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Whiskey and Smoke: A Rustic Approach to Timeless Brazilian Leather

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“In like a lion, out like a lamb” is what they say about March. We are right on schedule, ringing in the month with a new shipment of fierce, bold leather pieces in our new “Smoke” and “Whiskey” finishes. Worthy of any man cave or any location in your home, this collection brings to mind toasty evenings by a fireplace, sipping single malt scotch while wearing your grandfather’s vintage watch.

Our metaphor holds true, with the soft, delicate luxe of this Brazilian leather facilitating a seamless transition into spring. The colors are rich but neutral. The distressed finish and wood paneling incorporate a fresh, down to earth quality. Open your windows to the spring air, and cover your coffee tables with flowers. Lounge on your leather in the afternoon sun, and feel like a new lamb.

Brazilian Leather is highly desired across a multitude of industries for its excellent quality as well as the consistency of that quality. Click here to browse our entire Leather Club Collection.

Facts about Brazilian Leather:
– Brazil is the second largest supplier of leather in the world, producing more than 40 million hides per year.
– 28 million of those hides are exported to 91 different countries.
– The United States comes in at number three for importing the most leather from Brazil. We spend nearly 260 million dollars on leather.
– China imports the most, followed by Italy. Hong Kong is fourth.
– U.S. companies that use Brazilian leather include Learjet, Ford, and GM among many others.

“Brazil is known for some of the world’s best tanneries, producing top-quality leather used in the fashion, upholstery, automotive and boating industry” Jose Fernando Bello, executive president of CICB.

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 Whiskey Loveseat

A piece of leather furniture commands attention and brings an aura of no nonsense to a room. The canvas siding and wood frames on our leather couches and chairs tone down that boldness. These materials are rustic in nature, and when paired with the sleek leather, the furniture gains an eclectic, laid back quality. We love the idea of mixing these leather pieces with traditional Indian craftsmanship, such as this elegant folding screen.

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Rise to Fame
In the 16th century, cattle were imported to Brazil to sustain the local economy. Meat and leather started to spread to be distributed throughout the country, and eventually the leather started to be exported. By the year of 1754, 5 thousand pieces of leather a year were being exported from Brazil. However it wasn’t until the 1960’s and 70’s when the world really started focusing on Brazilian leather. Artists began printing messages on leather, primarily based around the ideas of peace and love, and freedom. Leather goods became abundant at street fairs and leather artisans were celebrated.

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Let’s talk about cows!
The Leather Industry in Brazil is directly connected to the Beef Industry. Here are some figures to get you up to speed.

– Currently, Brazil has 213.3 million cattle.

– In 2008, the country held 20% of the world’s cattle market. By the end of this decade, that figure is estimated to reach 50%. That means Brazil will control one half of the entire world’s beef.

– Brazil’s economy has become the 6th largest on the planet. This means larger economic potential and stability for their leather industry.

– From 2000 to 2010, the amount of cattle per hectare increased from 0.8 to 1.2. The industry thanked advances in handling and sanitation and favorable weather.However at the same time cattle are increasing, the land the cattle graze on in decreasing.

– In that same 10 year period, pasture area decreased from 178 to 164 million hectares. The Brazilian Leather Project has taken strides to fight this, and has actively come out against deforestation.

Below are some new additions to our Indian collection. The rustic painted finish seamlessly blends together with the perfect wood and bright hues compliment the muted tones of our leather collection. They work perfectly because everything is tied together by a mutual, worn in quality.

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Practices for Sustainability
– Conservation of water, practicing cattle farm fair-trade, organic tanning technology (chrome free without using heavy metals) are techniques used by many manufacturers.

– Use of raw materials derived from eco-friendly resources which are native to Brazil.

– Brazil has committed to reducing deforestation in the Amazon rain forest by 80 percent by the year 2020. Deforestation rates (due to clearing forest for cattle) declined 27 percent from August 2011 to July 2012. These were the lowest rates ever recorded for the 4th year in a row. Brazil’s government says this represents a 76 percent reduction since 2004.

– Brazil has developed policies known as PPCDAm (The Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Legal Amazon Deforestation) that were first implemented in 2004. PPCDAm is comprised of more than 200 initiatives across 14 ministries that together aim to reduce deforestation in the Amazon.

– Ibama is Brazil’s environmental protection service, the group tasked with monitoring, catching and punishing those responsible for the plunder of the Amazon rain forest.

