Thursday, June 25, 2009

more chairs

captain chair

And now for a few more sketches of my favorite chair. 

folklife festival 2009

Yesterday I had a very nice afternoon with Keith down on the national mall. We took the metro downtown and visited the 43rd annual Smithsonian Folk Life Festival. I was very keen to buy a t-shirt so we went straight to the marketplace and got one for each of us. Mine features the Welsh national symbol of the red griffin on a pale gray ground. Color being pale means in the hellish heat of the coming summer months I will have a cool shirt to wear any day it is sunny and hot! Then we rushed over to find some lunch. Keith had a craving for Peruvian roast chicken so we headed to that restaurant and each enjoyed a quarter of fresh bird with hot green sauce and a few french fries. Then the touring of the really fun stuff began. 
Of the three featured cultures I was most interested in seeing the Welsh part because at some point years ago I had a crush on a real Welshman from Pembroke who visited our home when I was a kid. It was great all the crafts people were so warm and willing to tell stories and converse with us while telling about what they do. First was a lovely woman who does baskets and showed us how she uses all those flower grass leaves to twist up "twine" from them once they are dried in a drawer. She showed us twines made from these flowers leaves: day lily, Siberian iris, narcissus the Welsh national flower, croccosmia a flower she says no one seems to know here. We told her ours just started blooming and we are very familiar with them. Keith asked about her book and how she got all that plant material through customs! She was surprised too and had been given a lot of extra material to work with from the Arboretum staff's cuttings. So for her everything about coming to DC worked fine. The stone wall builder Stuart Fry was the next crafts man we met. He showed us his stacked stone gates and walls and his book of images from work he has done at home in Wales. Amazing tall walls of stacked stones that use no mortar to hold them up. Some of these old "deer park walls"  as high as 10 feet tall.  He got stone from Pennsylvania quarry that was so excited to get rid of the shale stones that no one else can use that they offered him a deal to set up business here in the states just to get rid of the stones. He is happy in Wales but told us we could learn and do it with them if we were interested that lots of people were begging him to come fix American rock walls that were originally built by Welsh, Irish, Scottish immigrants. He started late in life because his mother wanted him to get an education and have a desk job and credit cards and all that stuff but he always preferred being outdoors he told us and when she died he left the desk and took up wall building as his full time pursuit and he later found out that some of his relatives in the past were wallers. That he told us gave him a genetic explanation to the feeling he had that he needed to do this work all his life. 
We visited a sculptor named Howard Bowcott who was busy building an amazingly sharp pyramid of stacked slate and he gave us a card with his new website. He explained it wasn't on Google yet and he was very concerned that his website builder had left him at a disadvantage but Keith explained it is pretty easy to get listed. He said we could see lots more of his work in photos on his website and he will be trying to get it on Google's search engines this week. Meanwhile I found it by going to and I really enjoyed his modern work with local materials and traditions of the Welsh culture. 
Another guy working in Stone had come and lost his carving chisels and tools in UK customs. They had the cap stone for a church he was planning to carve this week and no tools so his partner and wife gave us a tour of the photos and told us about their Welsh Springer Spaniels in many of the pictures. Very cute dogs much like my old springer Baxter who was English. These dogs have red and white instead of black and white markings and hut pheasants in the Welsh country side with their owners. We had a great talk with her about our city and sent her out to eat on 7th Street for her third night in DC since she was asking if there were other busy areas besides Georgetown where they ate the first two nights. 
Finally we ate some Welsh dinner Glamorgan Sausage?
Glamorgan sausages, traditionally made as a way to make use of stale bread and leftover cheese, are now a staple of Welsh menus. After adding onion or leek, a little mustard, and a beaten egg for moisture, the mixture is molded into sausage shapes, dipped in breadcrumbs, and fried. Served with a pickle or chutney, Glamorgan sausages are enjoyed by vegetarians and meat lovers alike.
It was lovely vegetarian meal. Then with a couple of Dove ice cream bars for desert we headed to the evening concert of a group of Welsh musicians. Welsh harp, flute, fiddle and guitar played the sweet tunes some passed down by Roman Gypsies! 
Jigs, hornpipes, waltzes and Aires were all on the night air. A large wooden dance floor got a pounding from the toddlers all the way up to grands with white beards and hair danced almost to every one. 
Funny thing was all the Welsh kept talking about the heat. Wednesday had only 86ºF 30ºC for a high yesterday with low humidity wasn't bad at all and a breeze most of the day. We expect 90º+ today and the dreaded HHH weather starts this week in DC so they are in for some really shocking heat soon. I was really worried they didn't know what was coming but there are medical staff down on the mall to help if they are overcome and lots of cool AC in all the museums nearby. I highly recommend a visit to Washington DC's living museum of crafts, culture, food and music down on the Natioanl mall every summer. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

