Archive of ‘art’ category

my manila: escolta/binondo

My teenage daughter Alex and I took a trip to Escolta last Friday to pick up my new glasses from Vision Line there. We didn’t go straight to the shop, though; I took Alex around to see a little bit of old Manila.

The Filipino-Chinese Friendship Arch at the bottom of Jones Bridge on Quintin Paredes Street is the gateway to the Binondo area.


The left side of Binondo Church. Also known as the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz, it was built in 1596 and is one of the oldest Roman Catholic places of worship in the country.


The church facade. Much damage was wrought through the years by fire and other natural disasters; of the original architecture, only the octagonal bell tower remains.


A kalesa driver and his pony wait for passengers in front of the church


Alex and I took the kalesa to Escolta; on the way, we shared the road with a tricycle (motorcycle + sidecar), a jeepney, and a new Honda CRV (in front of the horse). Here, old forms of transport move beside the new, and both get you to your destination, although the kalesa imparts an air of antiquity, romance, and novelty.


Our destination – Vision Line Optical beside Luis Store, the fountain pen place


On the banks of the Pasig River, across the Manila Central Post Office, young boys dive into the water to cool – and show – off.


Alex poses on Jones Bridge, with the MCPO building in the background.


On our way home, we passed the ruins of the old Santo Tomas University. The oldest extant university in the country, it was founded by Dominican friars in 1611. The school moved from this site to its much bigger present campus in Sampaloc, Manila, in 1927.

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quilts r us

One of the hobbies I indulged in before I had to return to work full-time was quilting. It was something I swore I would never do.  I don’t recall exactly why, but there it was. So I took up cross-stitch and embroidery. And when I take up something, I go all out. I am self-taught when it comes to crafts, and I prefer to read and research and put the things I’ve learned into practice. So far this approach has worked well for me.

My husband once said, when I asked him if I could take x-stitch lessons that a shop was giving, “You don’t need lessons. You do okay from just your reading.” For me, that was a vote of confidence to proceed on my own. Baking or cooking – I just pick up a cookbook. I’ve churned out rellenong bangus, leche flan, and brazo de mercedes on my own, dishing them all up without once having seen them being prepared by someone else. The caveat here is that you must have an excellent cookbook or else it won’t help.

Back to quilting. So. After having done x-stitch and gone to roughly intermediate levels (stitching on linen; adding my own flourishes like metallic thread, even if not called for in the pattern; getting adept at resizing calculations), I entered the ”been there, done that” mode and looked for a new challenge.

When I started quilting in the late 1990s, there were still a lot of quilting (and x-stitch) magazines available at Booksale. Sadly, that’s not the case now. I’m glad now that I was able to collect many helpful and informative materials ten years ago – Traditional Quiltworks, Miniature Quilts, and Quilting Today (all published by Christine Meunier of Chitra Publications, now defunct); American Patchwork and Quilting (by Better Homes and Gardens, for the longest time edited by Heidi Kaisand); and the revered and venerable Quilter’s Newsletter (started by Bonnie Leman in the ’70s but later sold out to Primedia; it was influential in the revival of quilting as a popular hobby).

But I digress. Let’s get back to quilts. In the late ’90s, home Internet in the Philippines was in its infancy, and it was a tremendous boon in getting me in touch with quilters from around the world. I was introduced to swapping – of fabric fat quarters and charms, of patterns and magazines, of blocks and entire tops and quilts. Thanks to the generosity of quilters around the world, especially from the USA, I amassed quite a respectable stash of FQs, siggies, charms, and blocks.

Let me introduce you to some of my quilts. Though I “rested” from quilting since I went back to working full-time in 2002, prior to that I made many quilts, quite a few of which I have given away. One was stolen. Others must have been lost in the moves we made. Some are still left, though. My children know this is their inheritance (along with what’s left of my stash, and my books).

These are just some of them. There are more quilts in my linen closet. Not to mention the UFOs (unfinished objects) languishing in my stash.

Wall quilts are among the very first kind of quilts I made. When you are a beginner, often it’s best to start small so you don’t get overwhelmed, and you are motivated to finish quickly. You can be done in almost no time at all, and the gratification you’ll feel will make you more eager to start again and take on bigger challenges as you learn new techniques and hone the fundamentals. Wall-quilts are, as the name suggest, usually hung or displayed on walls or other flat vertical surface; a “hanging sleeve” through which a dowel or curtain rod may be inserted is often attached to the top edge.


