Saturday, 28 August 2010

Day 161-Alcoves

Alcoves, wall niches, nooks or crannies, by whatever name they go, I see them everywhere in traditional Indian houses. Be it palaces, havelis or even tribal houses, arched alcoves, often with pretty details provide a whimsical but important showcase for their Gods, favourite piece of art or even a forgotten toy. 

One of the more innovative uses of niches include "secret hiding places" for jewellery. I took the above picture when I was at Fatepur Sikri last year, the Mughal palace built by Akbar the Great. I remembered how our guide moved the tile from the bottom of the niche, put his hand in and told us : this was where some of the finest treasure could be found back in those days.

I always knew my tribal house would have alcoves, I just didn't know how until I saw these little dipa dishes or Deepavali lamps being sold at S$1 each at Little India. I bought a whole load of them and picked this design for my tribal house.

On Day 161, sometime in May this year,  right after I finished the walls and floors, I "installed" the alcoves. I knew I had to do this before I could start on the furnishing as "massive" hacking and bashing was required. I also thought I must have back-to-back alcoves to mask the holes that I had to make in the walls. 

The hacking was not pretty and neither were the holes so I took no pictures of the process. It was really simple actually. I  just  started with drawing the outline of the dish against the wall and then hammered and chiseled my way through. Once I had a hole through the wall, I put two dishes back to back and glued them, Picture above shows the "back to back" alcoves in the living room and its exterior.

The alcove in the living room is to be the most important one  because it is the family altar. I read that details for alcoves differ depending on its significance (ones outside the house being the least) but for uniformity, I decided to use the same design for all of them. 

While we are here, may I also take this opportunity to show off the laundry basket made for me by Flora. This was just one of the many wonderful creations  I received from Flora about 2 weeks ago. The rest I will show off in due course  but this laundry basket with all the crease and folds that I love will take pride of  place in this room. Thank you Flora. 

Of all the niches, the one in the kitchen is the hardest to photograph. I suspect it will be mostly hidden when I furnish this room. That's why my mind draws a blank when I try to come up with a story for this one. Some of you may have read in my last post that I have a story for each nook and I already have one for all the rest. Maybe I'll just call this one "The Forgotten Nook" since it is back to back with The Forgotten Toy.

So here they are, a bunch of imperfectly installed alcoves. I had thought them flawed, a little awkward, maybe even boring without the stories. Perhaps that's why I didn't mention them in my past posts. Just like a real alcove, I guess. The story is always what is in them, never about them. No wonder they have been likened to picture frames, always the backup singers and never the stars.

Until Helene highlighted them in a comment on my last post. That was when I saw the alcoves again and realised that they are indeed quite fabulous.  


Ara said...

I'm so glad you elaborated on the alcoves!! It gave us also another look at the wonderful spaces in the house! I like the sounds of the "Forgotten Nook"! It sounds mysterious and sad all at the same time. I can't believe how much you've done and how real it all looks. You have an artists eye for sure! hugs, ara

Sans! said...

Thank you Ara :) A thousand kisses flying your way. Its been many months and I guess I could have, should have, surely must have finished this house by now :).

Today I went looking for a piece of furniture in my Alison Jr and my god, there were real cobwebs in there! The Addamses would be so pleased :). Got to work on the Alison Jr after this one before it is eaten up by spiders.

The Old Maid said...

Do you know that "alkowa" is the Polish word used in the old times for the bedroom and only for the master bedrooms of rich people? ;) I like the alcoves you showed here:)Yours looks great on the wall:)

Ara said...

They would be pleased Sans.... if you plan on kicking the poor spiders out - you can hand them my address and tell them their webs are welcome in my Alison Jr!!! :)

Also I think the time you are taking on this house is definitely apparent in the details and realism... don't rush it because its going great!

Carmen L said...

Hi Susan, I've seen all your progress during my days of absence, is incredible creativity and imagination you have, every day I am more convinced that your skills can take you far away, I love how this being, I'm impanciente day arrives to see it finished. You're right, I think the basket of flowers has found its ideal. Congratulations on all you've done trabajadoy how well everything is.

GB said...

