Saturday, 27 February 2010

Still here

Checking messages from friends who live on the coast, and seems that the predicted Tsunami has missed us... so far! I keep checking the view, to see if their is still water in the gulf... or more water in the Gulf. For the past two days we have had monsoon rains (this is the 'dry season') and terrific (!) electrical storms, which have blown the power out twice. Friday evening saw us eating bacon sandwiches in the house in the dark, at Nilo's miniature table and chairs. It was like a midnight dolls tea party.

Another reason I haven't been around much is that, on Wednesday morning, we had a phone call from the school, asking us to go and collect Nilo, who had fallen over, and landed badly on his hand. His wrist was pretty swollen for a few days, and is chest was a bit scrapped up. Poor little guy!

The next morning he was also vomiting (I think it was something he ate) so I've been chilling out for the rest of the week with him, at home. He can move his wrist now and so I guess he'll be back to school on Monday. I have to say, I rather like having him home again. He's been doing alot of drawing and lego building. He's amazing! Look at his turtle design.

I could never come up with something as sophisticated as this. It reminds me of Inuit design.

Thinking that I was going to San Jose this weekend, I got a move on with the "no boundries" denim bag that I started a couple of weeks ago, and it's finished (all but the details on the handles).

Stitching in the lining.


The lining is a light blue flecked cotton, with a slightly linen look.

The label.

The closure detail.

The finished item. Quite a sexy little number. Might keep it for myself ;}

Eliza, our model this morning.

Now that it's done, I guess it would be ok for me to start something new, right? ;}

Reinaldo is busy taking the house to pieces, in an effort to re-model the old office corner.

I have also been working on this. There's a link on my side bar. It's nowhere near ready yet, but you can visit and add your name as a part of the broader community and get updates as they happen. This week - now that my trip has been cancelled, due to the inclement weather - I hope to set these wheels in motion and send out a general invitation to local women to a sewing/coffee morning.  I'm planning to put up a flyer somewhere public (which, here, is either at the school, or the two churches, since there isn't even a village store!) and see who shows up! That way, it's open to anyone who's interested and avoids any personal preference. Afterall, the idea is about forgetting our differences, and working together, on the basis of sharing a common thread. Hmmm... I figure that's going to be the hard work in this!

Finally, I have added music (and other media interest) to the blogs. My father is a musico and so I was raised with very ecclectic tastes. Everything from Rachmaninov to rap, rock n' roll to gospel. The selection will change, according to whim. 

Look... Listen... ENJOY! :)

Tsunami Alert

We are waiting to see if, within the next half an hour, a Tsunami will hit the coastline of southern Costa Rica, including a few kilometers from where we live. The alert comes following earthquakes which hit Chile (8.8!) and Japan, in the early hours. Going to eat breakfast now. More later. Trip cancelled. Again!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Color overload

It's finally raining a little more, although it's normally dry at this time of the year. I think our Summer was pushed forward. Well, I'd like to imagine that, and that it is going to rain more now. The plants are very happy about this. We don't water the garden, and it is really amzing how anything survives, but it does! Yesterday afternoon, Nilo and I just made it home from school before the downpour. D'you know, I cycled 8km yesterday! Which is why, today, I am firmly rooted to my cushy office chair and Rey is doing the school runs ;}

I want to say thank you to all of you who left a comment on yesterday's post, and for the observations and support that everyone is willing to give to my ideas. You are a wonderful bunch of ladies, and bless you all! This is a very positive example of [the] net working! :)

I've decided that I'm going to leave for San Jose at the weekend to see if I can get an appointment with my GP early next week. But when I return, I'm going to start putting out pheelers to see who would like to join a sewing circle... or maybe it will be a sewing square? Who knows! Oh yes, and thanks also to those who suggested a potential wheat intolerance might be the root of my current problems. Yes, I'd thought of that too. Last year I did start a celiac diet, but I wasn't strict enough, or at it for long enough to be able to tell. I'm definately going to bring it up with my Doctor (again!) though. It would be wonderful if the problem turned out to be that straight forward! Ojala! (pronounced OH-HALA - that's like saying, "I wish!", or, "With any luck!")

Well, I'm here this morning with a bit of a dillema on my hands... I have total color overload! Can't make up my mind what to work on today. Or brights???... or pales???... WAHhhhh!