I made this wallquilt in the late ’90s, as a beginner, to celebrate Philippine Independence Day (June 12). Notice that not all the seams line up properly! The fabrics are all local, so there isn’t much of a scrappy variation. This was before I was able to augment my stash via swaps and purchases at Divisoria. The stars and sun were hand-appliqued with yellow thread in a blanket stitch. The light-colored background squares are from an old sheet that I cut down to size as it was too large for our bed. True scrappy “make-do” spirit there!


The blocks from this quilt (“Words of Wisdom”) came from an Internet block swap that my quilter friend Lani Cabalza (also from the Phlippines) both joined. The blocks have quotes and signatures of the makers. I machine-pieced the blocks together, and hand-quilted.


Corner detail on “Words of Wisdom” quilt showing signed blocks and hand-quilting, which is uneven, I know, I know…I was a beginner and this was a way to practice. I think I got around 8 stitches to the inch here.


The label for this quilt came from a printed panel. I inked in the details using a Pigma Micron .05. It is important to put labels on quilts (usually attached to the lower-right hand corner of the back) to preserve information on the maker, date it was made, name of the quilt, and other particulars.


I received the quilt top (from “nono nanette” of the USA) in a Christmas swap, and had it hand-quilted by my househelp at that time, Mina Capote. She did much better work that I did, achieving, 10 stitches to the inch and very even.


Another top that I got in a swap, this time with Lani. I don’t remember what I made for her. I think she requested something in her favorite colors and design. I asked her for hearts in pink, and she did a lovely job! I did hand-quilting on this one. By this time, my stitches were much improved.


Detail of hand-quilting – white thread on the heart-flower blocks, red on the setting squares and triangles.


Yet another wall-quilt obtained from a swap – “Fourth of July”, from Felicia Ryan. She’s a very good quilter who’s had her work published in quilting magazines. She sent this all quilted and everything.


Label made and signed by Felicia attached to the back of the “Fourth of July” quilt. Note beautiful machine-quilting detail in red thread.

The very first quilt I made was a hideous red and yellow “lap quilt” for my daughter Alex who was around six or seven at the time. (This was ten years ago!) A lap quilt is something big enough for one person to use, while “bed quilts” are made to cover beds – twin, queen, or king.

After reading about the Olympic Quilts made by Georgia quilters for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, which were given away to each participating country, I decided on a personal standard of 54″ x “70 for my lap quilts, the size of the Olympic giveway quilts.  I set these “bottle” or “jar” blocks I had gotten from yet another international swap into a lap quilt.


The Bottle or Jar design was very popular at the time it came out – late ’90s? – and practically everyone was making it. You put “stuff” in the jar – aliens, frogs, whatever – and there were a lot of fabrics printed just for Jar quilts. Another variation was the “Button” quilt – basically a Jar made with plain fabric with buttons of all kinds sewn onto the top by hand, “filling” the Jar. For this quilt, I made a conventional setting with black sashing to separate the Jars, and brown sashing to simulate “shelves”. I was so happy to get this “wood” fabric!


Label for the Jar lap quilt. I stitched together everyone’s siggies (signature squares) in the order that their blocks appear on the front of the quilt. I used a particularly shocking yellow print for the back.


Detail of Jar blocks “filled” with marbles, frogs, and shoes.

I made many queen-size bed quilts and some twin-size, most of them with blocks from swaps. I later started “downsizing” to lap quilts. They are my favorite size now – larger than wall quilts to be more functional (in bed, on the sofa as a throw, to take along on trips, etc), but smaller than bed quilts so they don’t take too long to finish.

If you would like me to make you a quilt from your own fabrics (old clothes, ties, etc) or with fabric from my own stash, just drop me an email. :)

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alphonse mucha: dance

This painting is a prime example from of my favorite movements, Art Nouveau, which I first enjoyed through the illustrations of John R. Neill, who did for the early editions of the Oz books.  Art Nouveau was popular from the 1890s till around 1912.

This is “Dance” (1898) by the progenitor of this art form – Alphonse Marie Mucha. He used it mostly for commercial purposes such as product advertising and theater posters, the latter for the great actress Sarah Bernhardt.

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lawrence alma-tadema: spring

In 2002 I was in LA and a friend of mine, Marian Domoje, took me to the Getty Museum. It was an utterly beautiful place. I could have stayed there the entire day, wandering the quiet, well-lit halls, admiring the paintings and photographs, sculpture and antique furniture.

