Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Garment District, New York City

Picture of button

Another adventure during my trip to New York City. On one of the afternoons that we split up to go pursue our separate interests, I went to the garment district. That is the reason I wanted to see New York City….to see the garment district. The excitement I felt when I saw that big button with the needle in it was indescribable. A dream was coming true! But I really had no clue what I was in for. The garment district is a block of streets and avenues all of which contain fabric stores, button shops, fringe shops, feather shops, embellishment specialty shops… name it and there isn’t just one shop, there are several.

I spent 4 hours wandering in and out of the stores there. And that was only the ones located at street level! The stores are so very different than what we have here in Canada, or in fact, anywhere else I’ve been lucky enough to shop for fabric! The fabric is on rolls, and the rolls stand on the floor, leaning against the wall, against the row behind them, and against the next row etc. etc., until they are so deep that you can hardly reach the ones at the back. There are little aisles through the store that if you are wearing a back pack, you cannot turn around in! All you can see is the tip of the roll so you have to reach in and try to lift up the roll. The minute you try to do that, the salesperson is there to get it for you, unroll what you were interested in and spread it out for a better view. I was so astounded at the variety and sheer volume that I was on sensory overload and kind of wandered around trying not to look overwhelmed! Gobsmacked as Debbie Travis would say!

And nothing has a price on it. It seems to be decided upon when you ask about it. And then you are expected to barter. Now I know some people love to barter, but I’m not one of them. Therefore, my shock and discomfort to see a customer and a salesperson actually yelling at each other over some fabric for a sari would not be a surprise to those who know me! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing and left the store to go to the next one. In the end, I came back with ONE little bag that had a HALF yard of fabric.

When I walked into the hotel room, where Linda and Ang were waiting for me, Ang could not believe I had spent four hours in the fabric district and came back with one little package. I sat down with my glass of wine and described what I’d been exposed to. Ang was rolling on the bed laughing at the thought of me being so overwhelmed that I didn’t buy fabric by the yards! I told her she was in for it….just for laughing, she had to come back with me the next day. There actually was a piece I loved, but couldn’t bring myself to barter. She agreed.

Next morning, we were there bright and early. We found the store I wanted to return to and found the roll of fabric I had admired. It was already half gone! But I did get two yards and I did barter for it. I don’t know if I got a good deal, but if I’d got it here in Canada at that price, it was a great deal. I just fondle it daily now…’s one of those I have to think about before I cut into it!

But I have to admit that I lay awake at night wishing I could go to the garment district when I’m starting a new project here at home. The offerings were utterly spectacular and I will never forget the variety and possibilities. It would be a wonderful place to go with a project in mind and look for specific items. I could do a whole new book on embellishing! I’m so glad I made it there at least once in my life!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Museum of Modern Art

The saying goes "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder". Never was that truer than when I visited the Museum of Modern Art, not even a block from the American Folk Art Museum. After being astounded at the Paula Nadelstern show at the Folk Art Museum, I walked down and went to the Museum of Modern Art, otherwise known as MOMA.

My first impression was that it was big and empty. The courtyard was nice. I wandered through the exhibits, becoming less and less interested and more and more convinced that "modern" art is not my preference. A display of prints of Marilyn Monroe's face, each a different color. Some sculptures, some drawings, all stark and graphic. And then I came into a room that had some of the work of Robert Rauschenberg.

Remember I have just come from a quilt display that was breathtaking. Now I am standing in front of a hanging that consists of an antique quilt mounted in a wooden frame with a pillow, as if it was a partially made bed, with paint poured over the entire thing. It looked like an accident I would have when I am painting in the house, but to have someone voluntarily take a hand made antique quilt and do that to it......I was incensed. Another piece by this artist was a big painting of slashed colors with a worn tire hanging off of it. I was quite horrified.

