen's artistry. In it is  a miniature howdah I bought at the Miniature Museum of Taiwan which I thought echoes  the pomp and ostentation of  L'Asie appropriately.  

Carmen, please accept my gratitude and these are for you:


For the sunshine you brought me, 
for the artisan and friend that you are.
for making me very happy
and for another unforgettable  experience.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Day 138-148 Three Windows & A Door

A long, long time ago, on Day 28, a Jr Victorian Cottage, was slowly being eaten up by termites . A heroine who loves to convert junk into better junk, saved it from eternal damnation . Unfortunately , she also christened it "Termite House" and since Day 31 when she was gifted with this house and 3 others, she has been going on and on about rebuilding this Termite House . 

At first, it was to be a tea house. She even thought of a name : "Bombay Tea Leaves- Where the Party Never Ends" because when 45 of her dolls were squashed inside the house, they looked like they were having a party (see Sumaiya's comment on Day 36). Fate, however, soon intervened, sparing the house of yet another embarrassing name.

The genesis of the idea to convert the Termite House into a Tribal House aka bhunga for the Rollas started on Day 84 although the colour board was posted as early as Day 81. Since then, this  house was also often referred to as "The Next Project" although it never was. Until April Fool's Day 2010 that is, when it  finally fulfilled its destiny. The  picture above was the last one taken of the house as it was. SO, Goodbye Jr Victoria Cottage and 


I did this over 2 long weekends and 4 weekdays. I finished the thatched roof using the towel method in a couple of hours but it took me a few coats of paint before I was vaguely satisfied with the shade of biege. It was not easy trying to determine exactly what colour it is that I wanted and the process was made worse because the colour shifts depending on where you place the house, as you can see from the 2 pictures above. Before I did the roof,  I  plastered the walls with plaster of Paris, put in some embellishments on the walls and painted  the preliminary colours but they are not finalised.

Most of the time I worked on the windows but the truth is , as at last night, I still wasn't completely happy with them. Enough is enough, I thought, after spending almost 8 out of the 10 days still trying to perfect the look. So I started on the door and completed it within 2-3 hours on Tuesday.

This was made from the original door. As you can see, it was a perfectly good door, exactly the type we don't want. Have you heard of the term "dollhouse kit bashing"? I learnt it from Ilisha.  It also explains why it took me so long before I started on this house. Kit bashing phobia is very real. And for me, it started with this door.
But what the heck! I took out my saw and bye bye, good door . Then I filed away all the smooth edges and removed the knobs for later use.  

A miracle ! I sawed it unevenly in exactly how an old two leaf door should be! I like the door so much better now.

I then spray-painted the doors brown, mixed a shade of turquoise that is suitably Indian tribal and dry brushed the door. Only a few strokes and I got the desired effect. Now why were the windows so much harder?
By the way, don't throw away the newspaper with all that beautiful spray paint. We are going to make an old door latch with that.

I have fashioned a pair of *ahem knockers out of the original doorknobs (because I don't own no frills beads!), jewellery parts and wire. It is unfortunate that the *ahem knockers remind me of rings for  our knockers (no pun intended). This is a closer look

 of the old door latch.

Fixing the doors back was a real pain but I am pleased that the doors can be opened and closed, just like the real thing.

I am afraid the windows are not as successful. SuZ said it was because the window shutters are stuck to the walls. That made them unrealistic. Should I bash those too?

In the meantime, I guess I will  have to resort to tricks and decoy (again!) when showing the pictures.

Sans:  Say Cheeeeeeese, Cami...
Camo: Hey wait for me, I want to be in the pic too....

Camo: Wooooowww, the inside look so comfy, Cami,
lets go and roll in those hay...

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Day 138- Storage And Studio

I have to warn you, this post has no pretty pictures. Also, it is interesting only to those who like peeking under the carpet, you know the place where you hide all the things you don't want others to see.

These pictures were taken on the day I decided to start on Termite House. When it takes you longer to look for something than it is for you to resurrect old bananas , you know it is time to sort and pack your materials properly. And so I began. With the one material I own the most of, beads.

