Freitag, 1. März 2013

Pizza of the Lazy Housewife

Sometimes I dream of nothing more than a good pizza. Outside of Italy this usually remains a dream, because I simply do not have the time to prepare the dough and so on.
And, as a native Italian, I detest frozen pizza.
And all this dilemma was so simply solved by the brilliant idea of my mum - she is really the best!
So this is how it works.
Take Arabic flat bread from your local turkish/arabic/ or whatsoever store.
Put everything that you want on your pizza on top, bake it right under the grill of your oven until crunchy.

My mum is fantastic, right?

Donnerstag, 28. Februar 2013

Goldwork ... in Progress

Some small finished flowers and an unfinished big pomegranate blossom (Anarkali) for my new Balkanese costume. Stay tuned!

Mittwoch, 20. Februar 2013

On Reconstructed Dance Costumes: What is "authentic"?

Now that the Kalbeliya costume is finally finished I have collected so many ideas in my head that I am working now not on one "historical" costume, but on two simultaneously.

(N.B.: Rereading this article I have the impression to have written an anti-tribal-fusion statement. I do not at all disrespect any kind of fusion work, on the contrary, it has it's own charm and is an artform in itself! But it has a totally different background than what I am trying to do in this moment.)

When I say "historical" costume this means that I do an accurate research on a specific region and a certain time period. Then I usually choose a whole outfit that I try to reproduce including accessoires like headpieces, shoes and jewellery. On this base I choose the matching music to form a dance out of that.
But when it comes to reconstruction there are a lot of different levels of historical accuracy to follow. How much must my work adhere to them?

Thinking of my next projects these are the questions I posed to myslf and also how to answer them for myself - regarding only my own work right now. I do not want to make any absolute judgements, I just want to clear my ideas in order to achieve a round and coherent outcome!

Modern  version of a traditional Algerian costume  - from a magazine of the famous Algerian Designer Samira Bezaouia Sadek

Can I mix pieces of different outfits?
The answer is difficult. As documentary material may be scarce I will be forced to invent something in any case. BUT - and this is crucial for me - I want to have a coherent work, this means, that if I borrow pieces (and, when it comes to dances, movements) from another, similar source, I want to make sure that the pieces will not loose their initial meaning by being put into an alien surrounding. This may sound really cryptic. I mean, that the pieces should match and should not be used out of their  context regarding religion, social strata and regional peculiarity. So I would not combine, e.g. a peasant woman's apron with an urban headpiece.
Mixing signs of different religious or ethnic communities is not only a sign of a certain ignorance; it might even be regarded as an insult to a member of those. So be very careful with eclectic compositions and have always your audience in mind.
The gender aspect is also very important in non westernized societies. Although I see a certain shift in contemporary ethnic stage dance and costuming (e. g. in some of the new pieces of the sukhilshvilebi from Georgia) I'd rather leave those challenges of their own society to them. As an outsider I can never be sure what denotation it will create on the indigenous audience.
Whenever we approach and try to appropriate a different culture we should be very careful not to destroy the whole systems of meanings that holds it, otherwise we risk to act not only out of ignorance but in a colonialistic way.
This is what I mean by "authentic".

I know this sound sooo conservative! But where is my free artistic expression?! you may ask.

I find a lot of it even in this cautious approach. Some of the freedom comes simply out of material renouncement. I adore, for example, handloomed textiles, and love the very few scarfs that I own. But historical garments need a lot more fabric than our modern ones. And I would have to order them from India, and that is pricey. So, in this case I am very relaxed. I use modern, even synthetic, fabrics when I think they match the styling. I use my sewing machine, I use zippers, fabric glue, faux pearls, acrylic beads, glitter, and so on.
And I also adopt and combine modern crafting techniques which are completely non related to the historical background of a costume. So on a balkan style coat I will put not only the traditional gold work, but also holographic sequins and Japanese inspired Kanzashi flowers.
Random material for goldwork on an velvet coat

Last not least the music I like to use gives me the directions, how to incorporate modern techniques into an authentic dance costume and piece.

These are so far the limitations I put on myself for my work right now. And after that - I will probably make a completely crazy fusion thing! :-)

What is your opinion about all that? Please share!