Oh no, Sans! not hidden, not lost....since you put the effort to install them, they are special. I love the little diyas that you used to create them (I have my precious stash from diwalis past which I recycle each year!--I use wax votives, and the wax drippings make them dirty...I discovered that I could microwave them on low to melt off and mop up the wax drips!!).

I love these little alcoves--they are a common feature in many indian homes and are used to put the twilight lamps/diyas in to guide the weary farmers home. :) When I have my own place, I'm going to knock little holes in the wall and install me some real-life ones! Here's to dreams.........

Ascension said...

Despues de pasearme por todos los enlaces jejeje
(Esto es por culpa de no saber ingles y tener que traducir jejeje)
Me parece entender que has usado los recipientes que en la India se utilizan para poner las velas en las oraciones, para simular el nicho donde se guardaban joyas, tesoros (vamos como una caja fuerte)
Lo has pintado?
La cesta de Flora es preciosa.
Me encanta la decoracion de la pared.
Me encantan los colores sepia que consigues en tus fotografias.
besitos ascension

rosanna said...

Do you know that I did not notice the ones in the inside of the house? Only the ones on the outside.But now I can see them and I love them. I'd like to have real ones in my house. In old houses, where the walls are thick, people dig alcoves and niches. I love them even more than the goodies they display. Hugs Rosanna

MiniKat said...

Hi Sans! I really liked the info on the alcoves. I can't wait to see more of the house. :-)

Eva said...

The one in the living room is so beautiful.
I am on vacation in Minorca (Balearian island) so not too much internet connection and I missed your last post.
So far your house is looking great :)

Maria Jose said...

A big idea ! your alcove is very well !

Daydreamer said...

Bravo Sans! I remember you mentioning cutting holes in your wall to put in alcoves when I was cutting holes in my walls for fireplaces! It can be a bit scary cutting holes in a perfectly good wall... just because you think you can make it better! And you certainly have! I couldn't quite picture how you were going to cover them in back.... such genius to put them back to back!! Now I want to put alcoves in my houses! Hmmmm... There is something mystical about them... they make their own little "house" within the house itself! And I guess that is why they are used for altars... they are sheltering ... which is why the little toy parrot is so safe in his alcove! I can't wait to see what you do with the other alcoves! Well, yes I can :) because the wait is ALWAYS worth it! One really must NOT rush these projects.... the end result is improved by the loving TIME we give to them! I LOVE your alcoves!

christine said...

i too, love your alcoves. depending on what you display in them, they can be decorative niches or religious grotto's. whatever takes your fancy.....

Clara said...

Es un placr pasear por tu blog. No sólo veo las maravillas que haces, sino que además nos instruyes con detalles que desconocía.
Preciosas las ornacinas para tantos usos.
Besos Clara.

May said...

Ver una nueva entrada en tu blog, es arrancarme una satisfacción indescriptible.
Se que voy a disfrutar en todos los sentidos.
Por como nos introduces tus detalles, por como nos explicas las costumbres y sobre todo por como realizas las cosas.
Es una maravilla.
Gracias por hacernos disfrutar y ser como eres.
Besitos, May

Patricia Torres said...

Gosh.. gosh.. that is beyond my imagination.. Simply gorgeous!! Loved this post on alcoves.. and simply loved how youve described this so so well...

Gemma (Gempo) said...

Wonderful post Susan, your idea for the trival house with alcoves is perfect, congratulations. Tks for all coments in my blog. Best wishes.

Sans! said...

Ewa :):) I like the word "Alkowa" :). I was just thinking how alcoves must have been one of the earliest invention of "fittings & fixtures" as they are some sort of built-in shelves. Surely the cavemen use them a lot in their homes!?? My mum loves niches in the walls and in her home, she had one built for the family altar :). Saves a lot of space :). Now how did that become only a luxury item? :):)

I was at a concert today dedicated to Chopin's music and thought of you :):), Ewa. You are probably the only person from Poland I have regular "conversation" with :).

So the "w" in the Polish language is pronounced like a "v" in the English language? And thus it is Alko"va"" and E"va" in pronunciation?

Flora said...

