Thursday, 29 September 2016


We walked into the little hut that is David Hul's Scrimshaw Studio in Julian, Ca. While we were admiring all his decorated skulls and knives and learning about scrimshaw, David said to me, 'You are very colourful!'. I'm not sure it was meant as a compliment, but it made me smile, because the more I travel, the more I tend to accumulate layers of colour, mementos, souvenirs, gifts, in a happy, wild confusion. While I move through space and time, the stationary residents look at me with amusement or, rather, bemusement. When I think of this layering, tattoos of experience and memory, good and bad branding on the skin or the heart or the wrinkles, I think of my long lost copy of Superslave, gone AWOL sometime at the end of the Seventies. I always thought of buying it again, but never did. What I remember of Superslave is that he was going on a lot of adventures. These adventures changed him, his hair was shorter or longer, the clothes different. In most of the adventures Superslave died, and came back to life with a new tattoo that symbolised his new death - if he drowned, he would have a tattoo of waves, etc. He ended up covered in tattoos.

I didn't ask David Hul what tattoos he might have accumulated in his life as a California scrimshaw artist, but his studio was layered with so many things, bones, pictures, books. I could have spent hours in there, but I didn't. I guess I thought I could just 'look him up later', but David is an off the grid type of guy, so I lost a great opportunity for learning. Perhaps because I was momentarily blinded by protagonism, I forgot how to be an explorer and discover more. All I could find online later was this amazing picture of him in his studio.

Saturday, 3 September 2016


Others have an otherness that seems so perfect. Otherness is the only thing I cannot achieve. I wonder if others can achieve it. Or if it's the limit of being self that you can never quite surprise yourself as novelty can. There is a mystery in other that I don't quite find in self. A new dress before it is worn promises things that dissipate once worn. I guess that, although I am a very curious person, I don't seem to have much curiosity for self, I don't believe there is a mystery about me, just a work in progress. Hence, I have to move on, all the time. Other, well, other cannot but move all the time, blurred like trees from a train. I want to stop the blur, I want to remember, but as soon as I do, it becomes self.

Location:Deal, Kent

Sunday, 3 July 2016

On identity, value and more

First of all, this is not one of my works, it's Bernard Meadows. I believe. In a way it could be my work. I spend my days looking for mirrors, stories that could be my stories, I collect, to save memories, mine and others', in pleasant confusion, happy to lose my boundaries between me and my story. I don't remember the titles of the books I read. I don't remember where that pebble or that trinket comes from. But I do remember that everything I collect is there because it's important to me, it informs who I am. I'd like to think that others might be collecting me as part of blurring their own boundaries. Sometimes I feel that it's so hard to be collected, one pebble on a shingle beach. That makes me sad and makes me question my collection and my value. And then I start losing things, moments, creations. Because the round peg doesn't fit in the square hole I feel like giving up to avoid bashing it in. But perhaps the solution is to leave the peg sitting on the box with the holes and let others try to make it fit or not, while I keep on collecting.


Wednesday, 4 May 2016

On weaving and other stories

The word 'trama' in Italian means both weft and plot.  Perhaps because of that, I have always associated weaving with narrative. Perhaps, also, because I was thinking of Penelope's web which seemed to unravel parallel to Odysseus's journey. I don't know if weft and plot have etymological affinities in English, but the word 'thread' for instance is used to describe a continuity in a situation or story. Stories have been woven and embroidered throughout times and cultures. But it was only when I started weaving that I understood why at a deeper level. Everything gets woven into your fabric, the music you are listening to, your thoughts, your memories. It also becomes a way of making sense of things, 'string' them together. My interest for weaving, and, more generally, for fibre art, I think started from a passion for upcycling, repurposing, finding ways to use scraps of anything, paper, cardboard, and, of course, fabric and yarn. For some reason, this journey kept on taking me back to Japan, where recycling is not just a modern buzzword, a concept used to soothe the consumer's sense of guilt. Creative reuse of  material has existed in Japan for hundreds of years.  At the basis of it is the concept of 'mottainai', a regret for waste. 'Mottainai' is an old Buddhist word, linked to the Shinto idea that objects have souls. 'Boro' is the clothing used by peasants and artisans between the 17th and the 19th century. Basically they are garments made of rags, often in indigo shades, stitched together, patches to repair old clothes. And because of that, they are also journals, memoires, mementos of clothes once belonged to parents and grandparents. The other word that inspired the little handbag I made, is 'sakiori', narrow strips of worn out fabric weaved into new fabric. Which is what I did here, with and old piece of lining fabric. I also used my very primitive version of  'sashiko', a functional embroidery used to reinforce fabric. The world of Japanese textile art is amazingly inspiring, and I have only scraped the surface here. But this handbag I made, while waiting for my hip to heal, was a great experience, completely sewn by hand, with recycled materials, it contains a little part of my soul.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Living the 'hippy' life

