Sunday, 31 October 2010

Day 204-A 150 Year Old House In Galle

30th October 2010 
Galle, Ceylon

Dear Love, 
An extra-ordinary chance encounter occurred when we were travelling along Peddlar Street today. This is one of the little alleyways of Galle in Sri Lanka.

Perhaps I should begin by telling you how completely overwhelmed I am with Galle, a city which historical scholars had linked to the Old Testament Tharsish to which King Solomon sent his merchant ships to "procure gold, silver, ivory , apes and peacocks". As is well known, Galle today is inextricably linked to the great maritime powers of the 16th and 17th centuries, Portugal, Holland and England. A walk around the narrow alleys of the fort at once revealed how the myriad of old streets and houses with their original names and facades remained strongly anchored in their colonial past. 

So taken in by the quaint and quiet charm of the houses on  this little street that Pam and I must have taken about 100 pictures before I saw this friendly lady standing by her door  beckoning me into her home.  I was quick to say yes of course , shouting to a surprised Pam who was slightly ahead of me to join us in the house. Sweet Pam was at first a little wary, not being used to such unexpected kindness.  

Living Room with antique Dutch plantation chairs

We walked in and was immediately charmed. Simple, unpretentious and yet cosy, obviously decorated and taken care with love, we could tell straightaway that the mistress of the house is proud of her home. 2 seconds into the house and I let out a squeal of delight. "Dollhouse!" I said as I went immediately to the left corner to take a closer look.

Beautiful dollhouse which at first glance looked like it was made with wood. It was in fact made of plastic.

This woman must be psychic, Pam insisted. What is the probability of a complete stranger owning a dollhouse inviting us into her home and allowing us to take pictures?  Not remote, I said with a knowing smile. It's just the magic of my  mini world.

Basin in the hallway

Come, come. See the rest of the house. My 150 year old house, the lady said. My name is Mrs Latifah, what is yours? That was the last question I remembered her asking as my enthusiasm and fascination with her home took over.

2 antique Dutch plantation chairs

Every little corner was filled with so much history and stories, colours and character. I must take this, oooh so gorgeous, WOW! And on and on and on, click click click.

Here is the bathroom, with a solitary plastic tub but what colours despite the age or perhaps it is because of the age. 

Homemade mosquito nets in brilliant colours hanging in different rooms to protect her love ones.

A cupboard that reminds me of home as I have something almost the same as this one, in my kitchen. I too use it to display my glasses and plates except Mrs Latifah has way more than I do.

Courtyard where Mrs Latifah plants her own vegetables, dry her clothes and watch the rain. The courtyard sits right in the centre of the house with 5 rooms surrounding it.

Mrs Latifah's pride and joy which she showed off proudly to us. Brinjals? Pam asked, do you really cook them ? Mrs Latifah nodded yes at the silly question.

Traditional mortar for pounding grain and sitting on the slab of stone is a different one for crushing chillies. 

Cooking area

Many meals must have been cooked in these pots and pans which were stored in another room.

Pictures of the dining room. 

Things which make Mrs Latifah happy and her home pretty.

Details of a window

It was almost 20 minutes later before we finished taking all the pictures. We then asked Mrs Latifah to write down her address for us in Pam's little book. When we came back to the hotel, we realised that she had written No.XXX, Peddlar's Street, Galle, Ceylon, the old name of Sri Lanka, a name the country has not used since 1972.

Remember to write as soon as possible, Mrs Latifah said as we left her house. Bye! 
Bye, Mrs Latifah!

I know Mrs Latifah will not be reading this anytime soon but at least I fulfilled my promise to write as soon as possible. Thank you Mrs Latifah! And for you, my love, I hope you have enjoyed the house as much as me, Pam and Mrs Latifah. See you in Kandy, or maybe Colombo or more likely Singapore. 

Friday, 22 October 2010

Day 200- A Baluchi Flying Carpet

If you are as well-versed as I am in the art of making flying carpets, you will know that they are hardly extra-ordinary in appearance. Here you can see one of these flying contraptions parked at a car park, I mean, carpet park.

So unremarkable and disappointing it is in the looks department that many have said they preferred the back of the carpet for at least, it looked more like a real carpet, they claimed. As its maker, I am of course a little offended at such an insensitive comparison. I mean, this is after all a  magic carpet! How can they compare it to a real carpet? 

Perhaps if I can demonstrate its flying prowess, you will see what I mean.

So ABRACADABRA, FLY carpet, FLY.......

Here it is, seating one comfortably, floating over what appears to be an extinct and long eroded volcano. This is my flying carpet in poetic motion. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Flying Carpet announces, please remain seated and fasten your seat belt, for we are landing in Sigiriya where it's rock walls has housed frescoes since the 5th century BC and is said to be the largest natural picture gallery of the world!

Now swooooosh, off we go again, amidst the 1000 year old roots of the Old Banyan Tree, as we fly through 18th century Galle Road in the new capital city, Colombo.  Can you see how this magnificent tree grows across the road like a triumphal arch, ooooh, watch your head, ladies and gentlemen.

How about some meditation time in the niche of  Sri Maha Bodhi, said to be one of the oldest planted tree in the world? All the way in Anuradhapura, the ancient capital of Ceylon? Well, why not? With my flying carpet, all that's impossible becomes possible! So close your eyes and be brought back 2000 years from now and when you open them again.. may be atop giant foliage in streaks of pink, matching your flying carpet, matching your new sari , in perfect fashion harmony.

