Thursday, April 28, 2016

an art piece for the Leonardo Challange

"Looking Up from the Bottom of the World" 8x8" mixed media
My piece for this year's Leonardo Challenge at the Eli Whitney Museum in New Haven. It's an annual fundraiser for the scholarship fund for this quirky, smart , innovative institution that celebrates creativity, design  and science.

Each year there's a tool or pricnciple selected, that Leonado Davinci used, and artists are asked to create and donate piece that speaks to it, uses it, or interprets it. This year, the item is a lens. Here's what the call for art said:
The Lens
The arc of a raindrop on a leaf magnifies its veins and our understanding of seeing.
Egyptian artisans mimicked the curve of eyes in glass to give their statues uncanny spirit. Assyrians in Nimrud may have used a rock crystal to concentrate the sun’s rays into a spot of fire. In the Middle Ages, the polymath Abas ibn Firnas crafted reading stones of glass. Refined lenses awakened the sciences, explorations and arts of the Renaissance.
You may have explored the ancient wonders of lenses amongst your grandmother’s treasures: a magic lantern, a stereoscope, opera glasses or a slide projector. Now there are Apps for those. We take and manipulate more pictures each day through the tiny lenses of phones than the entire pre-digital century captured. We alter the focus of eyes with surgery and their hues with contacts in designer colors. We may not now see the lenses through which we see everything.

Then there's a fabulous and delicious party and silent auction while all the work is hung on the museum walls, and you wander around amazed at how other peoples' minds work and make bids. (It's tonight April 28th  if you are local, hurry).

Obviously a photographer can donate a straight-up photo but I like to stretch myself a little and make sure it's a challenge. 
If I'd had another free afternoon, I was going to paint the outer sides of the box frame a deeper blue also, to mimic some of the blue windows I was taken with in Israel. Windows are the home's eye to outside...I had to use one of the glass evil eye beads I'd haggled over in a market there and I like to incorporate something with yarn or fiber every I made the little amulet with yarn, teeny pompoms and a tassel.  I am particularly pleased with the tassel, I do hope someone compliments it.
In knitting news- my car ride to Maryland and back last weekend mostly as a passenger, along with a long day as a ballot tender at my local primary polling place allowed me to crank out more than 2/3 of my Noncho. I was hoping the yarns would look less color-blocky and more ombre-ish by having the second yarn the same through all three...but I think you don't get ombre without doing the real ombre work blending of adjacent colors. These are more like tidy neighbors. Should be a FO soon. It's all flying by the seat of my pants but to be honest, I'm loving just cranking the stockinette with a teeny edging  this week. Hope your knitting is also bringing you joy!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

into the blue knitting

If you read my last five posts, especially this one, you're not at all surprised that I want to only knit blue yarn.  With impeccable timing, I was gifted  two skeins of beautiful DK alpaca from Barcelona, last week. In shades of blue. I have two long car rides this weekend,  and a long day of sitting as a polling registrar for the primary election on Tuesday.  This is a big delicious serving of knitting time, for me. The universe is obviously sending me a message: new project.
From front to back: 2 skeins of All You Knit is Love Knitwise yarn from Barcelona.  Center top is what's left from skein of Shibui Alpaca, so happy my LYS had this so I could dive in.  Left rear, a Anzula laceweight,  not alpaca and also not blue, but it's playing along well. 
This is going to be my noncho  (a secured wrap...not a poncho).

Monday, April 18, 2016

i went to israel: post 5 (the last)

