Wednesday, June 30, 2010

In Conversation with Maya

Maya: I just realised something about my friends' mummies.

Me: What?

Maya: They all look the same. How come? (look of befuddlement)

Me: What do you mean? Like, NONE of them have tattoos and pierced noses? (mock horror)

Maya: No. ALL of them have longish layered hairstyles, and wear glasses. But some wear glasses at home only.

Me: (look of befuddlement)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Maya and The-Mother-Of-All-Chocolate-Cakes

And this would be at the P.S. Cafe at Paragon. It's a thick wedge of moist chocolate cake, topped with an equally thick layer of big marshmallows held together by solid chocolate. On the side, a scoop of creamy vanilla ice-cream. And the whole ensemble, drizzled with thick chocolate sauce. Mindblowing, I tell you. o_O

Maya, the Chocolate Fiend, had a brave go at it, and wolfed it down in a few minutes. All $15 of it. Yes, $15. Enough to feed a family of 3 at a good foodcourt. :S

I can't remember exactly what it was called, but it had the word "ultimate" in it. I bet.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Makes Me Smile

One of my all-time faves: Erykah Badu singing "Tyrone" live, and pregnant. What a woman!

Listen up...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Holiday Hopes

Funny how the holiday we were planning never got planned.

Actually, not so funny, 'coz now I am feeling the brunt of it.

My husband, with all the good intention of taking us on a short trip before he had to leave the country "on a mission" to Europe for a couple of weeks, got understandably tied down at work.

And then there were the all-important dance rehearsals that Maya had to attend else she be kicked out of the performance.

So the holiday got chucked. Hopefully, we will be able to spend a 2-day stay-ca-tion, maybe at Sentosa - again. I really like it. It was fun the last time we did it. And now, with the added attraction of the newly-opened Universal Studios theme park, I'm sure it's even more exciting.

Ahh... 2 whole days, of not having to do laundry or washing up. What a treat! Let's keep our fingers crossed. In the meantime, I shall stare longingly at the pics below...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Comfortable & Contented

And that's why I work from home too. ;)

A couple of weeks back, MAYA & RUHI was offerred a spot at one of the major department stores here in Singapore. I went for the meeting with the buyer, who did my head in with talk on sales projections, commission percentages, sale events' policies... I literally broke out in a cold sweat.

After about an hour, I came out of the meeting room none the wiser about retailing and business, but stonecast-sure about one thing, and that is the fact that I could never be an entrepreneur.

The sheer volume at which I would have to produce to keep a floor sales assistant, generate sales enough to break even after paying off commissions and material costs, is just crazy. I would HAVE to delegate crafting, and that is just unfathomable for me. Or maybe, "incapable" is a better word.

I'm happy where I am: Working at my own pace, in my own home, wearing what I want to, and best of all, boss of my own art.

So I said "no" to the department store. Some may see it as a waste of opportunity. But I know it's not me, and not where I want to go. Yes, it's an opportunity to make big money, build the brand, so on and so forth. But I guess those aren't my ambitions.

The only reason MAYA & RUHI is available at a couple of department stores in Kuala Lumpur, is one super-fashionista-entrepreneur-and-ultra-cool-stuntwoman chick named Rachel Khiew. I sit at home, and conceptualise and craft to my heart's content, while she does all the hard work of putting the pieces out there and telling their stories. And I can tell you, it's not easy. Just listening to what needs to be done makes me hyperventilate, I swear.

So I said "no" to the department store here in Singapore, and since my ambition is to exercise my art and not make big bucks, I suppose, technically, I'm not missing out on anything. In fact, I will definitely be keeping something, and that is my freedom to craft, my freedom to get off my worktable at home to tend to Those Two when they need me, and most of all, the freedom to wake up, throw on anything I want, and not feel I have to look pretty and be smart. ;)

(pic via icanread)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Those Two At The Movies

We watched The Karate Kid yesterday. Nicely formulaic, cuter than its predecessor, and better (more realistic) fight scenes. Let's face it, Pat Morita wun no Jackie Chan. "Hai-YAH!"

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Makes Me (And Maya) Wanna Dance

Ah yes, what a super classic! Absolutely nothing like Queen.

Maya is dance-rehearsing for a major production, and this is having to keep playing in (and out of) my head. Although the one that she is practising to is some curious-but-catchy, not-too-mutilating disco-dance version that I cannot, for the life of me, find on youtube...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

John Singer Sargent

Self-portrait, 1886

This is John Singer Sargent. Born January 12, 1856, in Florence, Italy, to American parents, an eye-surgeon father, and a hypochondriac mother. So bad was her "condition", that the Sargents had to move to Europe to live in more pleasant climes, where young Sargent was born. Even in Europe, they shifted according to the seasons, preferring cool mountain locations in the summer, and balmy seaside ones during winter.