The Brazillian Leather Project
This is an organization created through a partnership between the Centre for the Brazilian Tannery Industry (CICB) and the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil). Their goal is to promote Brazilian Leather throughout the world.

42201__64160.1392935318.1280.1280Whiskey Tub Chair

Our popular rocket tub chair, previously available in only Ebony and Cigar, is now also available in the new “Whiskey” finish. Whiskey and our new “Smoke” finish are also available in our box club leather collection of armchairs, loveseats and sofas.

Click here to browse our entire Leather Club Collection.

India’s Sari: Origin, Myth and Beauty

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Far and wide, the sari or saree has been a well-known symbol of the Indian female for 5000 years. In today’s India, there are 6.5 million people involved in the production of handloom saris. Although the structure of saris are mostly the same, Indian woman have much room for personal and creative expression in their dress.The sari exists in countless varieties of draping styles, patterns, colors and weaves.

The Sari is a garment made up of a piece of fabric usually 6-9 yards, wrapped around the waist and draped over one shoulder. The midriff is typically exposed, and often one arm is covered on the side the sari is draped over the shoulder. A petticoat is usually worn beneath the sari. This piece has many different names depending on region. In western India it is called chaniyo, parkar or ghagra, shaya in the east, pavadi or padava in the south, and lahanga or lehenga in the North. A blouse is also worn beneath the sari and is called either a choli or ravika. The choli is basically a crop top, with short sleeves and a low neck. Cholis are sometimes backless or halter style and when they are they tend to be more formal than the every day versions, with a lot of embroidery and embellishments. Many women who are in the armed forces wear a sari uniform, with a short sleeve shirt tucked into the waist.

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Kalpasutra Manuscript-1375

The Sari originated within the Hindu culture. Hindus believe that stitched clothing is impure. Hindus also believe that the belly button is very important and is a source of life and creativity. This is why the Sari does not cover the midriff. Another reason for the bare stomach is the Ancient Indian ideals of beauty. They value, like many other cultures, the juxtaposition of a small waist with larger hips and bust line. The Sari exposes the waist but also adds width to the hips and bust, emphasizing and even exaggerating the female figure. This being said, the sari still maintains a woman’s modesty, as she is covered from head to toe with fabric, and it is only a small portion of her waist exposed. The first known depiction of the Sari is a statue of an Indus Valley priest wearing a sari-like drape and dates back to 100 B.C. Sculptures from the 1st-6th century AD depict dancers and goddesses wearing dhoti wraps. Cave murals from the 5th century show women wearing full body saris. In the early 1500’s, a traveler from Portugal described women as wearing very thin cotton or silk garments that wrapped around their waist and shoulder, exposing the arm and shoulder. There are many Indian myths and legends involving saris. Most come from ancient manuscripts such as the Vedic Scripts, Mahabharata, Silappadhikaram, Kadambari and Natya Shastra. Scholars commonly believe that the earliest texts recording saris are 5000 years old.

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I find the most interesting aspect of saris to be how all women in India wear them, the way all men in America, or most, wear pants. While in some ways this could be thought of as hindering to a woman’s freedom of self, of expression and of movement. However, it could also be looked at from the other side. If you knew you were wearing a sari everyday, think of all the time and energy you would save, not worrying about clothing. The biggest advantage to this in my mind, is not having to think about finding clothes that fit all of the  figure flattering, current, matching with your personal style, affordable. For American woman, the biggest struggle is without a doubt finding clothes that are figure flattering. In our culture, it often seems that clothes were made with the attempt to sabotage your figure. With Saris, that is not a concern because the sari is literally draped around your own, actual body. It is designed to be a covering to the main point in the room-which is you-not your outfit. Weather you are a size 8 or you gain weight over the holidays and are now a size 10 doesn’t matter in the slightest. Your Sari will still look good on you because it exists in celebration of you.

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Actress Kangana Ranaut wearing designer Sabyasachi-2013

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         We have a beautiful selection of Sari Silk in our store currently. Come check it out!

Kantha Stitch: Traditional Embroidery of South East Asia

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We have piles of these brilliantly patterned blankets. They are warm, but the floral motifs are perfect to get you ready for spring. Prices range from $95-$175.