Final installment, our last 24 hours, inTel Aviv. (Earlier posts of our trip: parts one, two, three and fourBit of an overshare? I just had to). 
By  Friday noon, businesses were shutting down and the weekend kicking into gear. Weekend is Friday/Saturday, in Israel. In some parts of the country, it's a time of stillness, and family, and resting, or prayer and meditation. In other places-- like Tel Aviv-- it's time to play.
The city is only 100 years old, with miles of Mediterranean beachfront, all of it public. There's an undulating walking and bike path the whole way. We knew what we had to do.
Our hotel was a block from the water, with bikes to borrow. We pedaled south to Jaffa, the 4000 year old port city abuttingTel Aviv. We'd  heard it had morphed from dusty stone buildings and labryinth flea market shuk to a real scene on Friday afternoons. Hard to imagine. We'd heard young designers and craftspeople had opened tiny storefronts there, or were vending at the flea market (Shuk Ha Pish pishim- sounds way more exotic  in Hebrew.)
As the sand turned into rocky coast, the Tayelet (promenade bikeway) turned into a narrow street lined with old walls opposite the water, former ramparts, with stairs leading up to the city streets of Jaffa. It was so peaceful along the waves we thought maybe we had the wrong info.
We started to see signs of life pretty quickly, as soon as we got up to the city streets level.
When we came around the corner to this block, at first we thought we'd walked into a private party- it was wall-to-wall buzzing. There was music.  A popular song played, and there was singing up and down the street.  Scene rumor definitely confirmed.
Buildings that we remembered as chipped or decrepid are spiffy.  Even pink. The indie designer bit also played out. For someone who likes handmade the way I do, even as a slacker shopper,  it was hard to buzz through quickly. That shop on the left, above, was entirely things made or embellished with strips of fabric and ribbons --there were scarves,  jewelry, bags-- I talked to the artist a little, she was working on some necklaces inside. I bought some long dangly assymmetrical earrings from a silver jewelry designer with a closet sized storefront. If you see me teach or talk anywhere this year, I will no doubt be wearing them. We haggled over souvenirs and rough glass evil eye beads in the old market section.  A quick visit was just not enough.
I left out a ton from our ten days -- but I guess I already summed up the whole trip, above: a quick visit was just not enough. But it was enough to feel utterly refreshed and inspired and relaxed and happy.  We are-but also aren't -so much different than the people we were at twenty-three. It's amazing what you remember and what you forget. It is very very good to take time off. And language- don't even get me started. Who knew the brain could store words and then spit them out of your mouth without even letting you know they were still rattling around up in there?
Thanks to everyone who commented on these posts, or sent me nice notes responding to them.   Meanwhile, back home and back in the swing of things, there's been knitting and new projects and behind-the-scenes from knitwear photoshoots to share. Not to mention my obsession  wish for a closed wrap/noncho/ruana kind of thing.Nope, not a poncho, definitely notaponcho. More, soon.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

i went to israel: post 4

With knitting content.  Before we left, I thought "Ten days not working! An eleven hour flight!  Driving around the Galillee! I will knit. So much!".  I wound yarn to knit a new project*.  I doubled down, packing my almost finished Cladonia. I double-dog-dare-ya'ed down, bringing addresses of yarn shops strategically located around the country.
Above, on the 8th day of the trip, one of the only times I sat and knit. Over outdoor breakfast in Haifa. Note: I am not complaining.
Although, who wouldn't linger at this cafe, in chill city, under the olive trees? My breakfast is shakshuka: eggs baked in a spicy tomato and vegetable stew**. Served with fresh pita and Turkish coffee.
The world headquarter of the Baha i faith is there, (top image above) set in a garden that climbs the steep mountainside, terraced along with the city. Turns out you can only enter to walk all the levels of the gardens on a tour--and our timing was off to take part in any tour.  That little glimpse, above on top,  through the (sob) gates barely gives a sense of the majesty and fantasy of it all.  We explored all over the city, though, on foot and by the funicular underground train. The center image above, of a super modern building, is near the shipping port. To counter the way I've only shown old neighborhoods. We were surprised how much new construction is underway, all over the state.  
We stayed in a little hotel - another last minute score- that we loved. It was chic-er than we are. I had the best time torturing the owner's twenty-something son by having an extended conversation about growing up there, in my mangled Hebrew. I have no pride when it comes to yapping in other languages. That's the door to the hotel, above on the left, with a map to remind you where to enter. It's in the old downtown, near the shipping port. It has little hidden cocktail bars and tiny tempting storefronts that I'm guessing are indie clothing designers' studios, although they weren't open when I was peeking in. Obviously I need a raincheck with Haifa.
More heavenly blue, looking over the harbor at dusk, by the gates to the Gan Bahai

* The new project is a shawl  from this new now-on-pre-sale book, which if you note the authors' names, you know you'll be hearing more.  I am grateful I chose blue yarn to bring along. It should be clear by now what color I wanted to knit with forever.