Yesterday, I started playing with a couple of the scraps that Sandra of Inanna Shamaya swapped with me recently. And while I'm here, you have to see how nicely this is coming along! Go Sandra! Anyway, I've been using an acid green and turquoise piece (Sandra, do you know how this effect was achieved, looks like some kind of wax resist, and/or acid bath? It's an amazing cloth!) combined with sky blues, on a grass green flax linen.

That's one wild cloth! Makes me want to go back and re-study the color theories of Johannes Itten.

I like the way the scrunch or tie-dyed blue piece lifts those dots right off of the cloth!

The blue scraps are already kanthared down. I'm just looking at these very bright and contrasting DCM silk threads and wondering where to go next???

I have to tell you about what I've discovered whilst playing with this. When you kantha stitch over a light blue, scrunch or tie-dyed cloth, like the one I'm using here, it makes it look just like a a fair weather cloudy sky, (this is not the best image, I know). Anyway, I thought you might be interested to know that. Could be useful?

A Summer sky?

Another part of my dillema is this pretty grouping of pink and ecru threads here on my desk, together with some very cool brown paper packaging, that was wrapped around a couple of new coffee cups that Rey bought home yesterday.

Strawberries and Cream?... Which reminds me, tonight, we have students staying, and I'm going to make fresh strawberry ice cream... Mmmmm!... my mother's recipe... which is a family secret. Ha! :P

I also spotted this on my desk this morning (I've been re-stashing my fabric stashes!) A couple of pieces of shot silk dupoi (the bigger scrap as was, the smaller scrap as was after the original was solar-dyed by me using red cabbage) placed on a bamboo fiber(!) indigo cloth. Very nice! It gives me another idea... Oh dea[r]... Too many idea[r]s ;)

My problem is this... I LOVE color! I just get so much pleasure out of playing with color, and not necessarily making it into any thing!

Here's a classic example. As I was telling Karen at Threadstory, who posted this recently, I am the proud owner of 100+ shades of Unison chalk pastels, donated to me 9 years ago by Unison themselves, and which are now very crumbly indeed, but still as loved as from the very first day! Admittedly, I haven'y used them recently. They have been stored in my drawer. As much as drawing with them, I always loved looking at them, re-arranging them in their boxes, according to different schemes. I'm definately crazy! *:)

Unison. The cream cheese of chalk pastels!

I ma about to re-house these pastels, because the packaging, that was once soft and spongy, is now brittle and crusty and it disintergrates at the touch. I need a printers styled drawer with many little compartments. I might even have one made, because these pastels are worth a fortune!!! A veritable color treasure trove!

And I'm looking forward to receiving my purple scrap swap package from Kaye at Stitching Life who has been doing a far bit of fieldwork recently. Very nice!!!

Finally, let's celebrate with Sandi at Puddle Duck Farm as she'll be getting extra studio time. YEAH!!!! And with Jude at Spirit Cloth for going live yesterday. Can nothing stop this woman? ;}

Recently added: For those of you in the Brisbane area of Aussie, you have an invitation.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Step #1: A sewing circle

I haven't been able to do very much these past few days, as I still have stomach type problems and envisage that I am probably going to have to leave to seek medical advice about this later in the week. In the meantime, I have continued to work slowly away at stitching this.

More kantha stiching.

A close-up. Not bad, eh?

Softened again by the early morning light.

I'm very pleased with the waythis piece is coming along, and now that I have nearly completed the kantha stitching on all but one of the chocolate-colored panels - and isn't it lovely, the way that the cream-colored stitching has softened the contrast of the chocolate? - I'm putting this to one side as my evening cloth.

Apart from stitching, I have been thinking. Alot! I find that the two go rather well together, stitching and thinking. In the same way that walking and thinking go well together, or gardening and thinking. Anyway, I've been thinking more about my idea of setting up a textile "thing" with a group of women from the village. At the same time I have started to do some research online about similar projects, in different parts of the world. How are they managed, what do they make, etc, etc.

What's interesting, to me at least, is the fact that so many other cultures, where this kind of idea has been implimented, already have traditional artisan skills to draw upon, like weaving, dying, and embroidery. Here, where I live, the majority of the woman remain unskilled, many not even having completed their education. That's not to judge them, of course, it's simply to acknowledge the reality of what might be involved in developing my idea. Before we could begin making things, I am going to have to teach them certain basic techniques. Which is fine. But before I can do that, I am going to have to teach myself ;} I'm just trying to figure this thing out, out loud. And by sharing my ideas here, maybe something will ocurr to you, that i haven't thought of yet. So it could be very helpful.