Adding to our collection of beloved Indian furniture, rugs and textiles, we have packed our show room with all things Kantha. These chairs, benches, pillows and quilts are brightly colored and add a pow effect to any decor. Simultaneously, the often worn, faded fabric and white stitching tone down the bold factor, so these pieces are not overbearing, but have a soft, easy quality.

Kantha is a popular type of embroidery in eastern South Asia, particularly Bangladesh, West Bengal and Odisha. Sometimes the stitching is simple and sparse, creating only a border. In some of the most mesmerizing examples, running stitches cover the whole of the fabric, creating exquisite motifs of animals, birds, flowers, geometric shapes, and themes from every day life activities. The stitching makes the cloth appears slightly wavy and rumpled, creating a “used” effect. There are many forms of Kantha, with differences stemming from region, accessible materials, the use of the textile being created, and weather it is functional or meant for decorative purposes.

Nakshi Kantha is the term used for simple quilts which are made using Kantha stitching. In Bengal, women usually layer old saris and cloth with kantha stitch to create blankets and bedspreads. These are very popular among tourists in Bengal. In Odisha, women traditionally wear “Kantha Saris”. These saris are recycled when old to create bed cushions or to be used on top of cushions. They are layered on top of each other and stitched together.

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An example of Nakshi Kantha found in our store.

In rural areas, Kantha has remained the most common form of embroidery. Traditionally, Kantha cloth was made by using soft dhotis and saris and placing a running stitch along the edges. These were known either as Lepkantha or Sujni Kantha, depending on the use of the cloth. Some of these possible uses are women’s shawls, and covers for mirrors, boxes, and pillows. In modern times, Kantha stitch is used in wider variation, such as on shirts for both men and women, bedding and other furniture fabrics.

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We have so many fluffy, soft pillows!

There is a book called Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, by Krishnadas Kaviraj written about 500 years ago. In this book is the first mention of a homemade Kantha, made by a mother for her son. However, Kanthas are believed to have existed for at least 1,000 years. This quote tells of the personal and often spiritual creation process of Kanthas:

“Kantha is like a personal diary, a letter one writes to a particular person, and is not meant to be ready by all. In East Bengal the Kantha was a personal expression, an art-craft that was made spontaneously, even whimsically. It was never commissioned by rulers, nor ordered by the landed gentry. No two pieces are the same. It was craft that was practiced by women of all rural classes, the rich landlord’s wife making her own elaborate embroidered quilt in her leisure time, and the tenant farmer’s wife making her own thrifty, coverlet, equal in beauty and skill. The Kantha is an invocation to the gods and spirits for the prosperity and protection of the family. A real Kantha is able to narrate a story, and is much more compact in design and it is made out of used materials. It has been passed on for generations, from mothers to daughters and is largely a “dowry” tradition.” – Krishnadas Kaviraj
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Types of Kantha

The Running Stitch Kantha is the traditional form. These are subdivided into “Nakshi-figured” and “par tola- patterned”. Nakshi Kanthas are further divided into either motif or scenic kanthas.

Lohori Kantha comes from the Persian word “lehr”, which means wave. These are further divided into “soja-straight or simple”. “Kautar khupi-triangle or pigeon coop”, or “borfi-diamond”. Lohori Kantha are especially popular in Rajshahi.

Lik or anarasi Kantha means Pineapple are found in the chapainawabgonj and Jessore areas. Variations are “lik tan, lik tile, lik jhumka, and lik lohori”.

Cross Stitch or Carpet Kanthas were brought to India by the English during the British Rule. The stitch used in these Kanthas is the cross stitch.

Sujni Kantha uses a popular motif of undulating floral and vine.4161541615-back

One really unique aspect of kantha is the combination of multiple fabrics, pulled together into one cohesive piece. The above images show the backside and front side of the same chair. Click here to view this chair in our online store.

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These two images demonstrate another chair with different fabrics on the front and back sides. This is a swivel chair and the exposed metal base and scoop shape give it a fresh, modern look, while maintaining vintage apeal through the Kantha fabric. Click here to view this chair in our online store.

Stitches

The most traditional stitch used in Kanthas is the running stitch, often called “phor” or “kantha stitch”. Other types of stitches used in Kanthas are The “Chatai” or pattern darning, “Kaitya” or bending stitch, weave running stitch, darning stitch, “Jessore” stitch, Threaded running stitch, Lik phor or anarasi or ghar hasia stitches.  The modern day Kantha stitches are the Kasmiri Stitch and the arrow head stitch. Occasionally, stitches such as the herringbone, satin, back and cross are used.

