barcelona flaneuse

I've been to Barcelona three times and I'm ready to return!


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KINTSUGI…And Creating a Regular Feature

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Not so long ago I swept my favorite tea bottle off the table with my elbow.  The tea bottle and I were both shattered. My impulse is always to save the shards, and I discovered the interior compartment was unbroken.  I put all the bits I could find into a bag and waited for inspiration to strike.

Time passed.  I considered putting the pieces together as well as I could, then covering the outside with papier mache, creating a sort of egg shell. But I saw no solution for washing the bottle.  I couldn’t imagine a way to make the papier mache waterproof — and I’d have covered up the blue and white ceramic, the reason I chose this bottle.

A solution occurred to me when I found a roll of clear, broad packing tape on the shelf near the epoxy I would use for the first step in reassembly.  The gluing was difficult — as much on me as the fragments, and yes, there were gaps.

Next I wrapped the scarred surface in the transparent tape.  It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.  It could be rinsed out and the bottle insulated the tea better than it had undamaged.  It occurred to me later that I was, in a clumsy way, practicing kintsugi, the art of mending or making do.

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In the Japanese tradition, valuable ceramics were repaired in a manner that did not attempt to hide the repair but to dramatize it with a sprinkling of powdered gold along the seams.  I had no gold powder, but I may have been practicing a more immediate tradition. My mother too saved the shards.  Her attitude always was, “If nothing else, I can put dried flowers in it!”  And blue and white objects were always salvaged.

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A week with a huge dumpster at my disposal has me asking many questions.  What is worth saving?  How do I decide? Is it a question of repairing or finding a new purpose?  When do I let go?

Clearly these questions apply to more than ancient blue and white tea pots.  But the urgent matter at hand is a blue plant pot that cracked when it was left out in last winter’s extreme cold.  Time to get the epoxy.


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ART GEAR — Tins and Pocket Protectors

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A few years ago I was in the process of encouraging friends and students to take art gear with them everywhere so they could liven up their journals.  One of my strategies was the “Vest Pocket Studio,” which is contained in a clear plastic pocket protector.  I filled the compartments of a seven-day pill container with watercolors from tubes, added a pen (extra fine point, Pilot V Ball pens are waterfast), a tiny watercolor brush, some 2 x 3 inch pieces of watercolor paper, a folded paper towel and was ready to go!  Not pictured here is the super-handy water brush which will fit in neatly and eliminates the need for a separate water container.

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Another alternative is to take advantage of the many tiny tins that exist in the world and use them to contain art supplies. The Vermints tin at the top is three inches by two and a quarter and it will hold nine half-pans of watercolor (I haven’t filled these yet), a tiny pencil and brush (the brush’s handle comes off to contain the brush-tip), and a few pieces of carefully cut watercolor paper.  In my experience, children love the tiny six-pan tin at the bottom of the picture.

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Of course  you can rely on the trusty old Windsor and Newton compact travel kit (a messy one seen at the bottom), but I also like Peerless Water Colors, pigment dried on paper, which then allows you to cut it into small sheets and stable them to a “palate” as I did above.  I clip these bits of instant color into the back of my journal, then all I need is my water brush.

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I put a small sheet of pastry parchment over each sheet so that if I close them when they are still wet they won’t stick together.

The tins for Altoid mints come in several sizes and can accommodate between six and a dozen half-pans and a collapsing brush or a small water-brush (available in art supply stores and catalogs).  So save your tins and you’ll have no excuse not to bring some color to your next sketching session.