Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Background of a Passion

         Some of my earliest memories as a child were sitting besides my maternal grandmother’s sewing machine and watching her doing her intricate embroideries. And I’m not talking about one of those preprogrammed computerized embroidery machines. It was an old 1920s foot operated Singer with beautiful wrought iron legs. I was mesmerized by the synchrony between her feet, rhythmically moving back and forth to set the machine in motion and her hands constantly sliding the embroidery hoop within a barely visible range of motion, to form the impeccable stitches with which she created her exquisite embroideries.

My Grandmother /at the front/ at the Singer Embroidery School 1924

         On another day I’m quietly waiting in the corner of my other grandmother’s ground floor room where she is counting and stringing hundreds of strands of yarn and winding them on the warp beam, prepping them to be stretched on a loom and woven into colorful rugs and cloths while chatting and exchanging the newest gossip with the women from all over the county who are here to rent her skills.

Couple of blouses my grandmother made for me in my early teens

         Later that same day I’ll go out in the yard to watch my grandfather soaking planks of wood and slowly and patently shaping them and putting them together to build a strong and nice smelling wooden barrel.
         There were times when I patiently had to wait for the little wood burning stove to heat up so my other grandfather could melt the little pot of gold he needed to cast his jewelry. I still remember the awe I felt every time when later on he would open the mold and pull from inside a piece which minutes ago was just a shapeless molten liquid and now was a cast piece that already had the outlines of a ring, pendant or a bracelet.

A pendant from my grandfather, present for my graduation
         Still fresh in my memory are the countless evenings when after dinner I’ll sit and observe my mother doing her cross stitch embroidery, crochet or knitting while listening to her teaching me how to make the stitches more even and precise or how to hide the knots and ends so the back of the work looks almost as nice and neat as the face.

One of my mom's embroideries

          How can I even begin to express the pride I felt at the openings of my father’s gallery shows? After all I must have had contributed something to his art works too. Didn’t he tell me that I’ve been the inspiration for some of them. Didn’t I follow him faithfully to each gallery or museum, soak in every word, memorize every image.

Couple of my dad's artworks

          Since my earliest memories are from the age of three, by the time of my maturity I had plenty of time to cultivate my love and passion for art, fine hand made objects, artisanship and compassion for all the dying crafts that have adorned our lives.
          For centuries people have been using every spare moment to create all the little objects that fill their homes and their lives, paying equal attention as much to the practical as to the esthetic aspect of them.
          Nowadays the evolution of new technologies and know haws has brought millions of improvements to our lives, but at the same time we began loosing the beauty which all those hand crafted items carry. Nobody will question the superiority of industrial design and cost effectiveness of mass production, but can they replace the exquisite charm, finesse and warmth of the masterfully crafted piece bearing the mark of a talented artisan.
           I feel very fortunate to know and be surrounded by many artists and craftsmen, who keep preserving and perfecting their chosen medium, but beyond this circle, I see an increasing amount of people who are completely ignorant about the skills and effort needed to produce even the simplest item.
           I’ve devoted a lot of my time to the fascinating journey to immerse myself in the work of many artists. During my visits to the museums and galleries in every place I’ve traveled to, during all my searches in libraries and websites I’ve developed an immense appreciation of everything that comes out from under the dexterous fingers of a man. I felt like a privileged guest invited to enter their world in attempt to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of it.

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