When I discussed this with a friend of mine here on the island, she instantly knew it was Robert Rauschenberg and had this to say about him: "He was an odd character but he did art a service by waking us up to the artistic possibilities of assembling odd objects and found objects. Remember in the 1950’s they were mostly painting stuff and doing traditional sculpture. It would have been a very exciting time to be in New York with that particular group of modern artists." Here is a link which discusses the work that so angered me! Copy and paste this into your browser address bar,1,3534489.story

I guess modern art just isn't my cup of tea! But, it takes all kinds and it has certainly given me something to think about when I'm dreaming up new projects!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Paula Nadelstern at the American Folk Art Museum

Another story about my trip to New York City. On an afternoon where I went wandering on my own, I decided I would go to the Museum of Modern Art. And….It was my extreme good fortune to discover before I left, that Paula Nadelstern was having a show of her quilts at the American Folk Art Museum. So this particular afternoon was reserved for those two experiences.

After checking the map, I walked from the hotel. A great experience in window shopping and people watching. The Museum of Folk Art and MOMA are on the same street and the direction I approached from took me to the Paula Nadelstern show first. I walked in, bought my ticket, and stopped right there in the lobby to look at the quilts that were hung there as an introduction. To say I was speechless at their beauty and intricacy would be a major understatement. I sat on the bench in the lobby and just admired what I was seeing. Pictures were not allowed and I don’t have photographic memory, but I have to say what I was seeing put me into a kind of trance but on the edge of tears. Paula Nadelstern’s work is so fine and so perfect that it is impossible to absorb what you’re seeing in a glance! This is a photo of Paula in the lobby, taken from her website:

When I felt like I could walk again, (honest!), I went upstairs to the display they had for the rest of her work. Quilts of all sizes were hanging there along with her description of their inspiration and the process used in creating them. I studied each one carefully and made some notes of what was outstanding. Part of Paula’s kaleidoscope collection was also on display for visitors to look through and be entranced by the color magic they produce. But her quilts were a stunning experience to view in real life. Pictures just don’t do justice to the perfection, intricacy, color, and detail. I would highly recommend that anybody buy her new book, “Kaleidoscope Quilts, An Artist’s Journey Continues”. The quilts in the show are featured in it, and even if you don’t quilt or even quilt that style, it’s a wonderful coffee table book and fantastic inspiration.

Here is a link to pictures of the show on her website. You'll have to copy and paste it into your browser address bar:

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Day 4 in NYC, May 20, 2009 bridge & toes in river

It’s our last day the bus passes will be valid and Ang said that’s a good thing because we’ve gone past the same area a couple of times getting back to home base and have had different guides each time. She said she’s starting to feel like adding to their commentary with something the “other” guide said. I laughed and said....I know what you mean, and if I’m not mistaken when we went past Bette Davis’s house today, it seemed to me that it was the same one Kathryn Hepburn used to live in when we went by yesterday.” Linda said she picked up on that one too.

Today we walked the Brooklyn Bridge. It is quite stunning. Not only looking back at the Manhattan skyline, but the construction of the bridge itself. As you walk along with your eyes agog and your mouth trying not to hang open in amazement (paints a good picture right?) the cars are whizzing back and forth underneath you. The walking/cycling deck is above so you see the cables and ramparts beautifully. Having a perfectly sunny day helped the ambience I must say. When we got to Brooklyn, we went to yet again another Starbucks and had coffee, and then walked down to the shore of the river. We wanted to say we’d been able to put our feet in the Atlantic! But it’s the river….but we did it anyways. Ang and I are both rock and stone collectors. We took pictures of the shore, quite different than here in BC, and we picked up a few pebbles to take home to add to our garden collections.

We plan to separate on tomorrow’s tour, as we have different preferences of which museum and/or gallery we want to see. Everyone has different plans. Mine are go to two art galleries, MOMA and the American Museum of Folk Art for the Paula Nadelstern show. I can’t believe my luck that she has a show hanging when I am in the city! We have post it notes that we’ve made lists on stuck to the wall three in a row with what we want to do on it and every time we get back to the hotel room we scratch something off. I wish I’d taken a picture of that! I plan to visit the garment district too!

Ang and Linda laughed at me today because I said the sides of my neck are actually sore from looking to the left at this and then looking to the right at that. I tried to defend myself by saying that everything I do at home is looking straight, sewing, TV, stitching etc. They wouldn’t have it and kept laughing. So I gave in and said “What can I say? I’ll tell people to do neck exercises if they are going to come here!”

