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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Dome of the Rock Wailing Western Wall

This year we took the dream trip of a lifetime – visiting Israel and Jordan at the holidays. We gazed out at the sites sacred to three of the world’s great religions, from the golden Dome of the Rock, Islam’s third most holy site which happens to directly abut the Western Wall, all that remains of the destroyed Jewish Second Temple. On Christmas Eve we walked the Via Dolorosa to arrive at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre just as the priests began their procession to the spot upon which it is believed (by the Catholics at least) that Jesus was crucified.

Church of the holy sepulcher

The Old City of Jerusalem was truly magical, both weighted by its incredible history and bustling and real with residents at the same time. The tightly knit Armenian Quarter yielded up a few treasures, like this massive crystal chandelier spied up a hidden staircase.

Armenian chandelier

Chandeliers were a highlight of this trip – maybe they always are for me and I just hadn’t realized pre-Instagram? Spied this massive Dale Chihuly, a sister to the one I saw at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London this summer, at the Aish HaTorah Center in the Jewish Quarter. From their rooftop I took the “money shot” photo that starts the post. The view was incredible.

Dale chihuly chandelier

In the Arab Quarter we saw this amazing graffiti on the walls around a residential door. It’s a celebration and advertisement that someone in the home had done the Hajj, meaning they had made their pilgrimage to Mecca. Before moving to Doha, I would not have known was it was, but now I do, as here people put out flags and decorations for the same reason.

Hajj return grafitti

We went to Bethlehem for the graffiti as well. Our friends that we travelled with have been following the career of graffiti artist Banksy who has numerous pieces up along the walls in Bethlehem, including this one called Armored Vest Peace Dove.

Banksy armored vest peace dove

But the real reason for going to Bethlehem was obviously the Church of the Nativity, although honestly it was so crowded I found it nowhere near as interesting as the Holy Sepulchre, except of course for the chandeliers…

Church of the holy nativity

… and not to get ahead of myself, but I must mention the amazing lavender Murano glass chandelier I found in the flea markets of Old Jaffa in Tel Aviv. But more about that in my next post.

lavender murano chandelier

We caught the Herod’s Tomb exhibition at the Israel Museum along with the Dead Sea Scrolls and a few other “old” things. Personally I was obsessed with his bathroom!

Herod's bathtub

Tiles and mosaics always grab me and this trip was no different. There were Roman and Byzantine bits to be found all over, some out in the open, protected only by sand. My girls loved playing archaeologist and sweeping to make discoveries. We also worked on a real dig one day and found pottery shards, bones and other detritus of the ancient Edomites.

photo

The old crusader fortress and UNESCO World Heritage City of Akko (Acre) was fascinating. It is one of the oldest continually occupied cities in the region and felt as impregnable as it looked. Napoleon lay siege to it for two unsuccessful months as did many other potential conquerors. It truly felt like we stepped back in history.

Akko

My favorite takeaway from Akko was these hexagon tiles in the old Turkish Hammam. I’d like to order some for a kitchen backsplash, wouldn’t you?

Tiles in Turkish bath hammam

We hiked up Masada on New Years Day after an extremely tame Eve.

Masada

Our outdoor activities continued into Jordan where we slept (froze!) in a bedouin camp one night in Wadi Rum. My camera wasn’t good enough to photograph the incredible stars and confetti of the Milky Way, but let me tell you I have never seen the likes of it. We awoke in the morning to a red desert and scenery that seemed as if it had been painted by Hollywood. We hiked, we climbed, our guide cooked us lunch from scratch over an open flame and basically we had the entire place to ourselves.

Wadi Rum

From Wadi Rum we went on to the pièce de résistance of the trip – Petra! We had lowered our expectations, thinking to find it crowded and full of hawkers and simply unable to live up to the spectacular emptiness of the previous day. Instead, it was full of surprises and majesty.

Treasury peek at Petra

Coming out from the narrow canyons to the sight of the Treasury was every bit as exciting as we had hoped.

Treasury at Petra

Even more amazing was the huge Monastery, reached after a long hike. The scale and the location left us speechless – be sure to notice how tiny the two people are in comparison to the structure. These two buildings are the highlights of Petra but everywhere you turned there was something to see.

The Monastery at Petra

We had passed all opportunities to take donkeys or horse carriages preferring to walk the whole way. But the youngest amongst us was determined to at least get a camel ride in. It was a pleasure to grant that wish.

Miss P on a camel

Of course the most pressing thing on my mind was where to buy one of those gorgeous camel blankets, but unfortunately, I couldn’t get that answer. Oh well, an excuse to go back!

For more photos from our trip and to keep up with my day to day finds, check out my Instagram feed. And from my family to yours, we wish you all health and happiness in 2014!

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french campaign bed

Since we were recently talking about daybeds I’d love to share one of my own family flea market stories. Years ago, my husband and I started the tradition of visiting Paris for his birthday very early on in our marriage. February was low season and you could always pick up a super cheap air ticket from New York. My motivation for going was yes, to celebrate his birthday, but really to head out to one of my absolute favorite places in the world - Les Puces de Saint-Ouen – the huge multi-shop market at Porte de Clignancourt commonly referred to as The Paris Flea Market. There really is no place to rival it in the world, and although it has become more expensive these days, there are still always treasures to be found. Definitely a bucket list destination for any antiques scavenger.

