Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Watercolor Journal - Pompeii

Watercolor Journal - Pompeii
Fallen man encased in ash and pumice from Mt. Vesuvius eruption 79AD
by jojo sabalvaro tan, 2012

The painting above of one of the ash and pumice encased victims in Pompeii of the Mt. Vesuvius eruption is from my watercolor travel journal. We visited Pompeii on a land tour when we cruised the Mediterranean on Celebrity Constellation's 2nd voyage. This was one of the highlights of our trip and the one I was most excited about. Having learned about Pompeii in my history classes and seen a number of  PBS specials, movies, books and accounts about the devastation of Mt. Vesuvius's eruption on Pompeii in 79AD, this site was high on my list of must see places.  Pompeii was buried under almost 20 feet of pumice and ash and was lost for almost 2 millennia until it was uncovered in 1748. It was a major commercial town and served as a conduit of goods between Southern Italy, the sea and Rome. The excavations offered a well-preserved  picture of Roman life during the 1st century, with the forum, baths, many houses and villas found relatively intact.

The day we visited Pompeii was very hot but it was easy to imagine what life was like right before the eruption as we walked down the raised paved streets that allowed water and sewage to run off freely, sat at the baths and wandered around the forum and market stalls with mosaic signs on the pavement identifying various services such as  the butcher, the winemaker, the baker and even the brothel.

I loved walking through the homes and villas with their murals, frescoes and mosaics. Suddenly, instead of seeing ruins, my mind was transported  to lush gardens, sparkling fountains and other sights and sounds prior to the eruption.
In a letter to his friend Tacitus,  (visit http://www.mummytombs.com/pompeii/primary.pliny.htm for entire account) 
Pliny the Younger describes what was happening during the eruption: " You could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling their parents, others their children or their wives, trying to recognize them by their voices. People bewailed their own fate or that of their relatives, and there were some who prayed for death in their terror of dying. Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore."  

I was very touched and impacted by scenes of the victims encased in ash and pumice as they died in situ. Even though, what we are actually seeing are plaster casts made by the archeologist from voids they found in the excavation containing human remains, it is still so horrific to see what havoc nature can wield at anytime, anywhere.

A half day in Pompeii was certainty not enough time to visit but it is better than not seeing it at all. I do hope I get to go back someday with more time to wander aimlessly through the site. The best part of traveling to a historic area for me is being able to place myself in the shoes of the others that walked there before me. And from what I can tell, the folks at ancient Pompeii lived life to the fullest. A lesson for all of us, for life  can be taken from us at a moment's notice,

"In these matters, the only certainty is nothing is certain." Pliny the Elder (23-79AD)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Blue Moon Quilt

Blue Moon Quilt, 2011
by jojo 
 sabalvaro tan
approx 72" x 56"
100% cotton fabric

I had some predominantly blue fabrics in dark and light  values that came with a kit that I purchased in Wisconsin years ago. After I got it home, I could not find the umph to make the quilt. So the fabrics sat in my sewing room for years. One day, I was watching a quilting demonstration show on TV. They were making a kaleidoscope quilt. The quilt block was made of 8 pie-shaped triangles and 4 corner triangles to make the kaleidoscope block. What intrigued me with this particular quilt is once the blocks are put together, you see other shapes formed such as a circle, flower and star. And it does seem like looking into a viewfinder of a kaleidospe. Aha, I thought, since the demo quilt in particular only used a dark and light of the same color, maybe I can use my blue fabrics in the kit to make a kaleidoscope quilt.  So, I went ahead and ordered the kaleidoscope ruler.

I decided to make an 8" block.  I found the 8" markings on the kaleidoscope ruler, I used that as a guide to cut a bunch of light and dark pie-shaped triangles as well as the smaller corner triangles.

The Kaleidoscope ruler
and light and dark  pie-shaped triangles and small corner triangle.
For each block, you need 4 light and 4 dark pie-shaped triangles and 4 small corner triangles.

For each block, attach 4 corner triangles to the base of  4 pie-shaped triangles. I call this my ice cream piece.
The quilt is made of  distinct dark block and light block.
For the dark block, attach the corner triangles to the light pie
and for the light block, attach the corner triangle to the dark pie  
For the dark block, sew a light ice cream piece to a dark pie.
For the light block, sew a dark ice cream to a light pie.

Attach the pieces together, alternating dark and light pies.
This is how the light block looks, with dark ice cream pieces and light pies.

This is the dark block, with light ice cream pieces and dark pies.
The finished blocks are 8" square.

Sew a dark block to a light block, alternating light and dark.

Here are more blocks put together

You can actually see how the blocks  form an optical illusion with secondary and tertiary designs.
The large blue circles which inspired the name Blue Moon,

The finished quilt is 6 blocks wide and 8 blocks long for a total of 48 blocks.
I used a 4"  blue border to frame the quilt.

I had so much fun making this quilt and hope to one day make it is more than two colors for a true color-filled kaleidoscope effect.

The name of the quilt is also inspired by the song Blue Moon, which is a sort of anthem for my high school class. Maybe I'll take it along to our next reunion and have everyone sign it as a memento.

This quilt is dedicated to Class of 1965 - University of the Philippines Preparatory School.