 So can you see now? 
Can you see how my magic tapestry  

make the ordinary, extra-ordinary?

And for those of you sceptics who need proof before you believe, go read  this article about  Harvard Professor Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan. He thinks its possible to make a flying carpet, as long as it is no longer than 4 inch and no thicker than 1/10th of a millimeter . Mine is close. It is 4 inch wide, 6 1/2 inch long and 1 millimeter thick . It really almost can fly.




I started making this carpet on 25/4/2010. It was my first one in 25 count canvas. After making 4 miniature rugs in 18 count, I thought I was ready to embark on a finer one. I gave up after 2 weeks because I spent thrice the amount of time unpicking my mistakes than stitching. It was only after Rosanna came to visit in late July this year that I started again because she was so encouraging when she saw my completed rugs. I finished  the rug last Friday, 15 Oct 2010 and yes, so far, most people prefer the back than the front.

And by the way, Rosanna, as a reward, you get to go wherever you want, on my carpet of course! Don't worry, I will test it first next Wednesday and see how far it will take me. I am hoping it will be as far as  Sri Lanka. 

Pattern of rug from "Making Miniature Oriental Rugs and  Carpets" by Meik and Ian McNaughton. Baluchi rug c.1900.
Description : Baluchi rug does not come from Baluchistan ; they are woven by tribes in the north east Iranian province of Khorasan. This example is based on an original displaying strong Turkoman influences, both in the field, which is filled with modified guls (elephant feet) and in the border, which is very similar to some Afghan weavings. The colours however, are typical of Baluchi weaving, as is the outer border which is often described as the "running dog" pattern. 

In my rug, I have replaced orange with pink.For fashion harmony.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Day 198 & 199-Making A Carved Box Without Carving

I have been wanting to make another hope chest since Gagan's suggestion when she saw  my embroiderer's cupboard. Gagan told me that it was common for Indian women to spend ages embroidering dupattas or bedcovers for their daughters as dowry. An inspired moment came when I saw a painted wooden chest being advertised for sale on a Fine Art and Furnishing website. It was labelled a painted teakwood chest, late 19th century, Rajasthan. I have seen similar chests like that described as folk dowry chests made by the Gujarati tribal people. Heavily and intricately carved, it is of course perfect for my Rollas. 

Now if you think it is easy to reproduce the chest in miniature,  well, you are right!  Let me show you  how I made a carved chest (last Sat & Sun)  in 8 easy steps. 

Step 1

Identify a suitable box to bash. 

Step 2 

Sand the surface and then chisel appropriately to age the box. 
Pay more attention to edges as these are the places that show its age first. 
Look at a real old box for guidance if need.

Step 3

Spray paint the whole box brown, including inside. 
This step is helpful in making the subsequent coats stick.

Step 4  &

 An Unnecessary But Good To Do Step

Picture of front and bottom of the chest after distressing.

Distress the box.
I  use any opportunity I can get to practise my painting skills.
So although the box will eventually not be of this colour and the effort may seem wasted,
I assure you it's not.
The colours I used for the distressing at this stage can be found in the 
quilt cupboard post.

I have decided that the inside of the box will not be "painted" the final colour which is turquoise so the aging inside here is important.

Likewise for the bottom of the box because I wanted to preserve this watermark.

Step 5 

This is the fun step where you identify suitable jewellery findings to simulate the carvings.
Cut and crop them if necessary.

Pictures of top (pots of flowers) and front of chest
Play with the findings to create the patterns you want on all sides of the chest
except the bottom and the back.
Don't glue the findings on yet until you have spray painted them their 1st coat of brown.

Step 6

After I have tried out all the the patterns, I spray painted every piece of the findings brown.
This picture was taken when I found out I short sprayed one flower.
Note the "lock fittings" of the chest lying  on the newspaper (left of box).
This will be glued only after you have painted the chest turquoise.
Be sure to keep this piece (after you have "rusted" it properly) safely. I lost it twice!

Step 7 

Top of chest
I am sorry about the picture. I kept telling myself to take pictures of all the stages but as usual, I got so carried away when I started painting that I forgot to photograph the "just before turquoise" stage.
Anyway, after step 6, brush the box with turquoise paint.
Make sure some of the browns show through to give the aged effect of a painted wooden box.
I used my fingers a lot at this stage.

I have added "bells" at the bottom.
 I have seen these bells being used to decorate many folk furniture from India.
Thanks to Divya who was from Chennai, I found out that Indians consider the sound of jingling bells to be auspicious and good for the body/mind which is why it is traditional for them to wear bangles and anklets.
For the Rollas, there is another practical purpose.
 If anyone should be so daring as to steal the chest, you can hear it a mile a way.

These flat carved beads were used as the plump legs.

Step 8

Glue the lock fittings last.
This is a metal part of the box so I did  not to paint it blue
to distinguish it from the wooden part.


Front of Chest

Side of chest

Back of Chest

Inside of Chest

The Real Thing 

I know it is hardly an exact  replica of the real thing as you can see by comparing it with the picture below.

 This is the real chest from Rajasthan. Details can be found on the website of J.H.Terry Gallery.

But for a carved box made without any carving

I think it is a passable imitation?
Blog Widget by LinkWithin