Being the proud owner of the most awkward furniture in the world, I resorted to the teachings of the princess on the pea, and piled up all sorts of cushions, pillows, throws and towels to prop myself up into a bearable position. On one side of this chair there's a stereo, on the other a table full of my weaving junk. That weird instrument with a yellow handle is a reacher. So, I sit on my chair, listen to music and weave on a children's lap loom. And the mind explores whatever it wants, enjoying the no-pressure zone allowed by the general reduced functionality. So, here goes. I was listening to a radio station algorithmed to match my musical tastes and, surprisingly, it did. Although it had a stronger inclination towards Delta blues than I would naturally have, but I didn't mind. Weaving and dreaming, I ended up in a trailer on the Mississippi river, where a number of different gigantic ladies in crutches were pirohuetting with extreme agility around their environment. Cooking pie, playing acoustic guitar, then getting inside their battered car to go have a drink in some remote run down bar with an analogue clock. And I sang a funeral dirge in my head, for old metal analogue clocks, that are now bought only by hipstery craftbeerers, as a statement.
Getting back to my large lady on crutches, I admire her dexterity. My crutches fall all the time, or they end up miles away from me, or they slip off my arm. The reacher, well, that's another story, it basically has the lamest clamp, and loses grip on heavy objects. Trying to lift a bottle of water from the floor yesterday was almost comical. Ir reminded me of people trying to start a fire with flint. You can either freak out, turn your husband into a full time butler or nurse, or get back to a time in which things took time. That was how it was, and it was not questioned. If it takes half an hour to lift a bottle of water, than that be it. To slow right down like that is actually not bad, it's a humbling, spiritual experience. In the end you feel very calm, and wonder why you ever rushed.
My reacher has a magnetic tip, and I was wondering why, until I dropped all my needles.
Summary of first week with new hip: I spend most of my time dropping things and picking them up, misplacing the crutches, remembering things that I need only once I'm sitting down. Weaving, lots of weaving. I will explore this subject in the next few days, and take you on a dream journey of ancient Japan...

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Hip hip hurray

I am home. For the second time. I went back to hospital by ambulance in the middle of the night. Fever, palpitations. Paramedics were young, skinny, wide-eyed, full of passion and dedication. And that is what I saw over and over in hospital. People with a passion, tough yet delicate. They dream, they hope, they do really care. When you are a patient in hospital, very quickly you lose your dignity, you do things that you would not dare do in the presence of your most intimate partner. But the dignity you lose, is it very important? We are there with a different form of dignity, that of getting better, it doesn' matter much that we make funny noises, that we smell funny, that we have a rather unappealing shade of green to our complexion. Your values change so quickly, your priorities, your tolerance. An old guy called Patrick, full of tattoos and bruises was parked outside my door. He wanted to go home. There was only one problem: nobody knew where his home was. He had some form of dementia, yet he was there, now part of my life. The pretty nurses with their wide eyes, smooth faces and hours of unrelenting work were telling him that everything was okay, the ambulance was coming, he would be home soon. "All I need is a pound for the bus", he replied. 
I cried at some point, waiting for tests, x-rays. But I cried because I was lying on my back, and I don't like lying on my back. I had faith that everything else, the important stuff, would be looked after. This morning, having regained enough strength to even make my cup of coffee and ponder upon puzzles like, how do you carry a cup of coffee with two crutches? I sat again at my computer to resume my surfing, fidgeting, faffing life. And I came across, by total coincidence, some footage of Frida Khalo painting in hospital. She looked gorgeous in her amazing clothes, perfect hair, jewellery. I felt a pang of envy, or probably just a great deal of admiration. Because she never lost her spirit. Ever. She was always a work of art. And I want to do the same. Out of this simple but intense operation, I want to create beauty, to spread beauty. 
And also, as a footnote, to those of you who complain about the NHS: they are pretty good. 