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Uses of Kanthas

Quilt (lep in Bengali)

Large spread (Naksi Kantha in Bengali)
An embellished quilt embroidered in traditional motifs and innovative style

Puja floor spread (Ason in Bengali)

Cosmetic wrapper (Arshilota in Bengali)
A narrow embroidered wrapper to roll and store away a woman’s comb, mirror, eye kohl, vermilion, sandal paste, oil bottle, etc. Often, a tying string is used to bind the wrap, as in later day satches.

Wallet (Batwa thoiley in Bengali)

Cover for Quran (ghilaf in Arabic and Bengali)

Prayer mats (Jainamaz in Bengali)

Cover (Dhakni in Bengali)
Covering cloths of various shapes and sizes.

Ceremonial meal spread (Daster khan in Bengali)

Pillow cover (Balisher chapa or oshar in Bengali)

Handkerchief (Rumal)

Modern day articles
Today newer uses are found for nakshi kanthas, such as bedspreads, wall hangings, cushion covers, ladies purses, place mats, jewelry boxes, dress fronts, skirts border, shawls and sharees.

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Kantha Stitch Cushion. Click here to view this in our online store.

Chinese New Year: Evolution of The Spring Festival and Ancient Traditions

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If you celebrate New Years Eve marked by the calendar used in America, you are probably just now getting back into your regular routine of eating, sleeping and exercise, or perhaps you have just begun a new routine. If you live in China or are Chinese American, you are just getting ready to throw routine away for the duration of the two week celebration for Chinese New Year.

The Chinese calendar is dependent on the lunar calendar. The darkest day of the month is always the first day of the month. New Years festivities also usually begin on the first day of the month, and last until the brightest day, which is the 15th, or the day of the full moon. Chinese New Year is also called The Spring Festival, and is symbolic of the ending of Winter. It is traditional to clean your house and get a haircut before Chinese New Year, so that bad Chi form the previous year does not follow you into the New Year.


Legend
“In ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal’s year would have some of that animal’s personality.” 2014 is the year of the horse.

Fireworks
In Chinese culture, it is believed that fire can ward against bad luck. Because of this, many New Years traditions involve the color red, which is symbolic of fire. People wear red and decorate by writing poems on red paper. Children are given red envelopes containing “lucky money”. There are large firework displays. These symbolize fire, as well as an ancient custom of lighting Bamboo stalks so that the flames would scare away evil spirits.

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Family Feast

One of the strongest aspects of the Chinese New Year celebrations is spending time with family. Similar to many holidays around the world, families reunite and gather in each other’s homes to eat, drink and be merry. In America, the Family aspect of this tradition evolved, and became whole neighborhoods celebrating together. This is because when the Chinese originally immigrated to America, many people came alone, or without their families. These people turned to their neighbors for a sense of community and formed neighborhood associations to keep traditions alive. In modern day America many Chinese neighborhood associations host New Year festivities.

Most families cook more than enough food for their family parties on the eve of the New Year. The left over food symbolizes the hope for abundance and wealth in the year to come. Another common tradition is Chinese Nian Gao, which is a special cake. After dinner is over, people gather and wait for the New Year, and usually do not sleep that night.

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Lanterns and Dragons
On the fifteenth night of the lunar month, which is the brightest night and the close of the New Year celebration, The Chinese have a lantern festival. Lanterns are hung in temples and people carry them to a nighttime parade. The lanterns are often exquisitely decorated, painted with scenes from histories, legends, zodiac signs, animals and birds. A well-known part of the lantern parade is the dragon dance. Silk paper and bamboo are used to make a dragon, often one hundred feet long. The dragon is held up over the arms and heads of young men who dance as they move the dragon through the parade.

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Culture
It is common for people in China to take weeks off from work to prepare for and celebrate the New Year. However the New Years celebrations are shortened in America, and the dragon dance always takes place on a weekend, regardless of the moon. Many Chinese American communities also incorporate elements of typical American culture parades such as Marching bands and floats.

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In Boston

This year, The Chinese New Year Parade will take place on Sunday, Feburary 9, 2014. It will start at 10am  and end at 5pm. The parade takes place on Chinatown Main Street. Here are some other celebrations taking place in the city throughtought the Chinese New Year.

