Sari Fashion Show and Rangoli Demo

Color exploded last week at the Sari Fashion Show and Rangoli demonstration at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts.  The program was part of a month long Cultural Festival of India sponsored by this lively organization located on the western coast of Michigan. Last year they featured Japan and included a Kimono exhibit. 

Rangoli is a traditional and colorful art form practiced in India.  They are decorative designs created on floors of living rooms and courtyards during Hindu festivals and are meant as a welcome to the deities.

They are also meant to welcome guests.

 

Designs can be as simple as geometric shapes, deity impressions, flower and pedal shapes or be very elaborate. Materials are rice or powder, flower pedals, grains and other natural materials.

Artists expect to wash away the creation, symbolizing the temporal nature of life. There is no attachment to the work.

 

 The other part of the festival that I attended was the Sari Fashion Show where over twenty garments were modeled and explained.  While I was disappointed with the presentation (no thought given to back drop or images on monitors) the saris were beautiful and the explanations interesting.

India’s traditional national dress for women has withstood the test of time and is now over 5,000 years old.

 

I learned that the style of sari, the embroidery, the colors and even the way the 6-yard length of silk or cotton is draped signifies where the wearer is from.  Each region has its own traditions.

The other thing I really liked is that women wear their wedding saris to all kinds of special occasions.  They aren’t packed away in acid resistant boxes like our wedding gowns are, only to be brought out when the next generation plans a wedding.  A woman can wear her wedding sari often at joyful celebrations.

 

As the moderator explained, “We love color and dance and food.”  The Sari is all part of those traditions.

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Ångkor Wat in Cambodia haunts me still.

It was over two years ago that I visited Angkor Wat in Cambodia, but the images and the mystery of the ancient Khmer capital still haunt me. I can vividly picture the dramatic rock temples, the massive and tangled over grown jungle and the extensive grounds of this vast temple complex.

Angkor Wat, the name of the largest of the temples, is  used frequently to describe the lost civilization that flourished in Cambodia from the 800s to 1400s, peaking with more than a million residents somewhere around 1200.

No one really knows for sure what caused this powerful and cultivated community to disappear.  But it did–lost for 400 years while  the jungle smothered the buildings and temples and homes.  The ones built with wood or bamboo disintegrated, consumed by Mother Nature. The remains of about 100 stone temples and structures can be toured and enjoyed.

More than 22 kings over a period of 500 years presided over this glorious city, building temples to honor themselves, their families and teachers. Interestingly, their homes were not constructed of stone so they did not survive.

Generous amounts of history remain.  Stories and characters of Hindu mythology and the wars of the area are depicted on bas-relief carvings.

My son and I   spent parts of three days touring the ancient constructions, discovered in the late 1800s by a French naturalist.   Like many tourists, my son loved scrambling up and down the various structures, exploring as much as possible while I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the stories shared by our guide.

Now a major tourist site, the small town of Siem Reap nearby enjoys visitors from all over the world flocking there.  The locals are entranced with idea that Angelina Jolie  made a movie in their town and in the temples. The local people repeatedly told us about her visit and what foods she liked in the different restaurants. Her time there was clearly a “big deal.”  There are even special dishes named for her.

While I find the obsessing with Miss Jolie somewhat amusing, my most vivid memories  are of Ta Prohm, a temple where we could see vividly  the power of  giant jungle trees that took over and  destroyed much of the temple.  Resembling octopus legs, the roots of the giant banyan trees strangled the buildings.

I particularly liked visiting the grounds early in the morning, when our guide took us to a less occupied entrance so we could enjoy the erie setting by ourselves. It was also a lot cooler  then.  Even in March I found Cambodia to be uncomfortably hot.

The other really fun thing– Angkor Wat is a regular destination for wedding photos. We enjoyed watching several groups pose and preen before the stunning ancient scenes. The broken down ruins are quite the contrast to the young couples in their colorful native costumes,  celebrating their plans to spend  their lives together.

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Flea Market Foraging at Anthropologie

“Retail Design is all about creating an experience,” I was told recently at a program at Kendall College of Art and Design, a little jewel of a school in Grand Rapids, MI.

One of the Interior Design instructors made this remark when I commented on  how challenging it must be to teach retail design in an age where Internet shopping is taking a center stage in our lives.

I thought about this statement when I entered the new Anthropolgie store just off Michigan Avenue in Chicago recently.  Wow.  It’s an experience.  Worth a peek just to see the new face of retail.

The space, once inhabited by American Girl store, also known for Experiential Retailing, is fairly small on the street level.  I was drawn to an enticing seating area, engaging displays of products and a wild mix o f merchandise.

Shopping at Anthro, as the insiders call it, is a bit like foraging at a flea market or a vintage clothing store without the bad smells.  You’ll never know what you’ll see next. The buyers travel all over the world to find unique, artsy, silly and interesting stuff. Then they display it in non-traditional ways.

The Chicago store is two-level with the second one underground. Down the colorfully painted stairs, you’d never know you were in a basement.  Products for the home are introduced with a giant mixer filled with flour.  Many of the walls have “décor” that isn’t for sale.  Shirts are mixed with books.  It’s a bit like the way we live.  Jumbled.

