Berlin with Bowie

Last weekend DB and I and 2 friends took the train to Berlin, mainly to see the David Bowie exhibition. P. is a maniac Bowie fan and this was his birthday present from K.  DB and I just went along for gezelligheid.

We left Amsterdam at 7am Friday morning and rode the train for 6 hours.  We talked, ate snacks, and I knit my travel project.  We checked in to rooms in a really nice small hotel in the North-Center of the city. Already Friday afternoon DB had bought an album (on vinyl), I had bought chocolate and we drank beer.

Saturday morning we were up early because we had tickets for a particular time slot at the museum.  Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos of the Bowie exhibition.  On the one hand that made me a little sad, but on the other hand it freed me from thinking about taking photos and to enjoy the event instead, and also freed me from annoying people putting their cameras/phones in the way.

The exhibition was mainly about his costumes, but was a full emersion experience with headphones with music and voiceover, videos, and pictures and artifacts from Bowie’s life.

The costumes were just amazing. They were all exquisitely made down to every detail.  Here is a photo from the V&A web page.  I just loved this exhibit.  It made me feel nostalgic, and in awe of this creative genius.  The exhibit will be in the Netherlands, in Groningen, at the end of 2015.  We’ll be going back!

We also saw, on another floor in the museum, an exhibit by WeiWei, the Chinese dissident artist. After seeing Bowie, this was so different and kind of a let down.  I understand that the topic was to demonstrate the way that he has been dealt with by the Chinese government, but both DB and I asked ourselves, if he wasn’t treated in this way, would he still be a famous artist?

I really like Berlin. This was the 3rd time I’ve been there.  If I had to live in a city, this is one I could live in.  We spent most of our time in the old East Berlin.  There are so many great shops and cafes!  And markets.  We were there last time in January and it was ice cold and snowy.  What a difference the weather makes!  There were no people out and about in January.  In July the city is humming with people, outside at cafes, beer gardens, shopping. It has a nice buzz going.

I didn’t take a lot of photos during the weekend (compared to my usual clicking habit) but here are some of the best.

The above photo was taken at a flea market Sunday morning.  They are boxes full of old black and white photos.  I couldn’t stop myself from looking through them, wondering, who are these people? are they still alive? what were their lives like? why are their photos here in this box?

Dyeing Success!

Yesterday I went to the first day of the Mixed Media & Surface Design course at DIY Textile School.  We did lots of different resist dye techniques on cotton fabrics.  We brought home all our little fabrics in zip lock bags, which we were to open and rinse out the next day, which was today.

I am so excited about the results that I had to take a couple of quick photos and share.  They still need to dry and be ironed, and then I’ll do a better photo shoot.

How did we make all these beautiful fabrics?  Ha! You’ll have to take the course to find out!  Next week we’re doing screen printing and stamping to create our own fabrics.  Can’t wait!

 

Kaffe Fasset in Amsterdam

Last night Kaffee Fassett had a book signing and a gave a short talk in Amsterdam.  It was sponsored by the American Book Center (ABC).  The book signing took place on the ground floor of the ABC shop and the talk was just a short walk away at the ABC Treehouse.

That’s Kaffe, seated, signing books and laughing with customers/admirers.  Brandon Mably stands nearby.  Kaffe is so animated and is always moving, making it a challenge to get a good photo of him!

He has just published his memoirs, titled “Dreaming in Color – an autobiography”, which is the reason behind the book tour.  I have yet to read it, but given the amazing life this man has lead, I’m sure it’s going to be a page turner!

During the talk at the Treehouse he showed us some of his work.  It was just a tease.  But still nice to see some of his things in person.  I first saw both Kaffe and Brandon on the Vogue Knitting Tour to Alaska in 1999.  They tried to teach us how to use color in free and organic ways.  I think I failed.  At that time I just couldn’t get my mind wrapped around knitting without a chart to tell me what to do.  I think today I would be a much better student.

Here are some photos from last night.

Of course I wore my Tumbling Blocks Kaffee Fassett sweater.  I made it in 1990 as far as I remember.  I definitely remember cursing at all the ends I had to weave in in the back!  That sweater is over 20 years old but it’s still going strong.  I don’t wear it very often anymore because the style is rather out of date (remember big 80’s sweaters?).  But for this occasion I had to wear it.  When Kaffe was signing my book I showed him the sweater, then I showed him my copy of his first book that has that sweater pattern in it.  He signed that book too and seemed really happy to see someone carrying it around.

I just wish that he would have talked longer.  Much longer.  The talk seemed really short and constrained by the ABC’s timing issues.  I would have loved to hear about his amazing life.  I’ll just have to read about it instead.