Yesterday, I blogged a little about aspects of life in our village. The day before that, I blogged briefly about my idea to create a women's textiles co-operative. Both posts received some really lovely comments and encouraging thoughts from you. Thanks so much for your support!

Over the weekend, it dawned on me that helping a small group of women to help themselves, is infact an indirect way to help the school children. One of my concerns about donating money and supplies to the school is that it comes in, is used, and then we have to look for more. So, although I plan to continue with that at the moment, I see it as a short term solution. I need to be creative and dream up a middle to long term solution, which is what I think my idea might be. Ideally, one which provides women with access to a little income, which will help them with the cost of school supplies, medical care, clothing, and food. Nobody wants to be permenantly dependant on charity! And I happen to believe in the benifits of a family having a mixed portfolio, and teh power of micro-economies. With the world climate - environmental and economic - the way it is these days, you just can't afford to put all of your eggs in one basket!

So, first things first... How to begin?

Having thought quite carefully about this idea over the weekend, I think the best way would be to start a small sewing circle at my home. Invite a few of the women to a coffee/sewing morning type of thing, and offer them some fabric and threads, and provide a refreshment and a snack, and the chance to for them to explore and maybe learn something new. That way, I am not raising anyones hopes with the mention of making money, and at the same time, I get to see who is genuinely interested and has some potential. I have to be realistic with myself about this. It's no good thinking that I can help everyone, and not everyone is going to enjoy or be any good at this kind of thing. So, we have to start out with baby steps, while I'm busy working on the bigger picture.

I have been saving my money - that I earn from having guests - to put towards building an open workshop, in the lower garden area. That's going to take a while, but will be somewhere where, eventually, the women could work, at dying and printing and stitching cloth.

So, my immediate considerations are these:

* Making sure I have some supplies for a small group to work with over the course of a few weeks. Probably when I next leave the Peninsula, I will rummage through the thrift stores for nice fabrics. Threads, I am probably going to have to buy, along with needles, and pins and tape measures, and I would love to get my hands on some of those very cool washable markers, but they don't seem to exist in Costa Rica! Say! If anyone is interested in this idea, you could donate by mail a light-weight start-up pack. Yes... that's a brilliant idea!!! :) Doesn't have to be big stuff,'coz the idea is to recycle fabrics and use scraps to complete small projects that can be given a within-reach retail price,($25-30) but which also sell in higher numbers than a higher priced piece might... if you see what I mean? I'm thinking, small coin purses, cushion covers, notebook covers, etc. Anyone got any other suggestions for cool, viable, contemporary, small projects?

* Resources. I guess I can download quite a few resources online. I am also thinking to get my mother-in-law down here from San Jose, because she is deft at needlework. Infact, I've been meaning to show you these for a while now.

Silk pansies. Detail from a cushion slip by Mecedes Fernandez Zuniga.

Wild berries. Detail from a cushion slip by Mecedes Fernandez Zuniga.

Birds and berries. Cushion slip by Mecedes Fernandez Zuniga.

These examples were the results of a commercially-bought kit. But not everyone could produce something as lovely as these!

This, on the other hand, is a simple, traditional, design, that a crafts teacher sketched out, and Mercedes chose to work on on a black cotton. I LOVE this piece! To me, it has something very gypsy about it. I really want her to do more work in this style, to incorporate in my designs.

I am also thinking I might start a seperate blog to document the journey into my women's group idea.

Finally, I found this in my drawer over the weekend. A simple tapestry(?) piece of a rose bloom that I began(!) a few years ago. I threw it into a pan of beetroot juice, along with some other scraps. We'll see what happens!!!

If Life gives you Russian salad... dye cloth! ;}

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Country Living... none of yer fancy stuff!

Great news!... I just had an email from my son, Eben, he has bought his ticket and will be arriving for two weeks on the 22nd of March. HURRAY! It will be the first time that we've seen him in nearly 2 years. I'm very excited.

Yesterday, he also sent me a whole bunch of photos, most of them taken by my father, during his visit last February. I really wanted to show you a couple of these, plus some others, which maybe give you an insight to rural life, here in our village.