While I had bought small items in the past, I had never bought furniture there (something that has since changed dramatically) before that visit. Nor had my husband ever been with me – actually, he hadn’t been my husband prior. For some reason he knew that I loved campaign furniture, in particular the small folding iron beds of the mid 19th century and he spied a beautiful one in a cute stall. Our bed wasn’t particularly special, one of probably thousands of Napoleon III era iron beds that were made for officers to be able to live in comfort while on military campaigns. We asked the price and began negotiations. Now remember, we were newly married and fairly poor, so price was a big issue. Perhaps he wanted to show off his newly minted lawyerly skills, but he ended up negotiating for hours (or it least it seemed that way). In the end he got an amazing deal (and has never bargained for me since), but we almost had a last-minute snafu as the shipping agent was an expensive issue. So he actually managed to talk the dealer into packing it in a bicycle shipping box (oh the joys of collapsible traveling furniture) and inexpensively freighting it straight to JFK where we could just pick it up. As we left the stall, the dealer told me that I had “caught a good one!”

I don’t know if he had a premonition in that moment of two daughters or what, but the bed ended up being ideal for small spaces – New York and Tokyo bedrooms fitting that description. Personally, I’ve always imagined that when my daughter outgrew the bed (which so far she is not willing to give up), that I could use it for myself as a place to lounge, read, nap and dream. Since we bought our beach house, I’ve fantasized about having it outside on the porch, all comfy and inviting, like this…

porch with iron bed

…or this.

Kurgan iron daybed wicker porch CL0312pc Max Kim-Bee

Just imagine the joys of pillow options!

Myra Hoefer HB0606

But now that moving to Doha is on my horizon, I am thinking it might be a perfect piece for our garden there. It never rains, so the rust issue is avoided and hopefully we will have some sort of covered patio that we can hang out on.

iron daybed outside via little emma english rose

iton daybed outside via little emma english home

Amelia Handegan iron daybed on porch

Our shipment is going to be a tight fit in the container, so it’s a good thing that the bed frame folds up flat. I wonder if this bed will end up traversing the globe? Paris-New York-Tokyo-Doha and maybe back to New York some day…

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“…a young apprentice geisha must learn a new way of sleeping after her hair is styled for the first time. She doesn’t use an ordinary pillow any longer, but a taka-makura-which I’ve mentioned before. It’s not so much a pillow as a cradle for the base of the neck. Most are padded with a bag of wheat chaff, but still they’re not much better than putting your neck on a stone.”
Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

It doesn’t sound to me like a very comfortable way to pass the night, but sleeping on a takamakura (tall pillow) was instrumental in preserving the elaborate coiffures worn by geisha.

geisha taking nap on pillow

These days, they make wonderful decorative collectibles, like this one tucked against the books in the side table of a room previously featured in my Provenance column on kasuri over at Cloth & Kind.

IMG_1612

The base is made of lacquered wood that is gently curved, to allow for some rocking movement while in use. A silk or cotton-covered pillow, filled with buckwheat hulls or chaff, crowns it and provides some limited comfort. Dark or orangey-red lacquer is most common and sometimes the pillows are made from interesting textiles, like in this case, covered with asa-no-ha (hemp leaf) pattern. And if you are thinking Kelly Wearstler’s Katana, now you know where she got her inspiration!

takamakura

A similar takamakura rests on the top shelf of a very large collection in a Westchester, NY bedroom. As you can see, most of the geisha pillows are either red or black and the finer ones have detailing in the lacquer. This collection also boasts a few wooden examples as well as some blue & white porcelain ones.

LJ geisha pillows

While many of the lacquer and cloth takamakura date from the 19th century, most of the porcelain ones commonly found are early to mid 20th century. The porcelain ones seem even less comfortable to me, although some are designed with special comfort features, like these two. The top one has small porcelain squares strung together almost like a hammock that allow for movement. The one with the kanji marking on top can accommodate hot water and/or medicines in its hollow cavity and the gaps in the top of the pillow let the steam or aroma rise. I’ve actually seen takamakura with pharmacy labels or stamps.

blue white porcelain geisha pillow

Regardless of their functionality, they are supremely decorative and look great mixed with books in shelves or on their own…

blue white porcelain pillow display

…or combined with other porcelain pieces like these jubako here in a Tokyo entryway…

cate geisha pillows

…or here in a cubbyhole in a girl’s bedroom in San Francisco.

photo

She should be happy they rest on a shelf and that she does not rest on one of them!

N.B. You’ll notice repeats in these photos, but it is not a styling trick. All of these takamakura belong to different people, it’s just that many models were produced on a large-scale. Hand painted ones tend to be older and more individual than the inban, or transferware, versions.

Vintage geisha photo, most probably by T. Enami via Geisha Moments Facebook page.  Thanks to everyone else who provided photos for this post.

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