 

TodaysArt Festival

This past weekend we went to the TodaysArt festival in den Haag.  It’s a festival full of music, sculpture, video, film, dance and more I’m sure.  We only saw a small fraction of it.

Friday late afternoon we showed up and wandered into the City Hall Atrium.  We watched a team of people put finishing touches on the Landscape:

And watched Wolfgang prepare for his show later that evening as Mohn.

 

Unfortunately Mohn would be playing very late Friday night, past our bedtime, so I was really happy to get to hear a little of their music while they set up.

After we had some dinner we headed to the Lucent Danstheater and listened to “Music for Solaris”.

The music was played by the two composers, Ben Frost and Daniel Bjarnason and a small orchestra from Poland.  In the background a video played, using film from a movie adaptation and other manipulations.  It was often beautiful and surprising, very moody and captivating music.  My only criticism is that it went on just a little too long and in the end didn’t seem to have a connection between video and music.  The video ran out of steam and showed colored screens until the end of the music.  The actual end of the piece was lovely the way they dropped away to silence, but they should have done it 10 minutes earlier.

After that we went back to the City Hall Atrium to see that the lights had been set and everything looked very different.  Also, on the stage  was “Inneract”, another music/video concert, this time with a harp player and two keyboard/electronics players.  Here are some photos of the scene there.

Outside, in the Spuiplein, “The Vortex” was alive with music and lights.  It’s made of garbage that had been gathered from people in den Haag (The Hague in English).

Saturday we went back and watched the film “Outliers Vol. 1: Iceland”.  It was basically part documentary and part art film about 7 artists who went to Iceland to take photos and film and sound and create something from that.  It was so beautiful!  The country is beautiful and the images and sounds and music they made is also beautiful.  I really do have to go there.  Especially when the seasons are changing and there’s a chance of seeing lights in the sky.

We didn’t do much else Saturday at the festival because I was coming down with the flu.  By the time the movie was over I was already feverish.  We ate, then came home on the train.  I felt bad because there was still so much to see.  Oh well.  Next year.

The train home:

(All photos taken with Nikon D5100 and 50mm 1.8 manual focus lens (thanks Mom!), no photoshop done anywhere.)

Bright Dyes

With my bum shoulder I haven’t been able to do much knitting lately.  But I can still dye yarn and that’s just what I did yesterday.  Above are the results (plus some black silk, photos below).

The 4 skeins at the front of the photo are all Rowan Purelife British Sheep Breeds Chunky Undyed.  I used these colors on this yarn mainly to test out the dye and see how it looks on wool.  And yes, it’s kind of expensive yarn for a dyeing experiment, but undyed yarn is not that easy to find around here and it’s what I had.  (I bought these from Ribbels, in Leiden) Now that I see it, I’m super happy with the results.  You know, bright colors are the in thing, so I’m planning now to make a hat and cowl/scarf with these four colors together.  THAT ought to brighten up a dreary Dutch winter day!

The dye colors are all Dharma Trading acid dyes in colors:  fluorescent lemon, fluorescent safety orange, true turquoise, fluorescent fuchsia.

This green is 50/50 wool acrylic Mille II from Lana Grossa, also a bulky weight.  The dye color is chartreuse.  I’m going to make a new iPhone sock with it.  You know, green apple green.

I also dyed some 100% silk lace weight yarn, 3 skeins 50g each.  One skein had already been dyed black, but it wasn’t a good dye job.  There were some grey and white spots where the dye didn’t get under the skein ties.

If you look hard at the above image you can see that the skein on the far right is the one that had already been dyed black.  It’s just a bit blacker.  They aren’t quite dry yet but I don’t expect the colors to change much.  Silk is tricky to dye.  It takes stronger dye to get the same strength of color as you would with wool, and you have to watch the temperature carefully.  If you cook silk at too high a temperature it will loose its shine.  For this dye session I used quite a lot of black dye powder (double strength) and it soaked up every bit of the dye without any rinsing out.  I think I will just call it good and consider them 2 different dye lots.  At least there are no light spots or streaks of color.

All of this dyeing was done with the immersion method on my stovetop.  First I made up dye solutions.  I could have made the solution right in the pot I would use for dyeing, which I did for the green and the black (the first and last to cook), but I used the time while the green was cooking to make up these other colors ahead of time.  I made up 2% solution which is double the strength I needed.  I just wanted to be ready in case I wasn’t happy with the ‘normal’ strength and wanted to boost the color.  For each dye cook I poured in half the jar of dye solution, 1/4 cup of vinegar and 2 liters or so of water – for 100g of wool.  It was only with the yellow that I ended up dumping in the second half of the dye solution.  I wanted a super yellow and seemed to need the extra dye to get there.