The boxes in my top pic (and I often use a good one for the 1st pic because it is the one everyone sees in her dashboard) are the prettiest ones I own. So I keep my ugliest beads in them.

These are clear plastic boxes I bought at the S$2 store. Here on, I packed my beads according to where I bought them from. The ones in these boxes are from my favourite beads store in Chinatown. I packed these according to types.

The plastic beads below were bought in a tub from Ikea way before I was into mini. These, I put them into different boxes or plastic bags according to colours.

Before I found the fancier clear boxes, I had used a child's shoe box and a mooncake box for the metal beads from Chinatown. I stuffed so many into the wooden moon-cake box that it has fallen apart, literally bursting at its seams. Now I put the really tiny beads (silver and bronze) into this box. The ones in the shoe box are what I call the "item" beads. You know, beads shaped like items eg tiny locks, shoes, angels and tea pots.

One of my all time favourite containers are pizza boxes (left pic below). I would often shout from across the room at friends or family just about to dig into their slice of pizza not to dirty the boxes. Pizza boxes are hardy and flatter and pretty to look at. I keep my expensive beads which I bought at Spotlight in this box. Those were bought before I discovered the cheaper Chinatown store.

When I am desperately short of boxes, I will use the ugly ones that come with tools, like the one above right for my hand-drill which I use to store my bigger beads.

Now all these boxes, I kept neatly in this cabinet. I am happy to see that there are some more space in there for fresh beads.

This is the desk housing the "bead" cabinet and it has 2 drawers and 2 cabinets which are filled with things related to minis. And since I am showing you one storage space, I might as well show you all. Can you see the Thai silk cloth covering something sitting on a chair? Well, those are boxes of minis underneath the cloth.

The little drawers at the bottom of my book cabinet (left pic above) are where more materials are, like floral tapes, soldering iron and boxes of scotch tapes or minis. Even the drawers in my wine cabinet (right pic above) are not spared. I store my journal of mini expenses, receipts and call cards there.

I have so much glue I needed to devote one whole cupboard to them. It is not very big but it is a luxury just for glue.

All the cupboards that I have shown so far are placed at various parts of the dining room.

This one however is outside the house. This is the mother of all my mini cupboards and as you can see, it's my largest. This is the one I store most of my tools, paints, trash for future minis and boxes of real minis.

Sometimes when I want to see how messed up I am while working on minis, I open this cupboard which has a full length mirror on the left side. This cupboard is also placed next to my favourite work station, The Steps. It is also very near The Kitchen Table and The Garden Table. Here is a montage of my various work stations.

You can see my work-in-progress tribal house at The Garden Table. This was taken last week. More work has been done to the roof and windows since.

We are now on the way back to The Dining Table, but since this is en route, let me show you The Holding Area.

The Holding Area which is the middle shelf is where I put my material and tools when I cannot finish working for the day. You can see from the closeup on the right that I do not wash my palettes which are really plastic holders and cups for a dessert called mango pudding. Since I am addicted to mango pudding, I will never run out of palettes, so why wash them, right?

This is the other thing that I hardly wash, my apron on the left which is the one I work with. The one on the right given to me by Rosanna is used as a "camouflage" to hide my dirty one which I hang behind Rosanna's after I am done for the day. I guess now you know all my dirty secrets.

As we turn around the corner from the Holding Area, you will see The Other Studio, the one I use most of the time to take my pictures. Can you recognise the wooden bench.?

You can't see it but facing you on the wall is a photograph of this space. So you are staring into a picture of The Other Studio with it staring right back at you! That's why this area is also known as The Twilight Zone.

And finally, The Dining Table aka The Main Workstation. This is where I work on my minis most of the time, especially last year when I was "building" the Bazaar. This is the table where I displayed all the stalls.

Today however, I have to pack up early. Just the morning for some painting because today, we are using the kitchen for cooking, at long last! Brewing in the pot is mum's recipe and my favourite chicken curry.

And later in the evening, the dining table will be laid out, not with newspapers and paints but for six friends to enjoy a sumptuous dinner, clever conversations and a good laugh.

Cin cin!

I don't know how a post on beads ended up with dinner for 6. I am sorry if I have bored you. As you can see, getting carried away is a big part of my nature.
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