Sans dear, now we are so used to your fantastic stories, we imagine them even when you do not tell anything!
The alcoves are really beautiful and intriguing, with all their secrets, precious or sacred ...
I love the color and the warmth radiating from your house: the atmosphere is magical!
Thank you for having given place of pride to the dustbin of linen: are poor clothes to wash, now made noble by your wonderful work!
Mini lovely hugs, Flora

Pubdoll said...

I'm so glad my comment led you to make this post! I love alcoves too and would love to have one, but I think it's more common in houses made of brick or stone? (And like in Poland the Norwegian word "alkove" can mean an enclosed place to sleep, since in the old days people often slept in the livingroom/kitchen and this was a way to provide some privacy)

Your alcoves are all beautiful, thank you for showing us how you made them, to glue them back to back is so clever!

rosanna said...

Appereantly Alcova means the same all over Europe. In Italy it ha a slightly sinful meaning it is meant mainly as the clandestine lovers'favourite place ;o) It cames from Arabic and at the beginning it meant a room divided in two parts to be used for work and sleep at the same time. I love them. Hugs Rosanna
PS Chopin ?! I envy you a bit.

Sans! said...

Hey Ara, my target is to finish the tribal house by the end of this year :). This past 2 months and the next will be too filled with real life things to concentrate on minis :). Like next Friday I have a themed reunion to attend :). My table is going as Gothic Blue Blood . Remember my sis SuZ who loves the Addams Family? She wanted me to go as Morticia ..haha! but I don't think I can carry it off. You need to have a perfect face for a center parting in the hair..hehe. And of course the long curvy body in that black mermaid dress...nahhhh but if I do, I will definitely take a pic for you :).I am busy now trying to put some of my old clothes together to sew something Gothic. At the moment, it look rather like the black Spanish costume I did for one of my dolls a while back. LOL!!

I am going to sew a bit more now. So sad I can no longer fit into my corset :(. Tomorrow I am going to get a mask to hide 1/2 of my face. hehe

Talk to you guys a little later :).

Sans! said...

I have missed you, Carmen but you looked like you have come back as strong and amazing with the new collections of cushions. They are gorgeous, Carmen :).

Thank you for the really encouraging words. One thing I am sure about, my love for miniatures have already brought me to many faraway places which in turn brought many far far away friends to me :).

Your words really mean so much :). I am very very touched.

Sans! said...

Gagan, I really love Deepavali or Diwali because of the lights. It is one of my favourite festivals. I am completely charmed by the romance of using little oil lit lamps in tiny dishes to guide your loved ones home. These lights invariably add a lot of atmosphere to any setting.

I have collected some little diyas (now I know what they are called) too but none as pretty as these except maybe the one that holds the tealight in the palms of 2 hands. I used a bunch of them to show some clayflowers. It's the 1st pic in

One day, you must show us your collection!

Sans! said...

Your translation is close, Ascension :).

My wall niches are normal alcoves and they cannot be used as secret hiding places for jewels.Jejejeje. The ones in Fatepur Sikri , which is a Mughal palace in India, however, are also used as treasury boxes, hidden underneath the tiles at the bottom of the niches.

I really appreciate you taking the time to translate my post, Ascension, I know it is not easy :) That's why I always treasure your comments and you being here :).

Do you really like my sepia pictures because I am unhappy with the yellowish tinge. It's from the yellow Ikea light that I have to use every time I take pictures of this house.The house is too big and inconvenient for me to move it to the garden for the natural sunlight !

Su traducción está cerca, Ascensión:).

Mi nichos en las paredes son alcobas normal y que no se puede utilizar como lugar para esconderse de jewels.Jejejeje. Los que están en Fatepur Sikri, que es un palacio mogol en la India, sin embargo, también se utilizan como cajas del tesoro, escondido debajo de las baldosas en la parte inferior de los nichos.

Realmente aprecio que tomarse el tiempo para traducir mi post, la Ascensión, ya sé que no es fácil:) Por eso yo siempre tesoro sus comentarios y que esté aquí:).

¿Te gusta mi imágenes sepia, porque no estoy satisfecho con el tinte amarillento. Es a partir de la luz amarilla de Ikea que tengo que usar cada vez que tomo las fotos de esta casa es demasiado grande house.The e inconveniente para mí para moverlo al jardín de la luz natural del sol!

besitos, mucha mucha besitos

Sans! said...

