An elegant sufficiency

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

No longer here

An Elegant Sufficiency will no longer be updated at this place
Please adjust your bookmark and feed settings and come visit my new home at
See you there!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Landed safely

Cabin crew, doors to manual and cross check.

It's beeen a bit of a bumpy landing but we're there. Please keep your seatbelts fastened until you're well inside the new terminal building...

No passports or visas needed. You'll feel quite at home the minute you arrive, I hope. Do come and visit An Elegant Sufficiency at its new address. Oh, and leave a comment and let me know what you think, won't you please?

For the time being, An Elegant Sufficiency 365 will stay here on Blogger. It's comfy there!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A New Adventure

With a pretty full diary in the coming weeks and things at home to sort out, what have I decided to do? Move my blog! Well, it's a rainy Saturday and the washing machine doesn't need me to interfere too much, I hope.

Anyway, in the last few weeks, as I've posted photographs and stories of our travels, I've become aware of the slight flakiness of Blogger. Don't get me wrong - I still think it's a great tool for simple blogging and will continue to use it. But as I've got three years worth of valuable (to me) blog sitting there with no easy way of backup, I thought I'd explore an alternative and signed up with Squarespace for a free trial.

Very impressed so far. Lots to tweak, much to learn. But quite straightforward, the "create" interface is remarkably familiar and the ease of use comes as a relief. I've managed to import the whole of my blogger blog across in seconds and I think I'm committed enough to sign up for a paid account pretty soon.

It's a powerful beast though and I can see it being a great new toy to fiddle with.

I'm going to play around with it for a little while abd do a bit of "double posting" before switching over completely, so don't worry, I won't leave you behind when I move on! I'll signpost you to the new place before long and invite you to tell me what you think.

Monday, September 01, 2008

But also...

...just in case you think I've got the life of Riley here, other commitments in the coming weeks include

a number of meetings,, most of which will have a distinct focus, likely to be...

...the imminent OFSTED inspection

planning, prepping and facilitating several training sessions

three other workshops to plan, prep and deliver

a serious, professional training programme to complete

finish some samples for display

three speaking engagements

a report to write

two competitions to judge

and all the fun of the fair here at home, where I'm trying to have a bit of a sort out.

Life is never dull - and that's just the way I love it!

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Sunday, August 31, 2008


Just looking at the tickets we've got stashed away for the Autumn, I find quite a few things to look forward to.

Two awards dinners, one in London, one in Birmingham

one Stuart Singers concert tour to Hertfordshire

an evening with Ben Fogle in Cheltenham

(not just me, but with 900 other WI members!)

a few evenings in Symphony Hall, Birmingham

a craft exhibition or two (maybe three) one of which includes...

...a trip to Paris

two transatlantic flights and return

an evening at the Boston Symphony

an evening with the Jupiter Quartet in New York

and one Red Cross Ball.
(OK, that was the best google could find to illustrate that one! No golf will be involved)


Treasures from the trip

There's not a great deal of fun to be had opening up a suitcase on return from a trip, especially one which has been delayed in transit. All that washing and stuff that was carelessly pushed in at last minute is hardly something to look forward to seeing, the more so when it's covered in the contents of a bag of purple sticky rice which has burst in transit...

A good job then, that some beautiful treasures were purchased and stashed away at the bottom.

Some things don't travel well and we are not generally souvenir hunters, preferring the practical, the edible and the photographic kind of product to bring home. Items found on markets are often cheap, imported goods from China and I am wary of buying things without sufficient knowledge to discern the genuine from the fake.
Whilst shopping in the night bazaar in Luang Prabang however, I had the benefit of a conversation with Mr Morn in the weaving workshop, had learned a little about the Hmong textile tradition from observation of the Hmong lady working on her batik and read up more in "Legends in the Weaving", a book I bought whilst there. So when I spotted these bags, I recognised the fabrics immediately and knew they had been made from Blue Hmong clothing. What treasure! (My foot is in the picture above so you can get an idea of size and scale)

After all, a girl can't have too many bags, can she? (Dont answer that, Mark) The combination of indigo and scarlet is a classic, isn't it? The geometric batik patterns are intricate and seem to be individual to the piece - I don't know if each woman had her own, personal design or if a family or tribe used the pattern to identify themselves. All I know is that hours and hours of work must have gone into the creation of these wonderful fabrics and that I, for one, am a very appreciative owner.