In one of the halls I chanced upon this work. It was hung close to the entrance and reached almost floor-to-ceiling. This and all other photos I have seen do the original work no justice. Up close, it is breathtaking. Each brushstroke is pure genius.

“Spring”,  Lawrence Alma-Tadema

I like my art “traditional realist”. Abstract and modern leave me cold – those splotches of color? Ik could do as well, if not better. It requires genuine drawing and painting skills to create works that live and breathe, that are like windows you could step through to enter another world, the artist’s world that he created from his own imagination.

Immerse yourself in art and visit worlds of wonder. You’d be doing your soul a favor.

See more of Alma-Tadema’s works and those of other realist painters at

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the quilt art of rebecca barker

I have loved sewing ever since 3rd grade at St. Scholastica’s Academy (Bacolod City) when we were taught basic mending and embroidery stitches on a retazo or scrap of fabric.

In fifth grade at Pasay Adventist Academy, we learned more elaborate stitches and had to embroider a throw pillow cover in cross stitch. Since the latter had a deadline for submission, our househelper at the time helped me complete it, but it was something I really enjoyed doing.

In high school we were taught dressmaking. I remember stitching up a particularly ugly dress in an ugly shade of lavender that was my favorite color at the time. Dressmaking was not my strong suit but I did learn how to baston my own jeans.

I rediscovered the magic of needle and thread after I got married. I’ve always been creative, and always need to do something whether its writing, cooking, or sewing.

In the early 1990s, cross-stitch became a fad and suddenly there was an explosion of x-stitch shops such as Dreams (which still has branches in Megamall and Glorietta). Supplies such as DMC floss and US and UK patterns became plentiful, unlike before, when the most you could get was the standard Japanese book published by Ondori which only had mostly simple border patterns. It is in fact still available at National Book Store – talk about “never going out of print”.

I snapped up a lot of magazines (from Booksale and National), floss and Aida fabric from the market (cheaper than buying at the mall), and stitched up a storm. I had even begun to teach myself hardanger on linen (which is really hard).

But after countless throw pillows and framed pictures (including wedding presents) later, my “been there done that” mood kicked in and I looked for something new to learn.

Enter quilting, which I promised myself I would never ever do. I picked up an old quilting mag at Booksale whose headline screamed, “You too can make this quilt!” The cover showed an unattractive Baskets quilt in my unfavorite colors of yellow and green. I was struck, though, by the beauty of the pattern and the mag’s claim that anyone could learn patchwork.

Having taught myself to quilt after reading countless magazines (Booksale is such a godsend!), my linen cabinet is now stuffed to the ceiling mostly with queen-sized quilts, a few twins, a lot of wallhangings and the ubiquitous throw pillow covers.

My Bottle Jar lap quilt. It was a popular pattern for swaps in the late ’90s.

My favorite quilting activity was participating in online quilt swaps. I spent loads on postage during the mid- to late-90s, during the height of my quilting frenzy. I ended up with many queen-size quilts (around 80×90) composed of traded quilt blocks and signature squares, which are squares of muslin, say 3″ or 4″ or whatever the agreed-upon size is, signed in permanent colorfast ink by the quilter.

I was happy to have participated in several Y2K swaps. Just before the millenium turned, quilters all over the world traded for 2000 charm aquares and “siggys” to make millenium quilts. I still have my swapped charms, as well as quilt blocks from theme swaps, just haven’t gotten around to sewing them up, but that’s okay, lots of quilters have UFOs (“unfinished objects”) that they swear to finish one day.

Though I am very busy now with work, and until recently, school, and have not been able to sew for two years, I still love quilting very much and have kept all my supplies – the special Omnigrid quilting rulers I bought in the US, rotary cutters and mats (for cutting shapes accurately), yards and yards of 100% cotton (US textile company brands) from Divisoria, and pattern books and magazines.

I also collect anything with a patchwork pattern, and my friends who know of my interest give me “quilty” gifts as well.

The photo below shows “Dove in the Window” by artist Rebecca Barker, who has made a name for herself as a “quilt landscape” painter. The name of the artwork is actually the name of the pattern.

My friend Thea Arnone (my roommate when I stayed in the US for several months in 2001) gave me a jigsaw puzzle for Christmas with this design. Upon my return to the Philippines, I had it completed and framed at the Jigsaw Puzzle shop in Glorietta. It hangs in my bedroom, where the pinks and greens go wonderfully with the cool celadon walls.

