Sunday, May 31, 2009

Through the desert, in a house with no name...

Known for her photography featured in VOGUE magazine, Deborah Turbeville's book Casa No Name features images of her home in San Miguel De Allende.

Much like an impressionistic painting, Turbeville's lens captures a sense of light and emotion. Her photos are soft and diffused, at times fuzzy and blurry. The book conveys a sense of history and nostalgia, evoking dusty curtains, candle light, old saints and water damage. Very far away are the happy bright colors of a Mexican sarape.

This book called to mind my own fuzzy memories of my relatives' homes in Chiapas, and very much like "Casa No Name", the combination of my own unconscious memories and ghost stories evoked images of a Mexico that never existed.

I found this book to be a nice departure from other publications that stick with the stereotypical "Casa Turismo" approach to Mexican interiors and style. Go here if you want to learn more about "Casa No Name".

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wisdom and hope

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree".
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Purple Potato Green Salad

This simple salad uses purple potatoes, one of the first species of potatoes cultivated in the Americas hundreds of years ago. The creamy avocados and the fresh tomatoes create a nice contrast of textures, a nice alternative to potato salads with heavy mayonaisse dressings. Don't quarter the potatoes before boilig them or they will loose their beautiful purple color. To make this salad you'll need the following ingredients:

  • Half a pound of small purple potatoes
  • One head or red lettuce
  • Two ribs of celery
  • One handful of flat leaf parsley
  • One green onion
  • One ripe avocado
  • One large, red heirloom tomato
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • a few drops of fresh lemon juice
  • Sea salt to taste
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
Boil the potatoes in salted water for about 10 minutes until they are tender, but still firm. Rinse under cold water and chill in the refrigerator. Wash and spin the lettuce and tear it into bite size pieces. Wash and de-vein the celery and slice thinly. Cut the tomato in half and remove the seeds, then cut into chunks. Peel and slice the avocado and add the lemon juice, it will prevent it from discoloring. Chop the parsley and the green onions. Combine all the ingredients in a salad bowl or in individual bowls. Emulsify the oil by adding the vinegar slowly and wisking it, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the salad with the vinagrette before serving.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New fabric: Las Sirenas

I received some of my new fabrics designs. This sketch of a mermaid inspired the fabric below. I used an aqua background and inverted the image to create the repeat. Do you want to create your own fabric? Go to Spoonflower and sign up!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Santeria Inspired Mini Flower Arrangement

Flower arrangements doesn't have to be big in order to be decorative, meaningful and cool. I created this little flower arrangement and "shrine" of sorts for my bathroom using just a few flowers and other unusual elements. You can use materials you already have at home and a handful of flowers in order to economize.

Arrangements for your bathroom can be made in a variety of themes: A sunken ship, a beach vacation or a favorite movie (pirates, jaws anyone?). I was loosely inspired by the Santeria belief of "Orishas", or spirits of nature, in this case Yemaja/Olokun. Yemaja is the female aspect of the ocean, she is the great mother and giver of life. Olokun is the male aspect, the mysterious bottom of the ocean - very powerful and at times deadly. To make a similar arrangement you'll need the following materials:

  • A glass or ceramic tray. I'm using a recycled bottle glass tray I got in Mexico City.
  • Smooth pebbles, stones or aquarium gravel
  • Shells, coral, driftwood or any other ocean elements.
  • Flowers, seed pods, twigs, etc.
  • Figurines, folk art or aquarium decorations

I chose a big "pin cushion" flower as my focal point. It reminded me of anemones and other sea life. I cut the flower's stem fairly short and secured it inside a water container using a few stones. I placed the container on one side of the glass tray and gathered a few shells around the container in order to anchor it. I added a few more flowers and fern spirals to create balance.