FREE Admission to the Museum of Fine Arts
Feb 8-465 Huntington – special events including a Lion dance, martial arts, Korean bowling and guided tours of the Asian Galleries.

Boston Children’s Museum
February 9 from 11am to 4pm – $14 – cultural and performances celebrating the New Year.

Chinese New Year in Harvard Square
February 23 from 1-3pm. Starts in Winthrop Park with a lion dance followed by the dance,firecrackers, hanging red lantersn and parade through Harvard Square.

The Mystery Surrounding Mamluk Carpets

History
The Mamluk Dynasty came to power in Egypt and Syria in the mid thirteenth century. By the 15th century, they had established a thriving carpet industry in Cairo, the capital of Egypt. These people originally came to the Middle East as slave soldiers from Turkic, Mongol and Circassian tribes in Central Asia. They were bought and trained by Arab rulers, converted to Islam, and turned into Elite palace soldiers. The word Mamluk actually translates to “owned”. Eventually, the Mamluks revolted and seized power for themselves, ruling for two centuries. They were warriors on a fierce level, and typically killed or replaced their own leaders every five years. Surprisingly or not, they were also huge patrons of art.

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Sultan Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri

The Mamluk era is often referred to as a “Renaissance of the Islamic Arts”. The rugs are thought to have a “sublime” quality and to be more than just fine carpets but sophisticated works of art symbolizing spiritual themes of unity. The geometric forms themselves are representational of simplicity and singularity, while the whole of the designs, many forms interconnected, are complex.

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This rug is named Simonetti after a former owner. It is one of the most famous Mamluk Carpets that exists, as well as one of the largest of its type. This rug has five medallions instead of the usual two or three. It also has a brighter color palette than most. It dates back to the year 1500, and is believed to have been made in Cairo, probably in a palace.

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This rug has a double field with two medallion-like structures. One is eight-sided; the other eight-pointed. The “eight” theme appears in many Mamluks. 
In 1517, the Mamluk territories were conquered by the Ottomans. Mamluk carpet production continued after but the Mamluk people were commissioned by the Ottoman courts to produce rugs in the “Cairene” style which competed with the Persian rugs of that time. The Mamluk carpet production slowed quickly and eventually stopped altogether. There are only around 100 original Mamluk rugs left in the world. Only one remains in Cairo, and the rest are in museums. The museum pieces are not often displayed because it is feared that too much exposure to light will fade their colors. Today, rug makers all over the world seek to replicate and draw from the Mamluk style, particularly in Egypt, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.

Characteristics
Mamluk carpets are known for their lustrous wool, fine weave, and soft colors dominated by pale greens, yellows and reds. Their designs are distinctive-complex, large medallions made up of intersecting forms. These forms are based on the tradition of Islamic geometric ornament. The borders are made of oblong medallions or “cartouches”. A variation of the Mamluk called Paramamluk, features all over patterns of smaller hexagons, octagons and squares. These are often known as the “chessboard” carpets. The Paramamluk has been attributed to Damascus, which was a large center in the Syrian portion of the Mamluk realm. One instantly noticeable characteristic of the mamluk carpets is that they appear totally mathematical and at the same time, totally mystical, similar to the existence of the rugs themselves.

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Paramamluk or “Chessboard” Carpet, origin unknown, 15th century, Philadelphia Museum of Art Website
 

Visit our Harrison avenue showroom to see these and more amazing examples of the Mamluk design in a range of colors and sizes.

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More mysterious facts about Original Mamluk Carpets

– Prior to the mamluk rugs, there was no pile-rug weaving in Egypt.

– No one knows where the rugs were originally woven. Egypt, Turkey and Spain are offered possibilities. One reason for so many places to be considered is that the rugs seemed to appear out of thin air.

– The wool is unlike the wool used in other Egyptian rugs of that time. However it is not clear that the wool is from somewhere other than Egypt.

– The wool is spun clockwise, and most carpet wools were spun counterclockwise.

– The red dye came from Indian insects known as Iac. Master weavers in Turkey and Iran were using pigment entirely different during this time period.

