Tuesday, November 12, 2013

You are never too old to learn Chemistry

You are never too old to learn Chemistry
I've discovered that it is actually possible to enjoy that dreaded school subject if you have a passionate and interesting teacher.  Irit Dulman is one of those. She perches on her stool surrounded by eager students ready to learn and experiment and play through her Natural Dyeing Workshop. To put it simply we are learning to dye silk and wool with plants.
With pots of bubbling water and vats of prepared Indigo dye, assorted scales for measuring, spoons, and spatulas and containers of interesting powders and thermometers we watch and assist in deep concentration.
Bye bye Harry Potter. Hello Irit Dulman. To add to the magic she even has a wand to be used to call attention to her budding wizards:-)
We learnt that Indigo leaves create remarkable blues through chemistry . Think of your favourite pair of denim jeans .:-)
We noted that Madder is a root for dyeing red and Weld is a whole plant for yellow dye.
For fabric to absorb strong and permanent colours from the plants, it needs the addition of a mordant. This is a substance to prepare the fabric beforehand. It is a technical and precise encounter with science , as different fabrics require different mordents . The results are fascinating as we compared the brilliant colour samples of  mordanted dyed fabrics with the insipid shades that were unmordanted .
I filled pages with notes, met some wonderful people, and spent two days marvelling at the splendour of natural dyeing.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Italian Inspiration

Arriving at Rome airport  I was delighted to see my sister  Phyllis Hoffman wearing a wide brimmed hat covered with  her colourful handmade felt flowers. Who could miss her sitting on her suitcase waiting patiently for my arrival.

And so began our Italian Inspiration 3 weeks of fun and laughter, sharing Hotel rooms just like the sisters we were  in our childhood when we shared a room.  Phyllis neat and organised  and me spread out all over every empty space and chair. Nothing had changed, only I kept her awake with my snoring, not like when we were kids and she kept me awake with her chatter about the children in her class. I would listen for hours, fall asleep and wake up and she was still talking.

Rome is  a beautiful city to  explore on foot. From the hotel Centro , close to the Termini Railway station we wandered around marvelling at everything  from the  delicious pasta that we ate to Churches we visited and the plentiful colourful scarves we saw flapping in the wind for sale.

It was raining on the first day  so we wisely carried our umbrellas and portable  plastic macks. They proved to be  very useful the next day.

Italian hotel breakfasts are short and sweet. Cheese slices, processed meat slices , bread, muesli and plenty of sweet cookies .

Our second day we were collected from the Hotel for  our pre booked tour of the Vatican.  My school years spent at a convent had not prepared me for the vast splendour of the Vatican.  Apparently it was not a busy day as it was raining, however there were about 30,000 people there that day. . It was worth the slow shuffle through the Sistine Chapel gazing up  at  the great works of art, architecture and sculpture,

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Memories in a Suitcase

While visiting family in Melbourne recently I stumbled upon an old suitcase amongst my sister Phyllis’s possessions. I admired it from afar as she gave me a history of her childhood stamp collection, that she had carried around in the suitcase from Johannesburg South Africa to Rhodesia, back to Cape Town and then finally to Melbourne, Australia. So I wandered over to the suitcase and discovered it was my old school case. Memories came tumbling out and I wondered what happened to my class mates from 1960 FORM 111D Roosevelt Park, High School, Johannesburg. If anyone knows, hey please let me know.

Talking about memories:
I am reminded of a trip I took two years after the death of my daughter Hayley who was killed in a car crash at age 19. She had been on her way from Cape Town to Johannesburg with her boyfriend, who survived the crash.
In reality I needed some sort of closure and wanted to follow her trip through the Karoo and rest under the tree that she and her boyfriend had rested, minutes before that fateful accident. Normally very gregarious, I had been so silent since we set off from Cape Town.
Sid, my long time companion was driving and he slowed the car down every so often to just to check that I was still breathing and alive. We arrived at the spot where the big shady tree stood and Sid went off to fill the car with gas and he left me alone to honour Hayley’s memory and shed my tears. . After a time I returned to the car and we once again continued on our journey.
Ten minutes later there was a fork in the road, one road led to the Johannesburg where we were headed and one road let to Durban. As soon as I saw that sign I perked up.
“Sid, I want to take the Durban road and visit my old Boarding school”

My memories of Newcastle
dated back some 40 odd years. It was a small town with few tarred roads, and a couple of motels and shops. At the one end of the main road was the Train station and at the other was a dirt road that led straight into St Dominics.
Sid and I arrived in the town when it was dark. I tried to get my bearings with 40 year old memories. To my shock I discovered that the Train station had been relocated out of the town years previously as the town prospered However, to my delight St Dominics was still a school, but no longer a Convent for Girls as it had been in my day.