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Tuesday May 19, Day TWO in NYC

Today, Tuesday, we took the express bus down to the Staten Island Ferry, walked to it through Battery Park, which was lovely, and then took the ferry .... yes I went on a holiday and actually took a free ferry ride! It was very much like the little ferries that go to Quadra or Denman. But it went past Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. We chose not to take the paid ferry that stops there and lets you get out because you can’t go in the Statue and the picture taking is better from out on the water, and Ellis Island isn’t open all the time. But that little ride was well worth it because the statue is really quite striking and you get the feeling of what it must have been like to see it when you were running away from your homeland and getting to somewhere you thought would be better. And the view of the Manhatten skyline from out on that ferry was really spectacular.

When we got back to the Manhattan side, we got on another bus and took the loop tour to Brooklyn. It was a closed bus and so comfy that Linda drifted off and had a cat nap for a little while! Brooklyn was interesting but it too is undergoing “gentrification” and they are tearing down the old character buildings and replacing them with buildings that hold more apartments in the same land space because Manhattan is getting impossible to live in unless you’re Donald Trump or Bill Gates. More and more people want to live in Brooklyn, which is across a bridge. The best part of the whole tour was the brownstone houses that used to be tenement apartment buildings and have been bought up by individuals and made into single family homes. Those streets were so lovely with big trees and cobblestones and I am so ticked off because my pictures of them didn’t turn out. I had to take them through the window of the bus and they don’t stop there or let you out.....I guess because it’s people’s private homes and I wouldn’t like tour buses going up and down my street yakking away over their speakers either!
We got off the bus in a nice little area and had a great lunch in a very busy restaurant, and then got back on the bus to return to Manhattan. The Brooklyn Bridge is beautiful. We didn’t go over it. We’re going walk over it tomorrow or the next day. It only allows cars. It was built for traffic that was much lighter and has had to have girders put under it since the invention of SUV’s because the weight of them is more than the bridge is engineered to hold! So the buses go under it, around it and over the Manhattan Bridge which is a newer one about two blocks away. I can’t remember which one it was, but one of them had the piece on the land begin to sink so they had to do construction around it to shore it up!
After the tour of Brooklyn we got off at the seaport. There is a ticket agent there and Angie and Linda wanted to go to a Broadway show. You go there at 11:00 and buy whatever’s left for whatever show is on that night at a fraction of the price. I was with them but I didn’t want to go. I don’t like musicals and am not into drama and the show was “West Side Story”. I might have gone if it was “Lion King” because the costumes in the posters all over the place are pretty incredible. And definitely if it had been Cirque de Soleil. When I said I had seen the movie when it came out Ang and Linda were both astounded......I guess the 10 year difference in our ages was showing then!
So when the bus got back to Times Square, we came to our hotel room and relaxed for a while with our favorite libations. We plotted out tomorrow.
Right now they have gone to the show. I walked there with them and walked back alone. Holy Cow. We were all shocked! I guess we’ve been moving around the streets while everyone is at work and it’s not as busy in the daytime, although I have to say I thought it was…..but little did I know! When we got out there at 6 pm to walk over to the theatre we were all astounded at the press of people. The streets are jam packed and you can’t move other than in pace with everyone. I bet if you stopped, you’d get trampled before anyone noticed! And noisy!!!! Horns, music, announcements, hawkers, buses, you name it. You couldn’t talk to each other it was so noisy! Bob would have found a nook and hidden until it died down and then run for home! I have to say I wouldn’t want to live that way either. Interesting and exciting for a vacation but not something you’d want to deal with all the time.
While we were in the room discussing what to do tomorrow, Angie asked if it was what we expected it to be. I said “No, not really.” Linda agreed wholeheartedly. She said not her either. We are all enjoying the experience of seeing it all, but it’s sort of like Banff. Banff is a Canadian National Park, but it is Japanese people who hardly speak our language in all the stores and restaurants and hotels. NYC is the same thing. Except it’s African, Puerto Rican, or Oriental and they are very hard to understand even tho they are trying to speak English! The people who work in stores, restaurants, the street vendors ....all of them are from somewhere else. So we’re all disappointed not to be hearing any of the New York accent we were looking forward to hearing. I think you’d have to stay with someone in one of the outer burroughs to get much exposure to that. But I have to say, we’ve been met with nothing but totally friendly and helpful people, in the service areas, on the public transit and when asking directions. Not one negative people experience. I wonder could someone say that about my home town? I’d like to think so!