favorite chairs

my favorite chair 

I wonder if others have a favorite chair like I do? I have been in love with this wooden captain's chair ever since I first laid eyes on it back in 1988. It was part of the furniture I inherited from now long dead friend named Harry Powers. I think it is an old chair for several reasons. First the seat was made from  a single board 19 inches (48 cm) wide. Have you ever seen a board that was 19 inches wide? Angles and some of the parts in the chair ares a little irregular. These irregularities accentuate the hand made quality of the chair. The spokes and rungs are not all the same diameter, some are thicker than others. Lately I have resumed drawing sketches in my pocket book of my favorite things including this chair. My friend Michael Nobbs in Wales says we should draw our lives. I think this chair is part of my life, a thing I cherish and an object that makes me happy when I sit on it or just notice it is here. Michael draws a lot of tea cups and that is a big part of his life. He also has a nice booklet you can download, print and assemble with some simple ideas about how to begin drawing your life. It is free, so go check it out! Start to Draw Your Life
Today I posted a photo and my drawings so you could see that my drawing isn't completely crooked that the chair is a little crooked too. 

Thursday, June 4, 2009

busy this week

I had a great week and it isn't over yet. On cable TV I saw a French movie that won academy award for foreign film a couple years ago. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Excellent! Sunday, Keith and I went to the National Gallery of Art for a look at Luis Melendez the Spanish master painter's still lives of the 1700's, beautiful exhibition that opened a few weeks ago.  I did some sketching of the objects that accompany the show while Keith looked at all the paintings I saw opening day. Next was the long awaited Washington DC premiere of a French film by Agnes Varda : The Beaches of Agnes (Les Plages d'Agnes) 2008, a auto biography by the 80 year old "new wave" film maker which was a pure delight. She remembers being at the beach all through her life and sailing in a small boat, from her home on a bigger boat, up the river to Paris during the Nazi occupation and shows clips from all her best films since she began in 1955. She has a very powerful life story. I highly recommend seeing her movies. We also saw The Gleaner's and I,  two years ago at NGA it was very interesting and powerful, a great introduction to her work. Gleaners is about people who collect food from the fields after harvest is done in France with the blessing of the farmers. Millet's famous 19th century painting titled Gleaners was the beginning of the story. 
Then I suffered. I searched to replace a model for my Monday night figure drawing group for four  days and none could be found. I gave up and cancelled for this week. The next day a new model called back with dates for later this month which brings me a lot of happiness. He is a great figure and I hope will be a good model for my drawing group after waiting several months for him to give me a date. I went back to the NGA to a great tour with a conservation fellow Monday to distract me from the blues about drawing. The young lady was so enthusiastic and knowledgeable it was well worth the trip. On Sundance cable channel TV Monday night I was lucky to get to see the premiere of the film about Derek Jarman the out gay English film maker who died in 1994 of AIDS. He was one of my heros because he made a very queer film about the man who is saint Sebastiane with subtitles to the all Latin text in 1974 which was the first gay art film I ever saw and later in 1990 he came out about his health status and showed us the grace one could make art and be a dying man worthy in a time where that was not the normal view. If you like Derek Jarman films you should see this film with lots of footage of him telling his own story. His pal Tilda Swilton acted in many of Jarman's  films and wrote and narrated the 2008 Sundance film Derek we watched on Monday night.  
 Tuesday, we did laundry shopping and gardening.  
Wednesday, I went to a 5 hour tree forum presented for DC residents by experts from across the country on urban forestry. They told us how to become better tree caretakers for our community trees and served a nice lunch.  Then after a rest, Keith and I enjoyed a tour of the mysterious McMillan Reservoir sand filtration water treatment site closed to the public sine 1986 when the DC government bought it from Federals to develop it like the rest of the city. It has been named a national historic site because it is so beautiful and so unique but not yet developed. I have admired it for years from the outside and wondered about what it was. We joined about 75 others that split into one of three guided groups and went inside the locked gates for an hour's look around. We got to go under the visible fields that cover some 25 acres of individual sand filter cells near the Washington Hospital Center and North Capital Street. It has numerous underground cells with vaulted ceilings and a sand floor where water used to be filtered for drinking from 1905-1986. Now Army Corps still filter and store it in the reservoir but they use a modern chemical treatment to remove debris and pathogens in a much smaller facility across the street. I took nearly 90 photos there and spent all day getting those ready to show and share. I loaded them on facebook and will set them on soon. 
Today I uploaded to all 74 photos of the McMillian Reservoir Sand Filtration Site Tour  I found some more interesting information about this place and process on Wikipedia and the Historic Preservation League of Washington DC where the whole site is listed as a historic landmark endangered since 2005.  Slow Sand Filtration is a very green process that requires no electric power to clean water which is still used in developing countries and in the United Kingdom.