No, they weren't well-off at all. Young Sargent, aged 17, who by then had recognisable artistic talent, would leave the family at their seaside residence for then, and head off to Paris to live and apprentice with Carolus-Duran, one of the most influential artists at the time.
Fanny Watts, 1877
Fanny Watts was a friend of Sargent, and this was his first Salon appearance. The Salon is an annual art exhibition in Paris that showcased artworks by new and established artists alike. So highly esteemed was the event, that the Salon was known to make and break careers.

Carolus-Duran, 1879
This painting was shown at that year's Salon, and somewhat upstaged the teacher himself.

The Sargent family now included 2 sisters, and their moving soon became a huge financial strain. Thankfully, young Sargent was super-talented at art, and was soon earning some to keep the family afloat.

Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood, 1885

The rest of Sargent's life is not the kind you would find terribly interesting. Especially for an artist. No torrid affairs, no illegitimate children, no drunken and/or opiate habits. Sargent was just an artisitic phenom and workaholic.
As he became more established, he travelled extensively around Europe and the Middle East, and was exposed to cultures, art forms and other great masters. Sargent showed every year at the Salon, an annual highly-anticipated art exhibition graced by celebrities and socialites, showcasing the year's newbies, as well as attesting the accomplished and recognised.

Fumee d'Ambre Gris, 1880

There were rumours that Sargent could have been gay, coz he only hung out with a few close male buddies. But many art historians have argued that these remain rumours, as would inevitably arise if you're in the public eye, and not seem to be dating anyone. So you must be gay, right? Not. Maybe. But who cares, right?

Poppies, 1886

Anyway, the point is that John Singer Sargent is an undeniable genius when it comes to canvas, paints and brush. Perhaps the only juicy bits of his life are from those who sat for him to have their portraits done. And these were reports on Sargent's little eccentricities while he worked.

A few patrons claimed he liked to keep pieces of bread in his jacket pocket, and every now and then pick little piece off them inside his pocket and nibble on the tiny bits. Some others also said that he was a painful perfectionist, odd to an extent, with his sizing up his subject from afar, and then sprinting to the canvas to replicate that exact same perspective on the canvas. Can. You. Imagine??

By the River (I), 1888

A gorgeous rendition of peace and solitude - his sister, Violet, reading on a boat in the summer.

Parisian Beggar Girl, 1880

Sargent became a celebrity of sorts, for his outstanding portrait work. He was continuously at work, receiving commission after commission, from first the social elite in Europe, and later when he went back to America, where the South's nouveau riche were literally throwing money at him to snag a sitting and a portrait.

Beatrice Townsend, 1882

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, 1893

Madame Ramon Subercaseaux, 1881

And the reason for his return to America is this little lady right here - Madame Virginie Amelie Pierre Gautreau. Like Sargent, she was also an American in Paris. Born in New Orleans, Lousiana, of French descent, with a silver spoon in her mouth, Virginie and her family escaped the civil war in America, and fled straight into high society in Paris.

A black-and-white photopgraph of "Madame X" as it hung at the Salon in 1884

Now, this wasn't a commission. This was a request from the artist, and the very generous and kind granting of permission from the It girl of Parisian high society. Sargent had all the say in composition, content and colour. Right down to the pose. Apparently, the pair spent many weeks trying to figure out a good pose. Many weeks, only because of Madame Gautreau's very tight social schedule, and somewhat laziness and impatience when it came to sitting still for a sketch.

A close-up of the painting. It was interesting how Sargent gave quite some attention to her red ear, as if saying she wore too much face powder, forgetting to apply the white to her ears.

In any case, the portrait, entitled "Madame X", showed at 1884's Salon. The Salon is an annual grand exhibition of art, a show that makes and breaks artists' careers. And just like how Sargent's career boomed with Fanny Watts in 1877, it came tumbling down with Madame X in 1884. Madame Gautreau's reputation also took a severe turn for the worse, and she never quite recovered, living the rest of her life in relative solitude.

It was a mix of socio-political climates, and vicious gossip, that led to the downfall of both the artist and his subject. The French were particularly contradictory, that Salon year of Madame X. France had just come out of the Franco-Prussian War, and were re-examining themselves. As a society, they found weaknesses everywhere, from rampant materialism to nonchalant adultery, the decline of public health to the growing disdain for fortunate heiresses, just like Madame Virginie Amelie Gautreau.

The reviews, needless to say, were scathing. From the horrible "brazen" pose to the sickly complexion, the tasteless "slut" dress to the boring colour tone, critics and Salon judges didn't spare Madame X. Sargent was reeling in shock, as he had been showing for so many years at the Salon, and had always garnered praises and awards.
"Madame X", after Sargent "fixed" it
Sargent was so hurt by the whole drama, that he took the painting back, and altered the dress, on the painting. The original that showed at the Salon in 1884 had one strap off her shoulder. Today, if you go down to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, you will see her with both straps up.