The next day we located the school. I wandered around until I found some ladies working in the office. They showed me around, taking me into classrooms, and introducing me to the pupils and teachers. It was moving for me indeed to see not only boys and girls but a completely racially integrated school. In the 50’ the political buzz word was the Group Areas Act. There was talk of relocating different racial Groups and moving the few Indian families living close to the school into some isolated place.
Now it was a different time. Mandela was President and integration was the political buzz word. I marvelled at how far we had journeyed. But I digress.
As we walked along a passage leading to the Assembly Hall, I spotted a small door with a padlock beneath an adjoining building. Fascinated I stopped as memories came flooding back “The Box Room” I exploded.
“We have been trying for years to figure out what this door is for,” said the lady who was escorting me.
Nostalgia hit me as I reminisced about the assortment of labelled suitcases, trunks and luggage bags lined up outside the “box room “ for the pupils to collect and pack before going home for the holidays. Mine was special. It was made by my father in his Engineering factory: steel, sprayed light grey, rounded edges and must have weighed 50lbs, no mean feat for a 10 year old girl to carry.
Above picture is:
l-r Phyllis Hoffman,Elaine Sackson, Elizabeth Hertz taken at St Dominics 1955

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Felted Vests. A Step-by-Step Guide

My sister Phyllis Hoffman has shrunk centimetres since we last met 2yrs ago. That is expected, as we are both in our senior years but her shrinkage has been sizable.
So what has her newly released book “Felted Vests” got to do with her body shrinkage? Strangely enough, a lot.

One day, when we were kids, our older sister Elizabeth who was 10 yrs old took her pocket money and decided to treat us to a bus ride to the Big City to go shopping without telling our parents. The next thing we were shipped off to St Dominics Academy, Newcastle, Natal, a Catholic boarding school for girls, far away from home.
I found friends, and caused havoc with midnight feasts and ghost stories. Elizabeth became a model student and played the violin, while 7 year old Phyllis was taken under the wing and nurtured by Sister Clare, the Dormitory nun. She taught Phyllis to knit and sew and created in her a lifelong creative passion for handiwork.

After 4 yrs we left the Convent, but the die was cast for Phyllis’s creative passion. As a teenager she suffered from severe back pain which ultimately turned out to be Scoliosis. Besides the pain, Phyllis couldn’t find clothes that fitted her unaligned body, so she started making her own clothes and, as commercial patterns didn’t fit, she started adjusting and making her own patterns, while bringing up children, studying, teaching, sewing and writing books.

Over the years, Phyllis relocated with her growing family from Rhodesia ( Zimbabwe) to South Africa and finally to Melbourne, Australia where all her creative skills have culminated in her latest book.

As a Felter, the book captured my attention. The cover is bright, and fresh and the title is exactly what it says “Felted Vests A Step-by-Step Guide.” I have read the book from cover to cover and will tell you why I like it, aside from her being my sister! 1. When she writes and gives descriptions it is as though she is speaking to her reader. 2. She gives the names of equipment required. Important especially for pattern making. 3. The layout is clear and concise and it is easy to navigate the book. 4. She shows graphically how to draft a basic pattern and take measurements. 5. She also shares how to make silk paper and illustrates decorative stitches. Although Phyllis's bones may have shrunk, her latest book will surely expand interest in sharing with her the art of making elegant felted clothes. Elaine

Monday, February 14, 2011

Zen of Wire

My life changed forever when I met Eli. Artist, Sculptor and Teacher, Eli's natural manner and gentleness guides and inspires his students of which I am part.
As a Felter I wanted to master fashioning wire skeletons onto which I would add layers and layers of merino wool and wet felt it into cats and dogs and people and whatever my mind could conjure.