Friday, May 11, 2012

For the Love of Fabrics

Indonesian Ikat  given to me by one of my best friends
used as a backdrop wall hanging.

I have always been enamored with fabric and the unlimited possibilities for creativity they open up. My grandfather was a so-called gentleman farmer who set aside a few hectares of his larger coconut plantation for hobby farming. He grew fruit trees, had a large poultry and a large manmade fishpond where he cultured tilapia. As a young child in the Philippines,  I would vacation in his farm and learned a lot about the workings of a small farm. This is a thrill for me having grown up in New York City,   My grandmother used to take me to the market and one of the most exciting part is when we  buy feed for the chickens in the poultry. I get to choose the feed based on the fabric design of the sack. Once empty the feed sacks are washed and turned into aprons, dishcloths, dolls and doll clothes, fabric yo-yos that are made into bed covers and patchwork quilts. When I took up quilting here in the United States, I learned that feed sacks were used the same way here. I guess, clever homemakers all over the world think alike.

Part of my Home Economics curriculum, when I went to the University of the Philippines was to learn about fabrics. We were tasked with collecting all kinds of swatches and learning and experimenting with their properties. The fabrics were washed, bleached, dyed, and even burned. You can tell natural from synthetic fabric by the smell when burning and how it burned.

A woven cloth I purchased in  Belize. I framed it to use as a wall hanging.
Today, when I travel to other countries, I still collect fabrics but I am partial to handmade and indigenous materials.  In China, I purchased some silk embroidery, in Japan - kimono prints, in Europe -  lace... My favorite of all to collect are South East Asian  textiles -  batiks and ikats.  Batiks are wax-resist dyed cloth where a tool called the canting is used like a fountain pen to draw the designs in liquid wax on the cloth or alternatively, a print block is used to stamp the design, The fabric is dipped in dye which is absorbed in the unwaxed areas. The cloth is then boiled to remove the wax and the process can be repeated for a finished cloth with several colored patterns or design. Ikat is also made by resist dyeing. The warp or weft silk or cotton threads, or occasionally both, are bound in selected areas with dye resistant material before being immersed in a dye bath. The uncovered threads will absorb the dye. More colors are added by rearranging the areas that are covered before immersing in dye again, This thread dyeing process, which produces different colors and un-dyed areas,  gives the resulting woven cloth a distinctive random blurred pattern. I love the colorful, intricate, ethnic feel of these materials. I fear that they would become a lost art and by buying them even a piece at a time, I encourage their production to continue.

A Filipino Weaver

From collecting woven textiles, I learned that each country share the same processes and even design as another country across the globe. A woven cloth from the Philippines can be very similar to one made in Guatemala. I am amazed by this. How were these techniques disseminated? Or even more amazing, were these processes hardwired in the human DNA so that no matter where you are, you are able to produce similar items using similar processes, similar woven cloths using similar looms and dyes. I'm sure some socio-anthropologist has a paper on this, I should do more research.

Silk Ikat Scarf or Wall Hanging - Cambodia,
a gift from  of Lulu and Dennis Morales

Many of the ethnic textiles I collect I have used as wall hangings, table toppers, shawls,  malong or sarong. To me, they are so beautiful that they need to be displayed in museums and as a matter of fact many museums do have rooms displaying ethnic fabrics. I attended a lecture and wonderful exhibition on Indonesian fabrics (The Bakwin Indonesian Textiles) about 4 years ago at The Art Institute of Chicago which got me more deeply interested in ikats.

It is getting harder to find true batiks nowadays and if you do they are getting to be pricey. You can tell a real batik by looking at the wrong side of the fabric, the design and color hue and intensity should be exactly the same as the front that you can not tell which is which. My friend's daughter. Pia,  went to Ghana for a work study program and their batiks are so different than the familiar SouthEast Asian batiks. The Ghanaian cloths are not representational like the Indonesian's but have more modern colorful graphic designs. I perfectly understand Pia's urge when she ended up with two valises full of these fabrics. I made a quilt out of a piece of Ghanaian cloth she brought home which is featured in my earlier blog Pia's Quilt.

Two examples of SouthEast Asian Batiks - from Indonesia (orange background) and Thailand (black background)

I also made this little wristlet from woven fabric I purchased on a trip to Guatemala. I currently have it on sale on Etsy - https://www.etsy.com/listing/99388413/ooak-guatemalan-woven-cloth-wristlet

Here are a few of the hand woven cloth I have collected during my travels:
Part of a costume from Northern Philippines (Ifugao or Igorot tribes)

Native Costume (Malong) -  Ratanakiri, Cambodia
From first glance these so similar in coloration and design to the ones worn by  the Ifugao and Igorot tribes in the Philippines. Careful examination will show the distinct differences. Different tribes even in the same country will have their own distinct designs.
Ikat Silk Shawls -  Cambodia

Table Runner - Belize
Table Runner - China
Table topper - Thailand

Native Costume (Malong) with gold threads -  Southern Philippines

Detail of Malong design

Napkins - Northern Philippines

Table Topper or Wall Hanging  - Guatemala

Silk Shawls - Thailand

Serape - Mexico