Monday, 7 March 2016

Scava ombre profonde

I was thinking, while doing an ECG for my new hip, I was thinking that the ECG was similar to my moods, little peaks and lows, smaller, wider, higher, lower.  I was also thinking of how polarised my mood peaks are, with a high = collect, and low = discard. In the high peaks I get excited about collecting everything, creating, reading, watching, doing, a magical whirlwind of stuff. In the lows, I entrust my memory with all the work, and believe that anything written, anything physical, will choke me more than give me joy. All of these waves are as frequent as the ECG, it's the rough sea of my life, and the more I sail it, the less I seem to know the way. I spend quite some time in these ruminations, trying to convince myself that collecting, keeping, writing down, making, is always good, even when the belief wavers. And I get a shiver of happiness thinking of Leonardo writing about his soup becoming cold, and Tolstoy's diaries, so many that nobody will ever accomplish the task of translating them all. Yet Tolstoy didn't write his diaries for 15 years. 15. OK, he was writing War and Peace, in the meantime, and maybe then watching football on TV (I know what you are thinking). But for 15 years his ECG must have changed. And Leonardo was not always happy, or hardly ever, for that matter. So, it's not about happiness, most things aren't. Perhaps it's about sharing. You collect, you preserve, you share. But then, in the lows, I wonder whether it really is important to share, whether it is even possible. And all the work that goes in it, self promotion, the effort (not much) to be understandable, or just to be present. But in the highs of travel, the exploration of new, old, rediscovered, reframed, there is so much, so much wonderful stuff, that quickly leaks away through the sieve of memory, and it's lost forever. Or not. I'm not sure. Did writing about soup help Leonardo fly?

Sunday, 21 February 2016


Contrary to public assumptions, I'm not a hoarder. I don't keep 'just in case' things or 'you never know when you might' things. Everything that doesn't have an immediate or obvious purpose goes straight in the bin, black or green accordingly. So when I decide that it would be nice to do a project with cereal boxes, or plastic bags, or cardboard... well, I don't have any. But junk seems to accumulate so fast, I cannot really keep it 'just in case'. So here is my solution - a small art junk box next to the recycling bin. When it's full, I rummage through it and try to make stuff. What doesn't get used goes into the recycling bin, and the box no doubt will be full again with new junk in a couple of days. Now, the content of this box is rather uninviting (unless you like garden peas). Will I succeed in making interesting things out of it? I'll keep you posted. I am also tired of buying stuff. It seems like everyday I can think of something that I NEED to have. So, I'm taking a break from buying and I'm developing better problem solving skills instead. I use what I have or find what I don't have in creative ways. What's the meaning of it all? None, really. It's just a game, a challenge, a puzzle. When I'm bored of it, I'll stop. But something tells me I won't be bored for a while. It's nice to be back at blogging, too. Sometimes life is gentler.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

My life with Bowie and mirrors

Me in my Bowie days, age 18
One day, when I was a kid, I found a discarded, tattered journal. And in every page there was a picture of a creature who cultivated, or had, an odd and profound beauty. To me, already obsessed with fragility and ephemerality, this young and old, male and female ker with orange hair, who sings My Death Waits, who know Jacques Brel, like my father knows Jacques Brel, like he actually is Jacques Brel, and the other Jacques, a whirlwind of feullies mortes in Paris. To me, he becomes the key to a mirror maze, where history repeats itself with so many minute variations that you find yourself lost and so far away, seeing reflections that don't see each other, and walls that are not really there. I needed to hear him, though, not just look at pictures glued in somebody's book. A friend goes to London and I ask her to bring him back to me, his voice, his words, a piece of his stage. And she comes back with the Man who Sold the World. And I stand in front of my wall, of course, and stare at it so deeply that it melts into the other side. The night side, the blurred boundaries. And my own mirror where I practise to kiss, wrapping myself in a feather boa. The street is silent, the room mine to play with, the shackles still in place. But the boundaries have become blurred. And this is Genoa, not too spiritually far from the Port of Amsterdam. Genoa, with its streets of decadence, struggle, red light prostitution with creatures of all ages and sizes and multiple variations of sexes. Was that not a stage? A play of mirrors where the red light smooths your skin, where the too young seem old enough, and the too old are still good for a night, or to hide you under their beds until your crimes are forgotten. Crimes, I had committed none, I preferred dreams. And then Jean Genie was another piece of the puzzle, although the roofs were a mixture of Florence, Paris, the greyness of the Genoa slates, and not so much of New York. And it was Jean Genet that I followed, not yet Iggy, through the meanders of his Lady of the Flowers, his bizarre films, his castling in prison. While my father tried to point out that the lumpenproletariat didn't even know (or care) about the Nazis. One little twist of the mirror and the scenario behind is totally changed. I found my Lady of the Flowers, called Cinzia, who liked to embarrass me by comparing freckles. She wasn't interested in girls, and her world was so remote from mine. Then aliens came, and 1984, that my father said it had been safely written or published in 1948, not during the war. And the game continued, where he knew my every move, from a slightly different angle, and introduced me to a world of real cabaret, Paolo Poli, who called me Grillino (little cricket). And not White Duchess. I am, after all, still a Grillino much more than I have ever been a creature of the night. Bowie taught me about different worlds, the flimsiness of self definition, the constant search, the slight changes that become rifts, that become slight changes, and that eventually melt into one marvellous, harmonious, if dissonant, melody.