Each dye pot was cooked, at just below boiling, for 50 minutes.  I then drained the water out and dumped the wet yarn onto my rack outside to cool off completely before I rinsed them.  The only variation was the silk, which was cooked at a little lower temp for an hour.  I also let the silk sit in the pan with the fire off for a couple of hours to cool, but that was mainly because I was eating dinner and didn’t want to bother with them.

What’s next?  I have a lot of other colors I want to try out, and lots of fingering weight yarn to try it out on.  The Ravelympics Ravellenic Games are coming up (beginning 27 July) and I will dye yarn then for my event.  I want to do some multi-colored skeins using paintbrushes and spray bottles.  Those skeins will then be either steamed or heated in the microwave to set.  I can’t wait to try it out!

I end up dyeing yarn like I do most things – I expect, and want, my experiments to be good enough end products to be usable in projects or wearable designs.  I don’t make time or resources available for true experimentation.  Is that because I tend to be a Type A personality? Or because I just never seem to have as much time/resources as I think I need to experiment?  Or do I think deep down that experimenting is a waste of time?  Am I so practical and so non-artistic?  When I have some more time I’ll have to think further about that….

Walk on Water

Last night we went to see Orfeo ed Euridice (official poster above) at the Palace at Soestdijk.  This was (still is?) a royal palace, but it was/is a museum and special event place now.  The opera takes place on and in the water outside of the palace.

We were not supposed to take photos but I took a few before the performance began and sneaked a couple during the performance.  I wish I could have taken more. It was just stunning!  There was fire and water and music and singing.  The did amazing things with light and water.  Even the royal family got in on the act (you’ll have to go see it yourself if you want to know what I mean).

We got “cast and crew” discount tickets because a friend of mine plays the trombone in the orchestra.  Not only were they at a terrific discount, but they were great seats!  We were in the second row, left of center.  We thought that the performance started at 9:30 but that’s when the gates open, normally.  They vary the start time depending on the time of year and when it will be dark.  Last night the performance started just after 10pm as that’s when it was dusk.

Some photos:

I didn’t know the story in detail and was surprised that there was a happy ending.  After all the wailing and gnashing of teeth (figuratively of course) the story was saved by Queen Juliana.

I highly recommend going to see this wonderful opera production.  Even if you aren’t an opera fan, and I’m not, you will enjoy the spectacle and the surprises here and there.  You can get tickets here.  Be quick! August 8th is the last performance!

Den Haag and TodaysArt

Friday night and Saturday afternoon/night we went to Den Haag.  DB won free tickets (thanks KINK!) to TodaysArt.  As they state on their web site, “TodaysArt is a festival concept that revolves around the presentation and development of adventurous contemporary visual and performing arts”.

Friday night we saw two dance programs, the first MCDance and the second Hiroaki Umeda from Japan with Holistic Strata.  I enjoyed them both so much!  The performances were very different, but the same in that they relied heavily on video and music.  Actually, video, music and dance combined to create really unique experiences for the audience.  I felt so much a part of the room and everything in it because more of your senses were engaged.  The dancers in MCDance were absolutely amazing.  They (1 man, 1 woman) also choreographed the dance.  Hiroaki Umeda did not put as much into the dance as he did into the video and music, but still amazing to watch and participate in.

Saturday we went back in the afternoon, hoping to see some open air things, but that part was pretty disappointing – not much to see.  So we went shopping.  Well, I did anyway – bought a dress – which needs altering of course (as does everything I buy in this country of giants).  In the end we went back to the same theater to see Murcof.  DB had heard of him but I had not.  He made a collaboration with a Dutch video artist named Simon Geilfus and the two of them created an hour of enthralling sight and sound.  The sound was sometimes very ambiant, sometimes reminded me of bits of Pink Floyd, sometimes like nothing I’d heard before.  They both sat at tables with computers and electronic equipment.  In front of them was a translucent screen where the images were projected, but through which we could still see them sitting.  The images were all very geometric, computer generated, sometimes so 3-D you could touch them.  Sometimes almost seeming alive.

We only saw a bit of the festival, but what we saw I loved and highly recommend.  We had to get to the venue early to get seats as there were only 200 and both nights were sold out.

The photo above was taken as you walk from the Queen’s house,

through the Binnenhof, and out the other end to the Plein.  There are outdoor cafes, buzzing with people, and the Ministry buildings and other high rises behind them.  In person it’s a very interesting image.  My little camera didn’t capture it so well, but maybe you get the idea.  If you’re in town, on a clear night, go check it out.