Tradition & Function: Living Bridges in India

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Long ago in North Eastern India, the War-Khasis tribe of Meghalaya were way ahead of the green movement. They realized they could grow their own bridges! Meghalaya is known as “the wettest place in the world”, and once received 25 meters of rain in one year, making the world record. The southern Khasi and Jaintia hills are intersected by numerous, rapidly flowing rivers. Nearly all the rainfall occurs during the monsoon of the summer months, and the gentle rivers can  quickly become wild, raging and dangerous to cross. The people still had to cross these waterways, and discovered they could utilize their natural resources to benefit their lives in a beautiful way, while remaining harmonious with nature.

The only material needed for the creation of these bridges is a tree, known as Ficus Elastica. This is a species of rubber tree,that can grow to a size of 30-40 meters. These trees have a secondary root system, which causes the roots to grow outwards. The roots grow upwards, towards the upper part of the tree and are incredibly strong. The Ficus can comfortably and sturdily grow from the edges of huge boulders, as well as within the river beds themselves.

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Although the trees grow all on their own, people must use tools and frames to guide the growth of the trees in the desired direction. The trunks of betel nut trees are slices down the middle and hollowed out, and used as a guidance frame for the roots of the Ficus. This causes the new and therefore tender and thin roots to grow straight out, across the river, instead of spreading in all different directions like they would without help. When the roots grow long enough to reach the soil of the other side of the river, they take root. Over time, the roots grow deep into the earth, and provide a sturdy structure that spans from one side of the river to the other. People also choose places a bridge is needed, and plant a tree there. Then they must wait for the tree to grow strong and tall before cultivating a bridge. In this aspect, there is significant planning involved in growing root bridges, and serious patience.

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Dilligent attention must be paid to this process and it typically takes from 10-15 years for the bridge to be completed. Some of these bridges can hold the weight of 50 people and reach a length of over 100 feet. The most amazing thing about these bridges, is they actually get stronger with age. Through time, the wood of the roots obtain a strength of what is compared  to steel cables. In fact, it is the “alive” aspect of these structures that allows them to be so strong. Their constant growth adds to their durability. It is estimated that some of the “ancient” root bridges used daily by the people in this region are well over 500 years old. Talk about sustainable development.

One of the most astonishing and unique root bridges is believed to be the only one like it in the world. It is two bridges, one growing about 14 feet over the other one.  It is known as the “Umshiang Double-Decker Root Bridge”.

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There is a lot of well deserved attention being paid to these wonders, because they were re-discovered by a man from the Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort. Denis P Rayen wants to promote interest in the bridges. To prevent the  bridges from being destroyed or replaced with steel in favor of modernizing, the local people have been alerted to their value and potential. I think they were probably already aware. Currently, a new bridge is being grown, and should be finished within this decade.

In this video, a man teaches his daughter the knowledge and skills needed to complete the bridge he has been growing for over 30 years. He knows he will not live long enough to see it finished, and he wants to ensure his daughter will take his place and see it through. To me, this wisdom and knowledge being passed down from generation to generation is a striking parallel to the “living bridges” themselves. Each generation begins a bridge to the generations to come, by teaching their children these secrets. This a moving story of people living in humble awe of the miraculous earth around them, and the power of growing instead of cutting down.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oESC2iDZArI]

Sit Safely with Cisco Brothers

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This past November, HBO aired a documentary called “Toxic Hot Seat”. This film seeks to raise awareness about flame retardants, which are chemicals put into our furniture to prevent the spreading of fire. The flame retardants are used in the production of the large majority of furniture, and in the past, were even put into children’s pajamas. They sound like a good idea, but the chemicals used to make flame retardants are toxic to the human body, and studies show they are linked to cancer.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hWwfcsJXHM]

There are three major companies producing flame retardants and they have spent millions on teams of press and legal aid to prevent questions from being asked. In TOXIC HOT SEAT, film maker investigates the story of how flame retardants came to be required, and the many levels of manipulation used by Big Tobacco to convince firefighters that this was all for our safety. The film also casts light on the un truths told by the chemical companies about the threats to pubic health their products pose. These companies paid false experts to warn the public about removing flame retardants from homes, claiming it was a deadly risk.