Rosanna, isn't it funny that aside from the day when we met with Cindy & Asuka, minis were not a big part of our conversations? I mean, we talk on and off of course, but mostly our conversations were more real life than the teeny life . But you can bet your bottom dollar I hung on to every word you uttered about miniatures especially when they were words of advice and encouragement.

I am trying to remember all the roomboxes I see at your homes and to be frank, except for those where I have a picture of, like the ones with the Rollas, they are a little hazy now. I do remember where you hang or display them though.

I think we don't notice the details as much when we are confronted with the minis in real life. It's like a hurricane of tiny details rushing at you. So it is hard to see everything. That's why I spend so much time taking pictures at miniature museums. :):). I always miss the details.

I had thought alcoves a bit old fashioned but not anymore :). I am not surprised that you love the architectural detail more , coming from the land of the most splendid architecture. :):)

Sans! said...

Hey Kat :) :) I just came from your blog and saw what you did for your mum!!OMG, that piece together with the framing has to be one of my all time favs . That goes to show that a great frame and of course, by extension, a good alcove, can only enhance a great work of art. :)

Sans! said...

Eva , *waving at you in sunny (?) Minorca, Balaerian Island which I have just found out is Majorca for us non native speakers :). WOW! The word Majrca immediately conjures up for me images of blue Mediterranean houses, beautiful coastlines and romantic sunsets . I have seen a ID book on Majorca (at least the cover) which suggest that Islamic architectural influence is rife in Majorca. So there must be plenty of arched alcoves there? You MUST show us the photos !!!!

I am glad you took some time off from the Japanese room because I am soooooo late in sending you the stuff!! Soon :).

Sans! said...

Thank you very much Maria Jose:). So great of you to drop by :) and take the time to leave a comment. :)

Sans! said...

Betsy ",), I just went and saw your latest post. I am so moved and touched by your gesture but mostly it was such an eye opener to your artistry. My mouth is still on the floor :):).

Yes, it was a bit scary to cut holes in the walls, even though this one had already been attacked by termites, I still had qualms:). I guess I could have just plastered the walls on the other side but I had already done the wallpaper. I always thought I planned ahead but as you probably can empathise, since you built your castle from scratch, I almost never plan ahead enough. Something will crop up ..haha. Frankly, I don't think I would have liked the walls plastered. Actually, I was supposed to paint the interior walls with patterns like how the village women decorate their walls with rice paint or dung mud. But no, I am no Betsy , I don't trust myself with painting any wall murals. :)

I have said it before and I will say it again, I envy you all artists who can draw anything . Treasure your gifts because if I can, I will gladly steal them from you :).

If I remember correctly, you have a little alcove in the monk's cell for your wonderful candle, didn't you? Sure seems like an alcove :). Must go back and read it again.

Puppenstubennostalgie said...

Die Atmosphäre des Hauses stimmt! Für Europäer eher ein ungewöhnlicher Stil... aber ich verfolge dieses Projekt und finde es sehr spannend. Es gehört zum Entstehen lassen solch harmonischer Räume schon sehr viel Gefühl für Farben und Muster. Bisher sehr, sehr schön...

Liebe Grüße PuNo/Monika

Sans! said...

OMG, Betsy, I think I found an email from you as far back as March this year before you started your blog???? Hahaha! It was you , right???

Sans! said...

Christine :) I have already decided what I will do with 3 of them :). Yes, the one in the living room will be a religious grotto. I must say I really like the word "Grotto" more than "alcove " :). Thank you, Christine !

I see you a great installer too. Your windows are just fab!

Sans! said...

Clara, la admiración es mutua definitivamente. Más por mi parte, estoy seguro.

Me encanta tu trabajo. Realmente suspender mi incredulidad. Por favor, ni se te ocurra dejar de hacer lo que haces. Usted es un natural:).

Estoy muy contenta de que usted disfrute de visitar mi blog. Me siento muy honrado.


Sans! said...