From then, Sargent kept the painting away from society's cruel eyes, in his studio, by his side. Many of his close friends said that Sargent found that piece of work cathartic in every sense, from the beginning to the end, and even after. He always saw it as a reminder of how art can be so subjective, to a point of a prisoner of society's whims and wills.

A few years later, Madame Gautreau commissioned a portrait of herself with another artist, Gustave Courtois, that featured her in a similar profile pose, in a chiffon gown, with one fallen strap. This time, there was hardly anything bad to say.
I am bowled over by Sargent's portraits, and even more so by "Madame X" and the drama that ensued at the Salon. How social climate had so much to do, yet nothing at all, with Sargent's art. Amazing.
I love how "Madame X" looks so simple, yet had such a big story. What struck me most, was how void of jewels she was, considering it was the French Belle Epoque era, and ladies (especially those of Madame Gautreau's status) were completely decked out most of the time.

A photograph of Sargent in his studio, with "Madame X"
Anyway, back to our story.
Sargent retreated to close friends after the "Madame X" drama, living in an artists' commune in England. Here he recuperated, under the care of Frank Millet and his wife, and friends including the writer, Henry James. His painting, "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose" completed in 1886 saw him make full recovery as an artist, both in his mind, and society's eyes.

"Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose", 1886
Sargent then travelled a bit, and decided to move back to America, where he quickly built a reputation for himself. Before he knew it, he was commanding higher and higher for each portrait he painted.

By 1889, Sargent was invited back to the Salon, to serve as judge. After which, Sargent spent the rest of his years between London and Boston. He continued to work - maintaining his own studio, carrying his own crates, and helping the workmen load and transport his pieces - the way he liked to.

In April 1925, against the advice of his friends, he began preparations for a mural for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. And on April 15, Sargent passed away from heart failure. Good thing was, he wasn't carting something or the other at work on the mural. He was reading Voltaire in bed.

Self-portrait, 1906

Sargent's memorial service was held at Westminster Abbey, attended by royalty, celebrities and fellow respected and influential artists. It was said to be a grand affair, and the first of its kind for a farewell to a modern artist.

To view John Singer Sargent's stunning breadth of work, click here.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My Little Helpers

This wouldn't be happening if Aunty Olive was still around.

Maya helps take the laundry in...

... while Ruhi stands atop a small stool to help do a round of washing up.

I am so glad I made the decision not to have house help. Even if it eats a whole chunk off my work-work time and energy, These Two are learning all about the nitty-gritty of what keeps life going as smoothly as possible. That clothes don't get magically folded, and their rooms are not tidy if they don't tidy it up, and that meals are not prepared without having to clean up after.

I may be depriving them a little of play/TV time to do some chores, but it's all good investment in character building, methinks.

New stuff at Etsy

Yes, I have been hard at work-work. So much so that the right wrist is now nicely bound up in a guard with a trusty Salonpas underneath, and I am now quite unable to cook and do washing up. Thank God for well-trained kids. :)

A big, succulent freshwater pearl sits, as if suspended, on a non-tarnish brass baby hoop...

Gorgeous faceted Indian agate wrapped hoops...

Shades of serpentine wrapped on a handforged leaf-shape...

And an ensemble of handforged bangles with stunning agate stones, that can also be worn solo for minimalist chic.

Click on the pics to see more pics at Etsy.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New Commissioned Stuff

Pink agate, turquoise, yellow jade, emerald-green cut glass, vermeil

Lapis lazuli, freshwater pearls, tiger's eye, sienna rust-red cut glass, crimson-red cut glass

My lovely client is in love with my bib necklaces. She had seen one at colette, but as she was considering the purchase, it got bought by someone else...

And so she had me custom her, not one, but TWO, bib necklaces. One for fun and sunny weekends (to go with flowy sundresses), and one for more formal events (perfect with a buttoned down white shirt, or a strapless LBD ;)).

I've had an amazing fun time crafting these up. Thanks ever so much, E! :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

June Giveaway Result

I had to peel Maya from her novel for a few minutes to draw this month's winner, coz Ruhi is at school until late.

Since the school hols started, Maya has already gone through 4 books and is in the middle of her 5th. How does she do it?? o_O

And the winner is...

Congratulations, Mavis! Please email me your mailing address, and your prize will be on its way! :)

Thank you so much everyone for playing! It has been really good fun. Hope to see you around the blog AND at next month's Giveaway!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Makes Me Laugh

Anne Taintor is a prolific illustrator and copywriter with a highly successful range of products decked with her artwork. Check out her other stuff here. So funny! :)