Toxic Hot Seat shares the personal stories of a cancer-surviving firefighter, a renowned chemist whose work helped remove fire retardants from kid’s pajamas in the 1970s, and a brave and determined young Maine legislator and mom. The film represents the bravery of ordinary citizens willing to fight for the truth.
In support of the efforts and moral quest of this film, another, shorter film was made, by our friends at Cisco Hand Crafted Furniture. Cisco has been flame retardant and toxin free since their start, and has been “passionate about this issue for many years”. The goal of their company is to create sustainable furniture that is as healthy on the inside, as well as beautiful on the outside. Cisco Pinedo, the founder of Cisco, personally attended a Sacramento hearing concerning the modification of TB-117 and the removal of flame retardant requirements.

In this video, Cisco explains that although their company has been creating healthy and safe furniture for over 20 years, they have gone even further in the last 7 years by creating “The Green Line”. This is a line of furniture produced by using 100% organic materials. The video then goes through all the components of putting together a single piece of furniture. A step by step list is given of each material used, the products used to wash the materials, and the socially, environmentally and economically responsible process used for producing and obtaining all of these matrials.

Check out this video, and many others on the Cisco site, giving visual insight to the world of Cisco, and healthy furniture.

Komodo Dragons and National Parks: The Majesty of Indonesia

It was only about one hundred years ago that human beings became aware of their Earthly coexistence with real live dragons. Despite this longstanding ignorance, Komodo dragons have been around for millions of years. It is on the Indonesian Islands of Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang, Padar, and of course, Komodo, that these guys lurk, flashing their creepy, death tongues. It is widely said that the saliva of a Komodo is so ridden with toxins and bacteria it will eventually kill you, even with a minor bite.

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Komodo Dragons are the largest lizards on earth, reaching lengths of 10 feet and weighing up to 300 pounds. A popular theory states that their size is due to Island Gigantism. This is when the size of animals isolated on an island increases dramatically in comparison to their mainland relatives. Island gigantism is one aspect of the more general “island rule”, which posits that when mainland animals colonize islands, small species tend to evolve larger bodies, and large species tend to evolve smaller bodies. With the arrival of humans and associated predators (dogs, cats, rats, pigs), many giant island endemics have become extinct.

Contrasting with the Island Gigantism belief, more recent research suggests that Komodo dragons are representative of a population of very large, Varanid lizards, which died out after the Pleistocene. These ancestors lived across Indonesia and Australia, with other giant animals. Fossils similar to Komodo dragons have been found all over Australia, dating to more than 3.8 million years ago.

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Because of their size, Komodo dragons are the dominant predators in their habitat. They often hunt in groups, and prey on both birds and mammals. When a dragon is hatched from its egg, it spends its early years in trees, hiding from possible predators. It takes about 9 years to mature and is estimated to live up to 30 years. Because of increasing human activity, their range of living space has been limited and Komodo dragons are currently listed as a vulnerable species. Indonesian law protects them, and a national park was created to help preserve their existence.

Komodo National Park

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Komodo National Park is made up of three major islands: Rinca, Komodo, and Padar, and many smaller islands as well. These Islands originated from volcanoes, and span a total area of 219,322 hectacres. They exist directly at the juncture of two tectonic plates and are part of the “shatter belt” within the Wallacea biogeographical Region. The land is a global conservation priority area. The climate here is dry and hot, yet there is also a rainforest and monsoon element.

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Although the Komodo dragon is the ham of the animal band in this region, there are other notable species living in the background, such as the orange-footed scrub fowl, the Timor deer, and an endemic rat. Because of the strong sea currents and expansive coral reefs, sea turtles, whales and dolphins also hang around.

Tourism
If you plan to travel to Komodo National Park, you can expect nothing short of paradise with a pretty exhilarating “Journey to the Center of the earth” vibe. Pastimes for tourists include lots of picnic lunches, swimming and snorkeling in the clear as glass water, hiking the fantastic and varied terrains of the islands, learning all about Komodo dragons and observing them close up in their natural habitat. It is also possible to stay in one of those mesh-ceiling huts on stilts in the ocean that seem to cover screen savers everywhere. Tourism here cannot accommodate more that 60,000 people a year, which keeps things reasonably intimate. However the buzz is ever-increasing and tourism jumped by 9,000 people between 2009 and 2010.

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Dragon Lust
Despite people two centuries ago being unaware of the Komodo dragons existence, Indonesian myth and folklore (influenced strongly by and often overlapping with Indian culture) is filled with dragon stories.

This one is called, Biwar Kills a Dragon: http://www.st.rim.or.jp/~cycle/MYdragonE.html

Check out our one of a kind dragon sculptures. These guys are made of Teak Wood, and were carved by hand in Indonesia.