Here’s Rebecca Barker’s lovely “Butterflies on Nine-Patches”:

A “nine-patch” block is one where the elements are in a 3×3 grid. It could be a Simple Nine-Patch (each square is just one piece of fabric) going on to more complex designs where each square is made up of even smaller shapes in different colors. Designs like those usually have their own names.

Quiltmaking is a fascinating craft, and the art created with quilts as an inspiration take the play of patterns, colors, and patches to different levels.

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moleskine madness

I had seen them at Fully Booked (PowerPlant mall branch) early or middle of 2008 and thought they were lovely but way, way too expensive for a notebook. But I couldn’t get them out of my head; over the months I’d go back to the store, look at the display, and wonder whether I should finally get one or not.

I’m talking about Moleskines, the hip hot notebook that almost every creative person in the know is carrying around. Moleskines are touted as the notebook used by literary and art stars – Hemingway, Chatwin, Picasso.

“Moleskins” – notebooks with a cover of oilcloth-covered cardboard – have been around for over a hundred years and were made in France by a few select stationers until demand for the old-fashioned notebooks died. The last moleskin notebook maker, based in Tours, France, stopped making them in 1986.

In 1998, the Italian company Modo e Modo revived the old tradition and sold them under the trademark “Moleskine”. And that is how they are known to aficionados – writers, artists, other creatives, the intelligentsia, academics, scientists, and wannabes. Writer Neil Gaiman always carries one.

I must profess my profound admiration for the Modo e Modo marketing machine – from 30,000 in sales early on to more than 3 million now, their hype is certainly effective. Consumers feel that with a Moleskine they can channel the creativity of the artists and writers of the past who used similar notebooks. Farfetched idea, but it’s often observed in anthropology – “sympathetic magic”.

Googling the ‘Net, you’ll see a lot of references to Moleskines. They are used as planners by IT people using “GTD” (Getting Things Done) and other time-management methods after applying “moleskine hacks” (modifications). They are also popular as art albums, scrapbooks, for writing stories in, and as

Moleskines are also available at Powerbooks, but at present stocks are depleted everywhere. Wait till the first week of December to satisfy your Moleskine cravings.

They come in pocket and large sizes, with plain, ruled, squared, and watercolor paper (for the sketchbooks). There are also daily and weekly planners, as well as Japanese albums and memo pockets. The default color is black, but they issued a limited edition red planner for 2008, and not too long ago offered Shantung silk-covered variations in blue, red, green, and plum as part of their Van Gogh Museum collection. The colors do evoke the hues in the painter’s works.

They are expensive, but if you are an aesthete, or one who loves paper and pen, then you must have one. Or more.

I’d like to get two pocket notebooks – one plain and one ruled – and fill them in with words and drawings. Most likely my sketches will be of quilt blocks and quilt designs. The words, strung together, will form essays and other random ramblings.

I can’t wait to curl up with a cup of coffee, some paper, a fountain pen, and ink – with these tools I can create my own new world.

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joan de jean: the essence of style

Here’s an interesting read I picked up at Fully Booked last May 2007 along with Victoria Finlay’s Colour: Travels Through the Paintbox.

The Essence of Style is by Joan de Jean, who has written seven other books on French literature, history, and culture. She is a professor of French at the University of Pennsylvania, and also holds positions at Princeton and Yale.

De Jean traces the reasons why Paris is the fashionista center of the world, and why Hermes, Vuitton, and Creme de la Mer are must-haves despite their exhorbitant prices.

Apparently it was all Louis XIV’s fault. This maitre of style ruled the French court with his highly original and decorative ideas on dress, etiquette, and urban planning, which to this day have repercussions on the monde of haute couture.

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victoria finlay: colour

Victoria Finlay’s first book Colour: Travels Through the Paintbox explores the origins of color, or where people obtain the paints, pigments, and dyes used throughout history. I loved her second book, Jewels: A Secret History, and this book is just as fascinating.

I had to learn the color wheel and the lingo associated with it for my quilting. As a visual person, I enjoy reading books that are highly descriptive; it makes the story come to life for me. Apart from being a history of paints, it is also a travelogue, with Finlay travelling all over the world to visit the places where paint is made and talk to the people that make them.

From the blurb:

On her quest to uncover the secrets of colour, Victoria Finlay visited remote Central American villages where women still wear skirts dyed with the purple tears of sea snails; learned how George Washington obsessed about his green dining room while he should have been busy with matters of state; and investigated the mystery of Indian yellow paint, said to have been made from the urine of cows force-fed with mango leaves.

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