The scarlet cotton applique has been applied by hand with absolute geometric precision. Mitred corners are beautifully neat and there is little or no bulk. Traditionally the base fabric would have been hemp (as the Hmong woman in the workshop was using) but I am not sure that the fabric of my bags is coarse enough to be hemp. I don't know.

In places, the lengths of fabric have been joined, creating interesting intersections between the patterns.

And those batiked patterns underneath the applique continue to delight and amaze me with their precision.

The hours of work spent on the batik and applique do not complete the process, however, for there is the cross stich section too. This is worked in a variety of fibres in the samples I have - some stranded cotton and some thin woolly thread, worked on an evenweave cloth with slightly less precision as the applique! Fuchsia pink, lemon yellow/lime green and white seem common to all, with hints of emerald green, teal blue or primary blue here and there. I understand the Hmong women work the cross stitch from the back of the cloth and having watched a couple stitching, have no idea how they can produce such elaborate embroidery with such apparent ease. I guess it's practice!

They work four or five arms lengths of fabric for a skirt and may only make one or two in a year. The beauty of their skirt reveals their personality - if they are not full of beautiful batik and embroidery, the woman may be thought of as lazy!

And on each of my bags (ooops, yes, I did buy - ahem - more than one) there is a large red rectangle in the cross stitch panel. On one of them, there's a couple more appliqued squares too, though I didn't see that elsewhere.

To put all of this into context, here's a photo I scanned from the Legends in the Weaving book, showing a Blue Hmong woman making the pleats in her fabric to create a skirt. Sadly, these skills are disappearing and we spoke of this with Ming, our guide. Young people want to wear the same blue jeans and T shirts as their counterparts worldwide - why not? For those who do want to keep links with their heritage, cotton cloth is purchased and synthetic dyes used rather than the traditional plant materials.

Workshops such as Ock Pop Tok are doing a great job in educating visitors about the skills and traditions of the Lao people. I felt privileged indeed to learn from them and feel ambivalent about my bags: sad to think a woman has cut up her beautiful skirt to create a product to sell on a market stall but happy to own such a treasure and to share a few details about its background.

Some wonderful photographs and more information about these people and their fascinating textile traditions can be found here.

Everything you wanted to know about the Hmong people (and possibly a little more) can be read here

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A few more good things from the trip

Uploading photographs from our trip, I came across a few which didn't quite fit in earlier posts but which I think are interesting in some way, for example, these shampoo and shower gel bottles in an hotel.

What about the "odd" tile in the Cao Dai temple? To illustrate that only God is perfect, perhaps.

Is buying rice a simple purchase? A market stall in Saigon, Vietnam.

I loved the way the yellow building brought this Saigon view to life.

On the Mekong, in Laos, the flowering teak trees of the forest are doing fine above the high water mark from last weekend's flood.

A store selling handmade paper and books in Luang Prabang, Laos.

The outside of the same store

Rice cakes drying in the sun, Luang Prabang, Laos

Silk scarves, Luang Prabang Night market, Laos.

Bead store in the Night Bazaar, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Woven wall hangings for sale in hotel shop, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Three characters from the garden, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

In case of boredom, a basket of wooden puzzles from the bar, Chiang Mai, Thailand.


A circuitous route home

Little did we know, when setting off from Chiang Mai last night, that our route home would be via Osaka! But the BA plane which had developed an oil leak couldn't be repaired and so we gratefully accepted the alternative offered and flew JAL to Heathrow via Kansai. We arrived home at around 4.30pm this afternoon and our luggage landed at 6.30pm, having come separately on board a Thai flight today. Omar, the most efficient JAL baggage manager has worked wonders and has already identified our bags, collected them from the carousel and taken them to the baggage delivery people who will bring our suitcases here tomorrow and deliver Edward's to him in Finsbury Park too.

Sometimes, the easiest thing is to sit back, relax and let everyone get on with doing what they do best. Last night, of course, we had no choice but to do exactly that and I'm pleased to say it all turned out fine in the end.
It's good to be home.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Embroidery colours

I love the richness of the colour here. The rooms are rather dark during the daytime, shady and cool and the colours appear subdued and understated. But add a little light - sunshine or electric - and they pop out, bright pinks, greens and yellows all used together with, it seems, little or no "design". I would never have used these combinations and would most probably only stick to a very considered palette of carefully chosen colours.

The two parasols at either end of the enormous sofa are another riot of colour. They don't match but it doesn't seem to matter and that bit of gold "bling" makes all the difference.

I think it's really effective, proving that whole-hearted works better than half. What do you think?

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