**I linked to the Smitten Kitchen recipe for shakshuka because I'm her fan--but a quick search confirmed the way I've been cooking it for years--you can throw in whichever veggies you have around, you can spice it up or keep it simple, you can top it with feta, or plain yogurt or nothing. You cannot go wrong with shakshuka.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

i went to israel: post 3

In Safed (also called Tzfat or Zefat)- blue around your windows and doors opens your home to heaven, directly.
L to R: Sea of Gallilee, looking over Rosh Pina to the Hula Valley across to the Golan Heights (and Syria, beyond), some kind of flower
We rented a car and headed daroma (northward) mid week, immediately admitting our list of things to do and see was totally, insanely, unrealistic. One of the best parts- hell, it was all the best part-- is seeing nature and terrain that is nothing like home. The trees and flowers that we can't identify, and palm trees everywhere, even in high up mountain villages . 
We hadn't made reservations. A day ahead, when we figured out where we'd be, we looked at airbnb and were super lucky 3 out of 3 times. We knew we did OK in Rosh Pina as soon as we saw that gate at the address of our little cabin/guesthouse. Rosh Pina is a small village of artists, farmers and people who don't mind being out of the way, living on the top of a  steep mountain side. That path on the right leads to the hot tub-which is literally on the side of the mountain, and completely open on its far side to enjoy the view. (We did!)
Israel is a country that likes to eat and snack. There is never a wrong time to stop at a cafe or restaurant, and you'll rarely be alone. Every place we stayed--and these were budget-friendly places- had coffee, tea, chocolates, halvah or cookies waiting for us. In this case-, a little bottle of a local wine with two glasses and a happy little porch.
 We walked all over, up and down the mountain top, wandering the oldest part of the village, now an  artist colony in old stone buildings, hiked through a beautiful terraced formal european-style park built by Baron Rothschild in the 1800's, and ate at a Hummusia that has utterly ruined us for anything except fresh homemade, super creamy  hummus served warm with toppings of your choice, dips and fresh baked pita.( Nothing like the supermarket kind. )
 Next day, next mountain over- Safed, the ancient city of the mystics. It's attracted seekers for hundreds of years--there is something about the light and air there. We always had weird trippy experiences visiting, and we were curious if it still had the same vibe. It's much bigger now,  more developed, and has a larger religious population-lots of hippy hasids, many from the US. It is still plenty trippy. It too has an artist colony developed  for tourism, with galleries fancy and funky, on spiffy plazas and down older twisty alleys. Lots of good art, too. More stone steps, more blue windows. I couldn't get enough of them. I am drunk on blue.
We couldn't resist that door on the left. Inside we met Avraham, an artist who came for a visit to study kabbalah  20 years ago, and never left. His artwork is detailed and beautiful and all about the visual vibrations of higher levels of consciousness and sound-. It totally made sense when he explained it, anyway. This one, for example.  (hello all you modern quilters). Or it could be knit, right?
50 Gates of Bina
50 Gates of Bina, by Avraham Lowenthal, Tzfat

By the end of the day, we were back at sea level, on the Mediterranean coast, driving from Acco to Haifa.  More blues! I only want to look at these colors. Can you blame me?

Sunday, April 03, 2016

i went to israel: post 2

Part 1 here, if you missed it.  Love these colors.
When we were planning-and I use that word pretty lightly-our 8 days, the Dead Sea was a must.  It's a short-ish ride by local bus from Jerusalem- about 1.5 hours south, all downhill into the desert, and close by Ein Gedi, the oasis nature reserve. Day trip!
We suck, I mean really truly, at selfies. I just can't bring myself to get a stick. What I was trying to show, above on the left,  is the view behind us on the trail,that you can see on the right. Climbing on the trails along Wadi David in Ein Gedi, there's the Dead Sea in the distance. On the far shore, in perfect geographic symmetry, is Jordan. 
The whole time we were hiking, I was worrying about ibex.*  They used to be elusive. In 2016,  there are so many hikers along the improved trails, in big loud groups, that I figured no way would I see any. As we got back to the trail head, near the entrance and visitor center, the ibex appeared, grazing near the irrigated trees.
And, an ibex crossing sign near the highway, so maybe not so elusive anymore? Also, date palms cultivated by Kibbutz Ein Gedi, as we left the nature preserve and headed for our second activity. We'd misunderstood proximity, (cough, internet advice, cough) and tried to walk to the nearest beach on the Dead Sea. I wish I had a picture of what two idiots walking down the single highway in the desert at the lowest place on earth looked like. No beach in sight--and you can see pretty far. Happily, an out-of-the-blue cab came flying up the highway. No idea why except divine intervention. Dave had the presence of mind to wave him down for a ride to the beach several miles further, that we'd been aiming for.
It is other worldly. Vast, clear, aqua, smelly, and so salty and mineral laden that it's thick. If you are a swimmer, and try to do what comes naturally, the water throws you off balance, and you simply can't swim. People literally sit on the water and read magazines. In the photo on the left, we are in chest deep water. Just chilling, looking at the desert mountain to the west. As you do. 
The ground is salt crystals, not sand. The air can be scorchingly hot, but it was only in the low 80's F (cold snap!) so we were two happy floaters, doing our healthy soak.
We finished off with the traditional mud bath. It's possible to scoop the mud right off the side edges of the beach but since we were at a "spa" beach, it had been thoughtfully piled into large metal troughs. Mud bathing was in an area with rocks and chairs we could lay on to bake in the sun, while enjoying the view of fiberglass Superman and Elvis, also mud covered. As if the Dead Sea isn't weird enough? Apparently we like mud when we travel- until we were slathering, we'd forgotten that our last international trip included a mud volcano. (scroll down to get to the mud. You can't miss it). Is Mud Tourism a thing? It should be.
The Dead Sea mud has thousands of years of reputation. Good enough for Cleopatra Final step was washing off in hot, extremely smelly powerful sulfur showers, located just to Superman's right.  And then, regular sweet clear water showers inside the building, before heading out to the road to catch the local bus back to Jerusalem before dark. 