A few members of our friends and nieghbors, the Solorzano-Leíton family. They're passing sugar cane through a hand operated cane press to make "agua dulce", a sugar cane drink, which, I have to say, I'm not that fond of, but it's all good country fun! In this photo you can see our friends Cheila (the mom), Irene (the youngest daughter, who has since had a baby boy, infact, that was the day that she told us she was expecting), Juan Carlos (the son-in-law, married to their older daughter Jenny) and Dorian (the youngest son, chewing his nails!)

This is my Dad, Francis Charles, testing the cane. He's usually up for a laugh!

Nilo and Sandy (Alexander), the eldest son of their family, and - besides my husband - my best friend down here. This was the Los Charcos paper aeroplane contest. No doubt, Nilo won, 'coz that's just how it goes around here ;}

Sandy with a "terciopelo" or "Fer-de-Lance" pit viper, which he stumbled upon at our water tank a couple of years ago.

Here, you can just about see it's deadly fangs. Field work here has always come with risks and this particular snake - which is by no means uncommon in this neck of the woods! - is just one of them!

It also has it's special moments too. Like this one, when I got to spoon-feed a baby "tepisquintle" or "agouti", whose mother had probably been killed.

And this one, with brothers Dorian and Sandy, when Dorian graduated. Just about the same age gap exists between them, as does between Nilo and Eben, (of nearly 12 years!)

Children of the village school to which Nilo attends. Those were all of the allumni of 2008. It has about the same number of students this year, ranging from 7 to 12 years old. After that, any child who continues in education (and they are few and far between) will have to travel to the next town to attend college. Most of these kids come from economically poor homes, where families tend to be large. Work around here is tough, mostly done by the menfolk, and limited to the agricultural sector. People either work with cattle, rice or oil palm.

Here I am with the class, Christmas 2008. Rey and I have tried to promote the school's needs to people beyond the Osa Peninsula. With the help of a very generous friend in San Jose - Jacqueline Monocell, who, in turn, round up a group of her family and friends - we have secured small amounts of funding which have helped to improve the school dining facilities and to repaint the school house, and Jacqui has also helped to provide some much-needed basic school supplies.

In addition, for the past two years, Jacqui's group have sent a Christmas present for each child and Rey and I get to be Santa.

This is Ronald. He's 10 years old and has Spina bifida. Most years, he undergoes a series of operations in an attempt to straighten his feet and legs. He's a spirited little chap, and I've never heard him complain. Jacqui's group sent him boots, because he had spent years dragging his poor little broken feet along in rubber boots. However, this is a classic tale of how you can't always help people. The boots were so nice, that Ronald's father decided that they should be kept for best. So Ronald continues to spend all day in rubber boots and has probably outgrown his comfortable boots, having never really benifited from them. Life in this part of the world is a constant battle. Sometimes you win... and sometimes you don't! The important thing is not to give up hope!

Stripping maize kernels to make fresh "chorreadas". The kernels are then put through a hand mincer and the paste is cooked with a little oil on a hot skillet. You can either add a pinch of salt or a pinch of sugar to the minced kernels. I like mine hot and sweet ;7

It's a family thing. Jenny and Irene and their aunt are preparing the maize, and Sandy waiting to pass the kernels through the hand mincer. Now that takes muscle... and after years of working the oil palm, Sandy certainly has some of those!

That's me, over on the left again, in their beautiful hand-made kitchen. Just watching. An important reminder that we all have something to learn from each other!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Sharing an idea: Poverty elimination and the environment

Isn't Life funny?... The twists and turns.... the subtle nuances... the sparkley moments... the gifts intended for us...

...the marshmallows... Ok, so they're totally unrelated to the dialogue, but I couldn't resist their pink and white poofiness and wanted to record it for my own purposes :)

We just had a change of guests. Chris and Roslyn Darling are visiting from Canada, and they stayed over at Los Charcos last night, on the recomendation of mutual friends and earlier guests, John and Mary Noyes.

John and Mary Noyes, of Kew (UK), having a knees up at Los Charcos with Nilo.

We've known John for many years now. He's an entomologist, and has just retired from the Natural History Museum, London. His wife Mary is a music teacher to primary school children and an avid ornothologist. They stayed here 2 years ago and loved it so much that they came back earlier in the week.

Chris is also an entomologist and a Professor of entomology, and Roslyn is a textile artisan! How about that! Coincidence or what! Needless to say, while our husbands were off hiking the Los Charcos forest trails, Roslyn and I had a good old natter. She spins and weaves and does hook work rugs and dyes and is currently doing her masters in textiles. I really admire that! I can't wait 'till she gets back to Toronto, so she can send me links to images of her work, and maybe she'll let me publish a few of them here?