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Karole Explores Art Basel Miami Beach

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Just a couple of weeks ago from December 5 to December 8, art lovers from all over the world gathered in south Florida for the annual Art Basel Miami Beach. This is a festival drawing over 75,000 national and international visitors that showcases work from 250 of the world’s best art galleries. Referenced below is some info from the Official Basel website, explaining how Art Basel began, how it operates, and why it works so well.

History

In 1970 Art Basel was founded by Basel art gallerists Ernst Beyeler, Trudi Bruckner and Balz Hilt. At this time there were 90 galleries and 30 publishers from 10 countries who exhibited at the inaugural show.This first Basel exhibit drew 16,300 visitors. By the time Art Basel was 6 years old, it had grown to 300 exhibitors, which is where it stands today. In 2002, Art Basil debued in Miami Beach. This spot is considered the “nexus of North America and Latin America.”

“The show reflects the city’s multi cultural identity, presenting a diversity of work from the galleries and artists of the region. It immediately establishes itself as the premier show in the Americas, and ranks among the favorite winter-time events of the international art world”

The Role Of Basel

“The dynamic relationships between art galleries, their artists, private collectors and public institutions play an essential role in today’s art world, and connecting the international art community has been Art Basel’s goal since its beginning.”

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About The Shows

“Three annual shows bring the artworld together in some of the world’s most exciting venues: Basel, in the heart of Europe; Miami Beach at the nexus of North and South America; and Hong Kong, the gateway to Asia”

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Who Runs Basel

“Behind Art Basel stands a team of individuals with a range and depth of experience in the artworld and related disciplines. Each member channels his or her expertise into making Art Basel shows the most prestigious platform for artists, gallerists, and collectors. To learn more about our team, including employment opportunities offered by Art Basel and its parent company, MCH Group.”

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Many SOWA area gallery directors and artists were in attendance this year at Art Basel, including our own store manager and visual artist, Karole Moe. Karole jet-setted to Miami for a two day tour of the winter’s most exciting art festival and some coveted vitamin D… we are jealous! Here are Karole’s thoughts on what she saw, and some of the photos she was able to snap of her favorite pieces.

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Have you ever been to this show before?
It was my first time at Art Basel!

According to the internet, Miami Beach was crammed with around 75,000 spectators. Describe this scene.
The scene was CRAZY!  All kinds of people, artists and buyers alike.  In fact, each building had special “collector’s room” that I peeked into where they were serving dessert and champagne to those who purchased.

I know there were Several SOWA area galleries participating as well. Were you able to see their exhibitions? How do the Boston Galleries compare with what you saw from the rest of the world in Miami? Not better or worse, but were there any aspects that were different?
I did not see any of the SOWA galleries there but I do think that they would compete very well. After being at Basel, I confirmed that Thayer Street has a very good scene here!  Yay, for us!

Advice for anyone participating- anything goes!  The art was really wild.  Some of it may not be right for everyone, but super unusual.

In conclusion I would say that I wished I had gone for a week vs. 2 days.  As an artist and designer, I can never get enough.  Of course my head might have exploded after a certain point!

Favorites:

Yayoi Kusama – she is the polka dot artist from Japan… look her up!

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Markus Linnenbrink – The white art room- see the straws!

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The repros of Basquiat and Rothko made up of small portraits of themselves:

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 Pieces made up of moving parts and lights were also really interesting as well.

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAb10bCMLFE]

Warm, Plush & Unique Gifts for the Holiday Season!

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The weather outside is… actually not that bad. But if I know New England, it’s due to get frightful any minute now. Snuggle up this Holiday season with the fluffiest pillows, coziest scarves, and an array of ornate hand woven blankets, Indian fabrics, Indian Poufs, and assorted pillows!

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Hand Embroidered Wool Scarf/Shawl
India, $68
#40140

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Kantha Stitched Scarf, Kimono Fabric Edge
$65
#131106

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Kantha Stitched Blanket
India, 60 x 86, $125
#131204-3

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Embroidered Indian Poufs
$136

#NC39496

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Cotton Pillow with Design
18 inches, Thailand, $65
#40690

Blue Pillow with Feather Insert
18 by 18, $195
#41110

Assorted Pillow, Yellow Flowers
22 by 22, $225
#41071

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Silk Cushions
$19

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