On the other side of the glass tray I placed a miniature folk art mermaid from Mexico. The mini Poseidon porcelain charm comes from Castle in the Air. I surrounded the figurines with abalone chips and miniature shells. Finally I placed the tray on a shelf in my bathroom. If you don't have space on a shelf you can make a smaller version for a windowsill or even the top of your sink. Have fun!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Merman with trident

This is a sketch based on a figurine I made. I think this could could be the beginning of a nice summer fabric.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Alexander Girard and Otomí Life Force

Not too long ago I got a chance to visit an exhibit that showcased Alexander Girard's work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Girard was a designer recognized for his simple designs and his bold use of color. The following panel via Apartment Therapy immediately made me think of Otomí paper cutouts! It seemed to me like this design could the a representation of the "Zaki" of a flower. What is "Zaki" you may ask? Read on!

The Otomí are an indigenous group that pre-dates the Mexica ("Aztecs"). The term was made up by the latter, it means "People that carry arrows". In the group's original language their name was "Ñah-ñu". This group has occupied Central Mexico for thousands of years before the Christian era, and are predecessors to many native groups that currently reside in the area. This region was traditionally woodsy and forest-like, to the unfamiliar, a landscape not generally associated with Mexico.

Otomí ritual cutout figure: "Zaki" of a Tomato - Seed spirit of a tomato

Squirrels, bird, skunks, rabbits and other fauna that reside in the woods show up in Otomí art and mythology. To this day Otomí art is deeply influenced by nature, and by the relationship between humans and natural forces. Otomí paper cutouts are made from amate paper (a type of bark) and are generally symmetrical. They are called Dahi and serve a ritualistic function, used as a type of fetish that personifies the spirit of an animal or plant. The Dahi are used as offerings, proxies and intermediaries for protection, healing or fertility. The Chamanes (doctors, or spiritual healers) use the Dahi as tools to influence or manipulate a divine current or life-force. The notion of life-force is known in several cultures. In Sanskrit it is called "Prana", "Chi" to the Chinese. In Santeria it is called "Ashe". To the Ñah-ñu this force is called "Zaki".

Otomi ritual cutout figure: Seed spirit of a sweet potato

When visiting Santa Fe I was charmed by the many items housed at the International Museum of Folk Art. At the time I didn't make the connection: most of the items there had been collected (and later donated) by Alexander Girard. Folk art influenced a lot of Girard's work. Some of his work remind me of Otomí art, mostly because of the symmetry, the clean geometric lines and the natural themes.

Fruit Tree - fabric by Maximo Inc, from a design by Girard

One of Girard's most iconic projects was the beloved La Fonda Del Sol, a restaurant that introduced South of the Border delicacies to New York in 1960. Accounts of diners attending La Fonda described it as simply joyous. The designer was very interested in creating an atmosphere, an experience influenced by a cohesive design; Girard designed everything, from the table top to the linens. The result was optimisic, bright and colorful. The name of the restaurant adecuately translates as "The Sun's Eatery". Here's an abstract from the Menu:

"This is your house...In this spirit of hospitality, we welcome you to La Fonda Del Sol. Here in an athmosphere relecting all the color, folklore and gaiety of our neigbors to the South, we invite you to enjoy food as it is prepared in the Haciendas and Inns of all the countries under the Latin American Sun".
La Fonda del Sol. Dinner Menu by Alexander Girard, 1960 via SFMOMA

For the Otomi, the most powerful being was Maka Hyadi, a personification of the sun. It delivered "Zaki" and energy to all living things. Could it be that Girard knew about the Otomí concept of influencing "Zaki" by means of using artwork? Probably not, but even in a city of steel, concrete and glass he may have known that finding a connection with nature, the joys of food lovingly grown and prepared, and maybe pondering on the misteries of life contained inside a tiny seed provide wonderful experiences.


Otomi paper cut-outs personifying Tomato seeds, and jams come via de Museum of Anthropology, University of Missouri-Columbia.

To learn more about Otomi paper, ritual and cutouts go to Mexican Textiles, where you'll find more examples of Otomi art, including a gallery that explains the amate production process.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fun with block heads

I painted these wooden blocks in a circus theme. There is one character on each side, with the character's head, torso and legs on a different block.

If you move the cubes around, you can come up with a lot of different wacky character combinations

Here's some of them!

I hope you liked my little "puzzle". Not quite like a rubicks cube, but it keeps me entertained!