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Boro at Somerset House

Boro at Somerset House

Yesterday, a beautiful sunny spring day, Michelle and I went down to Somerset House to check out the Boro exhibition. To quote the website:

Translated to ‘rags’ in English, boro is the collective name for items – usually clothing and bed covers – made by the poor, rural population of Japan who could not afford to buy new when need required and had to literally make ends meet by piecing and patching discarded cotton onto existing sets, forming something slightly different each time they did so. Generations of Japanese families repaired and recycled fishermen’s jackets to futon covers, handing them down to the next and weaving their own sagas and stories through the threads.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Cotton was an expensive and sought-after material in rural Japan, so worn-out clothing was passed along and used as futon/bed coverings, the worn-out parts re-worked and replaced with new patches as necessary. The pieces are beautiful and mesmerising to look at, so have been appropriated as highly collectible artworks in Western countries. As a sewist, I was particularly fascinated to get up close and see the various woven patterns, fabric combinations, dyeing and embroidery techniques used to create such a richly textured surface.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Varying lengths and patterns of hand-stitches for decorative texture.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

I love these dense rows of stitches: nothing is measured or straight, and it doesn’t matter. It seems to tie into the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi: imperfect beauty.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Some of these patch-pieced ones look like English fields seen from an aeroplane.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Look close and you’ll see layer upon layer of patterns and textures. Woven patterns remind me of ikat, one of my favourite types of fabric, and some pieces seemed to have had patterns created by resist-dyeing and shibori-stle knotting and folding techniques.

Boro at Somerset House

You can see why the pieces are compared to art works: some have the Cubist arrangement of a Picasso or Mondrian, where others seem freely expressive like a Pollock or late Matisse.

Boro at Somerset House

This was my favourite, the decorative embroidery looks like mystical cave symbols, and the tan corduroy with the shades of indigo is gorgeous. It was very inspiring to look at a different way of combining and manipulating materials, and really makes me want to create an abstract hand-pieced and -embroidered quilt. The free exhibition runs until 26th April, daily 10.00-18.00. I can’t recommend a visit highly enough.

Dim sum masterclass at Ping Pong

Ping Pong Dum Sum

Last week Ping Pong invited me to take a dim sum masterclass at their Westfield Stratford restaurant. The restaurant only opened there last month, and I’m glad to have one close to home as I love their food. So I was excited to go and learn how to make their tasty dumplings myself…

Ping Pong Dum Sum

Armed with a delicious – and rather potent – cocktail (which may or may not have hampered our dim sum success) we first got an introduction to the art of dumpling from Ping Pong’s head chef, before being let loose on the ingredients. The dough for these steamed dumplings is made from fine wheat flour, potato starch and water, which gives it the characteristic chewiness. You can also add colouring from natural vegetable sources (spinach for green, beetroot for pink, carrot for orange etc) and they are then stuffed with a meat, seafood or vegetable filling before being steamed to plump deliciousness.

Ping Pong Dum Sum

There’s a technique to getting the perfect little scalloped shape: tuck, fold, press. Naturally the chefs who make up to 3,000 dumplings a day are pro at rolling out perfect ones each time, but us mortals struggled a bit to get the hang of it. With their encouragement, I got a few looking quite neat.

Ping Pong Dum Sum

Some of us took it more seriously than others…

Ping Pong Dum Sum

There was a friendly competition for the best dim sum roller amongst our group. I won, and got a bottle of bubbly for my efforts! I have to confess, I probably had a head start as I learned a similar technique on the Japanese cooking class I did a while ago.

Ping Pong Dum Sum

After our handmade efforts came back from being steamed, we got to enjoy them, then we were treated to several more classic Ping Pong dishes too. We all went home pretty stuffed and merry from the cocktails. If you fancy taking a class yourself, they can be privately booked for a group at a cost of £40 per head, which includes the masterclass and meal afterwards. Check Ping Pong’s site for details.

Lichtenstein: A Retrospective at the Tate Modern

Lichtenstein, Tate Modern

Lucky me – the Tate Modern invited me to a press preview of their new Lichtenstein retrospective on Monday. He’s one of my favourite artists so it was quite a treat to get a quiet(er) viewing of the show before the crowds. Oh, and I was allowed to snap photos!

Lichtenstein, Tate Modern

Besides the comic-strip ‘war and romance’ pieces he’s best known for, this show does a great job of displaying the other sides to Lichtenstein’s work, and across 13 rooms charts out the many phases he evolved through during his life’s work.

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We Feast

We Feast

I think We Feast is one of the best street foody eat-ups I’ve been to in a while! It had all the great vibes of the food truck meetup we went to in San Francisco, with bonus Christmassy touches that made it feel lovely and festive.

We Feast
We Feast

Firstly, it was in a perfect venue – a wonderful semi-derelict old Victorian sorting office in Islington, decked out with cool huge globe lights and twinkly fairy lights.

We Feast
We Feast

Organisation-wise it was spot on, not too crowded or queue-heavy with plenty of seating and a big bar. I had a delicious lemongrass Dark and Stormy.

We Feast

Great live music added to the festive vibes.

We Feast

And of course the food, with stalls from all of London’s current best and brightest…

We Feast
We Feast

I started with Anna Mae’s mac & cheese, levelled up with jalapenos and sour cream…

We Feast

Then went for a delicious mushroom, walnut and miso Yum Bun

We Feast
We Feast

Sweet treats from Meringue Girls, almost to pretty to eat

We Feast

Pakoras from Delhi Grill

We Feast
We Feast
We FeastWe Feast
We Feast

And the rest… The only slight downside was that a fair proportion of the stalls didn’t have a veggie option so I didn’t get to sample Rainbo’s gzoyas, Tonkotsu’s ramen, Mishkin’s, or a Lucky Chip (veggie)burger. But I think I did pretty OK anyway.

We Feast

Looking forward to the next one already!

Obey Sound & Vision

Obey Sound & Vision

Just some pics I took at the new Obey show at Stolen Space in Shoreditch. It closes this Sunday, so pop down soon if you want to check it out.

Obey Sound & Vision
Obey Sound & Vision
Obey Sound & Vision
Obey Sound & VisionObey Sound & Vision
Obey Sound & Vision
Obey Sound & Vision
Obey Sound & VisionObey Sound & Vision
Obey Sound & Vision