Eli gave me a roll of wire and pliers and left me alone. He returned some time later to find me entangled in a mesh of wire . Oh dear, I was so clueless. And so my first lesson followed with a discussion of proportions ,diagrams, books were brought out and techniques were demonstrated. I loved that and then I was left alone while I internalised all I had learned and honed my new craft.

The weeks flew by as I cut and wound meters of wire morphing Adam into Eve , widening her hips and narrowing her shoulders until one day Eve emerged weighing close to a solid 1000g /2.2lbs of wire. She looked good, but what to do with her. Aha, it dawned on me that some years ago, my partner Faz had made a stand for jewelry. I stood her inside the tree shaped wire and she looked comfortable and at peace, but I sensed from the depths of her wired soul she yearned for company.

The idea of Adam was disgarded and over the next few weeks I fashioned four playful Wirelings to hover around her. I believe that she enjoys their company . I wanted to create a fun and interactive sculpture, something dynamic to play with, which I promise I do regularly as I pass my Wirelings every day on the way out the front door, I move them around and see that they are behaving themselves.

I felt so priveledged to have recently had Eve and her Wirelings on display at an exhibition in Israel.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010


The unrelenting humidity of the Ra'anana summer nudged me to take a daytrip to Jerusalem. I longed to chill out in the airconditioned bus travelling to the dryer heat of the hills of Jerusalem, passing shady forests, and finally catching the glow of the Jerusalem skyline. The tour was to the newly revamped Israel Museum, Sculpture Garden and Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.

It is always fun to meet up with other expatriat South Africans . You can sit next to a total stranger on a bus and end up with a 2nd cousin twice removed . Well that is what Jewish geography is about...connections. But I digress.

The original Israel Museum , built atop the Hill of Tranquility was inaugurated in 1965. It was designed by Architect Alfred Mansfeld with the interior designer Dora Gad . Mansfeld's plan was inspired by the modernists of the time. His concept was for a modular system of spaces with potential for expansion. Over the years the Museum grew but there was always a disconnect and fragmentation between the Entrance and various Exhibition halls. The newly revamped Israel Museum at a cost of some $100,000 million somehow solidifies the architecture, ambience, art and exihibits into a truly memorable experience.
A very interesting enclosed walkway Route of Passage bridging the Museum entrance with the Gallery Entrance has been built. At the end of the route of passage is an amazing rainbow installation by Olafur Eliasson "Whenever the Rainbow Appears".
From afar, the rainbow appears to be painted on one flat surface. As you get closer you see the 300 hand painted canvases each measuring 5 x 240 cm. extending
15 mtres with the spectrum of light visible to the human eye.

I love meandering around Art galleries and Sculpture Gardens and Museums. It always inspires creativity. My latest felted bag with silk inlays reeminds me somewhat of textiles used long long ago.
I recently stumbled upon a Decorative Art exhibition and was fascinated by an interesting shaped chair covered with musical notes. A kind of " Musical chair" It was the work of Anat Nitzan, Artist and Art Curator.

To Family, Friends and Followers
L'Shona Tova
May you all be Blessed with Love, Light and Joy for the New Year.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Fashion Fusion

In addition to FELT4U’s virtual store, we are excited that our nuno felted wraps are now available at the Julia milano boutique on Tel Aviv’s most upmarket shopping area, Kikar Hamedina. The Kikar (‘Square’) is the hotspot for those looking for their label fix - Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren and Gucci are all here.
Julia milano bills itself as a store for luxury basics. This is the flagship outlet in Israel for the Milan based leather goods manufacturers which started as a family business in 1950. We love the soft leather of the bags the craftsmanship and the innovative design – the straw effect Summer bag caught our eye as did the lightweight Bauletto bag in kidskin. Take a look at www.Juliamilano.com
We paired our Emerald Rags to Riches wrap with a stunning diamante studded evening dress, while a Purple Rags to Riches wrap draped beautifully over a floral cocktail dress both with the quintessential Italian flair.