Knitting? Yes, of course I had a project that was carried with me all day. It never came out of my bag! Too much to look at along the way. 
Part 3 soon. I have this crazy idea I might blog every day this month. Or try to. Though it won't be more than another day or two about the trip, it'll be back to the usual fibery and photo blab. 

* In re-reading my post, I have decided that I need to live a life in which a sentence like this is used more often. A girl's gotta have goals, am I right?

Friday, April 01, 2016

I went to Israel- post 1

No joke! A couple of weeks ago we went to Israel.
Light and stone in Jerusalem. Pretty much everywhere.
It was amazing. The last time we traveled to Israel, Dave and I were both 23 years old.  We ended up staying 2 years. We returned to the US just before our 25th birthdays, planning to to bounce back and forth living between countries as often as we could. But.. .life happened.  It took till this year, when a son who is himself 25,  gave us an envelope with already purchased airline tickets in our names, for the trip. We were speechless, in fact I still can't believe it, and we are already there and back! Also- the son? A keeper.
My closest friend from the Jerusalem days is a photographer there. She welcomed us into her home in the Baka neighborhood, and we joined in daily life. Above, our room in her tile floored flat, and the view from our window.
Debbi and her home.
You can wander all over Jerusalem without ever getting bored. And we did.  So many alley ways .
Our old neighborhood, Nahlaot. It has become bohemian chic. Our former landlords' flat is now the shoemaker's entrance. It is surreal to travel as middle aged tourists for a week, to a place you lived for months and months as, let's say, a more colorful young person.
Israel is easy to visit- and if you love handmade, even more so. Handcraft is celebrated everywhere. But so is wireless technology, and it makes life very comfortable when traveling. 
What photographers do when we get together. 
Apparently, Dave and I  looked more at home than we thought. We were constantly asked where we were from. We'd answer the US, and the reply would be "No, where are you from Here" meaning, they thought we were ex-pats. Dave's beard, which is long enough to exude a Jerusalem-like spiritual quest (but is, in fact, just a beard)  and my rusty but surprisingly returned Hebrew skills helped, I think.
Dave with street art on the closed shutters of the Mahane Yehuda Market, at night. More about this next post.
 Looking plenty touristy, hiking in Ein Gedi, a national park oasis in the Negev desert. Improved access has made it popular (good--but also a little sad). The water levels are so much lower-- we were looking forward to swimming in the waterfall pools. You can see we would have looked pretty silly if we'd tried.
In Jerusalem I wallked by one yarn shop, filled with  mostly acrylics and other non-wool blends, so I wasn't terribly interested (snob? yes) . They had a display, above left,  of what looked like cotton jersey bias trims wound into skeins , called Colombialand. It was very tempting. I wasn't sure what I'd do with it. Someone used it (I think) to yarn bomb/stitch bus benches in the neighborhood I was staying in. Brilliant!-the perforated metal became a canvas.
Street art on the shutters for Moses Eggs in the market at night.

I'll need to have a part 2--thanks for hanging in if you made it this far!