It’s a one-of-a-kind aesthetic, even if they have tons of the merchandise back in some warehouse. It’s stuff that yearns to be touched, handled and enjoyed.  Clothing, shoes, home décor, accessories, books, cards and jewelry. Vases and furniture. Plates and mugs.  Candles. An intoxicating mix.

So, the next time you want a flea-market fix but have no time for a jaunt in the country, check out your closest Anthropolgie and then tell me what you think.

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The Grace of Glaciers


by Kate Dernocoeur, guest blogger

Certain eloquent moments in the natural world cause a welling up in me that yields unexpected, unbidden tears. It happened the first time I witnessed a breeching whale, and again when I saw a wolf on a far-off ridge in Yellowstone Park raise its nose to the day, then finally heard its plaintive howl. The same welling up occurs when I witness a glacier “calving”—that moment an icy edge lets go and plummets to the water below with a surprising array of sound: Crash. Splash. Rumble. Scrape. Crack! Sploosh. Glaciers are amazing.

It’s tempting to frame an understanding of them through facts. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (Colorado) website says that ten percent of land is covered by glaciers, and sea level would rise approximately 70 meters worldwide if all that ice melted. Some Antarctic ice is over 4,200 meters thick; glaciers store about 75 percent of the world’s freshwater. Ice shelves in the Antarctic calve icebergs more than 80 kilometers long, and glacial ice crystals can be the size of baseballs. The bluer the ice the denser, as eons of pressure coax out even the tiniest air pockets.

Lake Alsek

But my understanding of glaciers is more personal. It started in 2009 in the world’s second-largest non-polar ice cap in Wrangell-St.Elias National Park (Alaska and Canada).

For sixteen days on the Alsek River, we visited many glaciers, starting with Lowell Glacier (particularly fun, since I live in Lowell, Michigan). We rafted past them and often hiked on them. I tried to bite into shards of the ancient, clear ice: impossible. I discovered glaciers to be as individual as people, some smooth and approachable, others prickly and difficult. Each is a magnificent natural sculpture, kinetic art that alters the surroundings as it is altered by them. Glaciers may be slow, but they are always engaged with the world, reshaping it. There is continuous splash and ripple as the icebergs—some as large as apartment buildings—on glacial lakes calve, too.

A visit to the world’s largest non-polar icefield at the tip of South America confirmed my notion, hatched in Alaska, that glaciers seem like immense organic beings, not just lumps of ice. They have moods, and good days and bad. As we approached Argentina’s Perito Moreno glacier, severe winds sent up such an intense spray that it generated a wind-bow. Walking on the glacier later required crampons and close attention to the guides, for fear of becoming lost in the spires and valleys.

 

Walker Glacier

Earth’s climate makes the future questionable for glaciers, we know this. I am saddened, the way a beached whale saddens me. I ponder the varied eloquence of glaciers and their gifts of wonder, and hope humankind can take heed. To be in the presence of a glacier is like being with a treasured teacher. The size and power yet grace and mystery of a glacier reminds me that while my own needs and cares are valid, they are little. To encounter a glacier is to be humbled, in a most wonderful way.

Walker Glacier Crack 

Lake Alsek

Lake Alsek

A chunk of clear Glacial Ice

Perito Moreno Glacier

To see an impressive sequence of glacial calving, see “Moreno Glacier, Argentina, Feb. 2011 video by Mary Allen” on YouTube

Kate is a fun loving woman who  loves to “dress up” for costume parties.  An avid traveler, she  uncharacteristically finds herself at the moment without reservations to anywhere—at least not yet.

Enjoy her previous DesignDestinations post about her trip to Nicaragua and Patagonia.

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Traveling in Ireland

St. Patrick’s Day is coming……an Irish holiday that has become a Hallmark Moment.  While annoying, I don’t care.  It makes me think of all the lovely times I had in this charming country seeing the sights, hanging out in pubs and enjoying the vibrant green landscape.

Since I am not able to spend any time this year on  March 17 in an Irish setting I decided to remember some of my best experiences recorded on my blog.  So, click away, I’d love for you to  join me on my journey in my mind.

A peak experience was a long weekend in Ashford Castle near Cong.  It’s a wonderful spot, especially if you really want that “castle experience.”  We particularly enjoyed the Falconry School and Walk. Not many places in the world that one can do this.

Dublin is not one of those spots known for lots of culture but we enjoyed much in this working man’s city.  Our hotel there on the last trip, The Fitzwilliam, was particularly nice.  On a previous trip we stayed in the in the old part of town.  It was quite trendy at the time.

Highlights in Dublin include meandering through St. Stephens Square and discovering the memorial to Oscar Wilde.  The latter sent me on a literary journey to learn more about this famous and creative man.  Rather interesting.

Another terrific spot I suggest exploring is the Burren and Cliffs of Mohr vicinity. We stayed at a terrific hotel called Gregans Castle Hotel with kitchen that turned out meals worthy of any high end eatery in Paris.  We thoroughly enjoyed exploring tall castles and the rocky Burren landscape.  I think sometimes people miss this area in their rush to get to the Ring of Kerry.

Ah, makes me want to go back, join the Irish musicians in the pubs, explore the old castles  and take a long stroll through the mist.  I love the feeling of home…..and yes, like many of my fellow Americans, I have a wee bit of  Irish in my bones and proud of it even though there’s a lot of silliness this time of year.

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