Sonntag, 17. Februar 2013

Completed! The Kalbelia Costume Adventure Has Come to an End

I can't believe it. The Kalbelia costume is ready - after months of stitching and using up kilometers of trims. You can see the humble beginnings here
But now step by step - if you plan to make a costume like this yourself. Actually this costume was not very expensive in materials - I used very simple things that you can even find in your stash. But it was probably the most time-consuming project I ever made.
You need for the skirt:
2 (!) 3-tiers circular cotton skirts
The skirt you can see in the first post is actually only the first half of what I made. Then I realized that the skirt had to be wider so that it swirls beautifully.
Lots (!) of trims and ribbons. Cheap satin ribbons are the best. I cannot name the exact amount I used, but I used at least 25m of each colour.   
Eventually some repurposed fabric in bright colours - in this case for the blue stripes on the skirt and the yellow pieces on the shirt with the cut-out diamonds.
In my first post I explained how I cut out the diamonds - actually a second time I'd probably first cut the diamonds out and add the white rickrack trim with hand stitches first before stitching it on the skirt with the machine. But it works both ways.
The sequins have been glued on the skirt with fabric glue - you could sew them as well, of course, but I didn't want to spend much time.
Then you'll need an already existing cotton blouse. I added some more length with some more cloth - this is optional.
The microbeaded stripes were the most expensive parts of the costume. Maybe I'll try to make them myself one day, beadweaving shouldn't be that complicated. The patterns are simple and you can make those stripes using a beadloom or even without.
The veil is made of very simple synthetic organdy and I just I added a silver fringed trim and a green ribbon for contrast.
So this is the result of months of research, and of stitching. We are just waiting for the next performance!

Dienstag, 15. Januar 2013

Recipe: Spinach and Cheese Börek

The pictures for this recipe have been sleeping on my computer for a while, but one dear friend asked me about it recently so here they are:

Börek with spinach and cheese filling

(I use here ready made Wantan dough, because it is less sticky and fragile than the Turkish yufka (fillo) dough).


1 pck of wantan dough leaves
500 g spinach (steamed if fresh, or thawed)
300 g of feta (or similar) cheese
1 bunch of spring onions
garlic according to your taste
oil for frying
lemon slices

 Prepare the filling mixing all the ingredients.
Put a small (!) amount of filling on the leave (otherwise you will not be able to roll it properly). Fold sides vertically.

Roll up completely and press the part with the filling slightly in order to have a compact roll.

Deep fry in oil or coat it with vegetal oit and bake it in the oven until they have a golden colour.
Serve hot with lemon slices for an entrée or as finger food!

Dienstag, 4. Dezember 2012

Winter's Delight: Chai Syrup

In Greek and generally in medieval medicine man is said to be in the centre of two opposites: hot and cold, wet and dry. As long as the these elements are well balaced in our body we are healthy. An excess in any of the directions creates diseases. And of course we depend on our environment, that means, that in winter we are strongly exposed to cold and wet influences which affect our bodies. To prevent "colds" (as contemporary physicians state the common "cold" we catch has nothing to do with the temperature of the environment, but is a result of contagion) people used to eat food that was said to be "hot", such as certain spices, dried fruits and nuts. And it is not by chance these ingrediences are part of the traditional Christmas dishes in Central Europe. Especially the spices like cinnamon, clove, cardamom and pepper (all considered hot and dry) as well as ginger (considered hot and wet) that we get at every grocery store around the corner used to be more precious than gold and were carried with caravans and ships from Southeast Asia to Europe. 
You can read the most amazing stories in the wonderful book by Jack Turner!             Yesterday I prepared a wonderfully tasty Chai Syrup that concentrates the taste and the properties of all the above cited spieces. It is so easy and much more tasty than the commercial syrups which are also extremely pricey. It also makes a lovely christmas gift! Syrup consists of the same amount of sugar and water. Simmer it with the spices of your choice. Also the proportions depend onyour preferences; I made the syrup really spicy and hot; if you want to avoid this, reduce the amount of black pepper and ginger.
For 1 kg of sugar I used:
about 1 tablespoon of ground black pepper, cinnamon and cardamom
1/2 tablespoon of ground clove
2-3 tablespoons of whole aniseed
1 cup of fresh ginger, cut into small cubes.

Filter and pour into small bottles. This step is messy! but it's worth it.

Use it to flavour your coffee, tea, hot milk or whatever!

Freitag, 30. November 2012

Tutorial: Chinese Inspired Headpiece

 The last dance I created was a chinese inspired ribbon dance -  I made it for a dance show of my dear friend and colleague Claudina; she just launched her fabulous veil dance instuctional DVD (view the trailer here!) and so I decided to do something that could match the program.
So the dance and the costume were more or less ready, and I wanted to add some more 'bling' to the quite simple dress. I did some research how to make the base for the headpiece; it has to look somehow like this:

So cut out the plastic base and bond it together with masking tape. Sometimes you can even use a tennis cap turned upside down. As you will cover it with fabric later it doesn't matter if the masking tape is visible.
After that cut the fabric generously in the shape of the base and glue it on the surface. Then fold the fabric along the edges and glue the overlap on the back side. Keep the fabric in place with pins and let dry.
Now the most tricky part is done and you just have to glue or stitch the decoration on the base. The pieces dangeling from the temples are made of earrings with some red tassels. The golden lace balls are a part of christmas decoration. I made Kanzashi flowers with fabric scarps from the costume and added also some fabric orchids and severy jewellery pieces. I can only recommend the Kanzashi flower makers from Clover. They are cheap and so easy to use, you can't go wrong! Fabric yoyos are also very easy to make and look gorgeous in the ensemble.
A broad elastic strap holds the crown on the head. If you do backbends make sure that you secure it additionally with bobby pins.