Chris and Roslyn Darling of Toronto (Canada).

Anyway... we got talking about an idea that I've had for a couple of years now - which is the idea to establish a small(!) woman's textiles co-operative here in the village - and it was great to share this idea with someone else right now, because recently the idea has started developing into something more tangible and within the realms of possibility.

Today, I'm going to share this idea with you! So grab yourself a cuppa and get comfortable ;}


Sustainable development: "development which meets the needs of the present, without compromising the needs of the future."
The Brundtland Commission, Our common future, World Commisssion on Environment and Development 1987.

As some of you know - at the same time as raising two fabulous young men- since 1994, I've been working in the vanguard of (tropical) plant science and conservation, in one capacity or another. I was very young - and naïeve! - when I set out on that journey, with lots of ideas of how I was going to help "Save the Rainforests".

However... collectively, my experiences over the years have taught me that, if hope exists for the environment - for life on Earth in general - it will come about by a)the complete desimation of the human species, or, b) addressing fundamental social issues - particularly that of rural poverty. I believe there is alot to be gained through supporting the role that women play in rural sustainable development. I say this, not as a women's liber, but because it's a fact! The sooner we start to enpower women from rural communities the better it will be for everyone!

I can't tell you, how tired I am of clashing horns with people who pitch up on the Osa Peninsula and think they know it all. I'm tired of listening to the constant whining about hunters and loggers. I'm in reverse gear, backing away from all of that, reclaiming my own creative life, and thinking more and more about helping people to help themselves. Particularly women. Specifically, women from my own community.

So... that's what's on my mind! There's more to it, of course, but I just wanted to sound you out about it first.

I would love your feedback and commments.

I would love to hear from anyone who's actually done something like this or knows of someone who has. I would love to hear from anyone interested in getting involved mentoring an initial program (either by coming down here or by teaching me new stuff online so that I can then teach others) focusing on capacitating women in a range of basic textile based skills. My own training - about 150 years ago - is in Batik an resist dying.

I would especially love to hear from anyone who might be interested to inject a few dollars into a start-up program.

As always, I would love to hear from you! :) :) :)

Please forward this message to anyone you think might be interested. You can also blog about it and link to this post.

Thank you!

P.S. Still stitching away here!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

More dash than stitch!

Yesterday was hectic, what with managing guests and Nilo being back at school. I didn't have much concentration for stitching either. Although, I have started to stitch down the pinwheel patches. Doing it as invisibley as I can, given my crude stitching. Let's face it... it's going to take me forever to finish this and the chikankari/dessert inspired cloth, which you can see here.

By the way, whatever you do, never run a google search on the word chikan, it must be chikankari (easy to remember if you think of chicken curry!) Turns out that chikan is a slang word for public groping in Asia! If you search for only that, you'll be in for abit of a surprise. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Stitching down the patches with a hem stitch (is that what it's called?)

Instead - snatching a half hour here and a half hour there, between cooking for guests and getting homework done - I've been exploring... stuff... and taking snapshots around the place, as well as following up on favorites (and favorites of favorites) on Flickr.

Here are a few of my favorite snapshots from yesterday. You can see more on my Flickr profile (there's also now a mini slideshow of my images over on the right hand side here).

Clouds above Cecropia trees.

A tank garden that I'm experimenting with, with the view to later creating a small ecological pond in teh Los Charcos gardens, and somebody has just put hundreds of their tadpole offspring in there!

No time for self-reflection... I have dyes to rinse out!

The cloths I've been solar-dying with the seeds of Genipa americana or "guatil". You can read more about that here.

Hanging on the line to dry. I got some very pale(!), but very lovely, blackberry tones, all on natural fibers.

Silouhettes of the inflorescence of Stacharpheta frantzii dancing behind guatil dyed cotton weave. Colored shadows... Hmmmmm.... now there's an interesting concept!

Guatil dyed cloths once steam ironed and dryed.

Amazing forms created by dried tree fern fronds...

... on guatil dyed cottons.

It was all purple and brown. What a majestic combination! Cadbury's obviously know their color stuff! ;}

Speaking of color... For friends who are buried beneath the snow right now, and anyone suffering from sunlight deficit... here are a couple of extra snapshots that I took in my garden yesterday. Wish you were here! :)

Heliconia latispatha
and Cecropia trees.

A small sunlit patch of the garden. Color and form!
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