MAY!!!! como siempre, me siento feliz cada vez que visita:). Gracias por animarme siempre:). Blogging es grande porque puedo conocer a personas como usted :):).

Sans! said...

So good to see you here Patricia. I just came back from your blog with posts on Singapore :). THANK YOU FOR LOVING US :). I hope you will come back soon too!

Thank you too for taking the time to leave a comment.

Sans! said...

Gemma, it is always such a pleasure to visit you and see what you have been up to. I just wish I have more time. :):). Thank you too for being here.

Sans! said...

You know Flora, I see your work now with a different eye now that I have your creations right under my nose :). In your last post, there was a tray of apples and underneath them , is a piece of cloth. I see that familiar crease and folds like a realist's still life and feel a thrill that I can recognise the artist. May I mimic the master? Because I have problems making folds like that. Clothes over bed, towel over a shoulder, so many possibilities :).

It is no dustbin of laundry for me. Like an alcove as a receptacle, I see your basket as a receptacle for the real work of art inside the basket :):). I am sorry if I sound like I am making a big deal out of just laundry but that's how much I love :).

To me, that basket of laundry speaks volume. I hope the way I put it together with some other pieces will tell a story that you love.

Sans! said...

Helene, I have neglected my little tribal house lately :(. I just have so little time , and I am back to being a stitching mania which takes ages. After moons of hard work, you stitch a rug which I can't even use for this house :):). But it is my most challenging piece since it is on a much smaller count.

Maybe I am a little reluctant to go too fast with this house. I am loving the process so much. I wonder if some time later, I will grow sick of it like I did with my tent. It will make me very very sad. I really hope not. I am writing all this down to remind me of how much I had loved putting everything together. And how much all your comments meant to me during this period. :).

So weird that you all have become such a big part of this little but important world :)

Sans! said...

Rosanna,you know what's my ultimate alcove? One by a row of bay windows, wither overlooking the ocean or the city . Or maybe just the big old tree outside my bedroom in the garden :).

There is definitely going to be a clandestine-lovers'-favourite-place -kind of alcove by the bay windows in my palace for sure. If I am impatient, I will build it in my next haveli.

You know the bedroom on the second floor of the tribal house? I wanted to create an alcove for the bed (there's already a natural alcove with the slanting walls) but the space is too small.

Sans! said...

Ich bin begeistert, dass Sie sich Zeit, um einen Kommentar für mich, Monika verlassen gefunden. DANKE!

Du weißt, wie ich mehr arbeiten, ich merke, dass Ost und West Stile können konvergieren. Meine Zeit ist Britisch-Indien. In meinem späteren Projekten, werde ich anfangen, Möbel und Einrichtungsgegenstände, dass mehr europäische beeinflusst werden:).

In der Tat, Möbel war nicht in Indien häufig überhaupt erst die Briten begonnen Import aus Europa:).

Ich hoffe, Sie können Ihre Ansichten mit mir mehr: Aktie):)

I hope Google translate did a good job with this one :).

Puppenstubennostalgie said...

Ich werde es auf jeden Fall weiter verfolgen.... vielen Dank für die Erklärung.

Dies ist eine Welt (Undien) die mir noch ziemlich fremd ist, obwohl ich eigentlich schon viel von der Welt gesehen und erlebt habe.

Puppenstubennostalgie said...

Sorry... habe vergessen liebe Grüße mitzuschicken.
Und Englisch verstehe ich auch ganz gut...
...and the translator is very good.

Liebe Grüße PuNo/Monika

Sans! said...

Phew, you understand English , Monika :):)! Yay! You know I went back and forth to translate, including what I said to you and I must admit the translation back to English was terrible!!!

I am so curious Monika, I think you said you have seen these many of these places before , does it mean you have been to India ? :)

I just saw a little lantern on your shabby chic table in your last post. I thought that can pass off as Eastern :).

The Old Maid said...

Yes, Sans you are right! That's how we say it :D
And as far as Chopin is concerned - we are celebrating his year this year in Poland so his music is present almost everywhere now:)
I am very happy to have "conversations" with you!:D

Sans! said...

Yes, we are celebrating too :). The concert was put up to celebrate 200 years since Chopin came into this world :).

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