Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sculpteur Victoria Shaw

A Pacific Northwest native, Victoria Shaw received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Marylhurst University before developing an interest in ceramics. After taking a class from Patrick Horsley, clay became a lifelong love.
For years the artist coiled vase forms on her kitchen table and at local craft centers. In 1980 she returned to the academic world, earning both a Bachelor and a Masters degree in Fine Arts at the University of Oregon. Her work derives inspiration from "the still, small voice within," and often her sculptures speak about a collective spiritual vision. 
Victoria Shaw works on her pottery at the Stark Street Studios and Gallery in Southeast Portland
Since 1986 she has been making totems of various forms. Victoria lives and works in Portland, Oregon, and her sculpture is collected throughout the United States, as well as Israel and Japan. In addition her work is featured in many publications, including magazines and books.
From the Portland Tribune:
Victoria Shaw could be considered your typical artist. She wears a beret, works countless hours on her ceramics, takes inspiration from the spiritual world, spreads the love by teaching young people, and puts such care into pieces — it’s not surprising that some sell for more than $4,000.
“People ask me, ‘How long does it take you to make this?’ ” she says, standing amidst some of her work at the Stark Street Studios and Gallery. “I say, ‘Oh, about 35 years.’ “
She laughs about the pat answer. “It took me that long to get to the point where I am now.”
Then again, how many artists have been a religious postulant and a truck driver?
Shaw has all the vocations covered in her life — religion, blue collar, educator, artist...
Read the full article here.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Théodule-Augustin Ribot

Théodule-Augustin Ribot (1823 – 1891) was a French realist painter.
Ribot was born in Saint-Nicolas-d'Attez, and studied at the École des Arts et Métiers de Châlons before moving to Paris in 1845. There he found work decorating gilded frames for a mirror manufacturer; he also studied in the studio of Auguste-Barthélémy Glaize. After a trip to Algeria around 1848, he returned in 1851 to Paris, where he continued to make his living as an artisan. In the late 1850s, working at night by lamplight, he began to paint seriously, depicting everyday subjects in a realistic style.
Théodule Ribot by Leonard Baskin
He made his Salon debut in 1861 with several paintings of kitchen subjects. Collectors purchased the works, and his paintings in the Salons of 1864 and 1865 were awarded medals.
Ribot painted domestic genre works, still-lifes, portraits, and religious scenes.
In 1878 Ribot received the Légion d'honneur. At about this time, in ill health, he stopped painting and moved to Colombes, where he died in 1891.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ceramics, Pottery and Good Taste

Until my first visit to New Zealand, some 13 years ago, I had no interest in pottery and ceramics. It was an eye-opener to see how many potters there are in this country, many of them even making a (often meager) living with their art.
I was impressed with how many people actually go to a potter to get their tea and coffee cups, the nicely decorated plates and little works of art. 
Ceramic commemoration photograph
Quite different from what I was used to in Europe, where earthenware is usually bought from large stores, factory made (often in countries with cheap labour) and with no individualism or artistic considerations involved.
Looking for a connection between the beret and pottery, I didn't find too many interesting pieces (and what I found was kind of.., well, you judge for yourself), but have a look at my friend Mike Perry's web site to get a feel for great NZ pottery. 
"Brutus and Mary", by Mike Perry
Or do you prefer a fine piece of "Green Beret Art" like this:

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Making of a Beret

This pictorial explanation of the making of the beret, I found on the web site of Beatex/Pierre Laulhere (France's oldest beret manufacturer since 1840). It gives a good outline of the manufacturing of the beret, in a few words and so many pictures:

The making of a beret: Berets are not cut out of a sheet of cloth and then shaped. They are actually knitted one at a time on knitting looms.
Traditionally, berets were closed by hand, stitch by stitch. Béatex now has machines which do the same job directly on the knitting loom.
WoolKnitting machine
Unrefined meshed knitted headgear re-meshed
Fullingfelt headware
This round piece of knitting is then felted i.e. mechanically worked in a water solution by milling machines (the shepherds used to use a washing mill). The wool, and the beret’s diameter, shrinks as the knitting becomes thicker.Once turned into felt, the berets are dyed in large vats then individually dried on round moulds which determine their final size.
Tinted headwareTank
Scratching, trimingScratched headgear
The beret is first combed (originally with thistles) then shorn to discard unwanted strands. It is this combing/shearing operation which gives berets their special feel and texture.The beret may then be lined, embroidered or flocked and fitted with a leather headband, a badge or ribbon, etc. All of these are finishing touches.
Finished headgearFashioning

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Tuna are salt water fish from the family Scombridae, mostly in the genus Thunnus. Tuna are fast swimmers, and some species are capable of speeds of 70 km/h. Unlike most fish, which have white flesh, the muscle tissue of tuna ranges from pink to dark red. Tuna is an important commercial fish, unfortunately.
According to the WWF, "Japan's huge appetite for tuna will take the most sought-after stocks to the brink of commercial extinction unless fisheries agree on more rigid quotas". Japan's Fisheries Research Agency counters that Australian and New Zealand tuna fishing companies under-report their total catches of southern bluefin tuna and ignore internationally mandated total allowable catch totals.
The times of Basque fishermen hand-netting for tuna lies far behind us. 
Dolphins swim beside several tuna species. Tuna schools are believed to associate themselves with dolphins for protection against sharks, which are tuna predators. Commercial fishing vessels used to exploit this association by searching for dolphin pods. Vessels would encircle the pod with nets to catch the tuna beneath. however the nets were prone to entangling dolphins, injuring or killing them. Public outcry and new government regulations, which are now monitored by the NOAA have led to more "dolphin friendly" methods, now generally involving lines rather than nets. 
Despite all "dolphin-friendly labelling", according to Consumers Union, the lack of accountability means claims that tuna that is "dolphin safe" should be given little credence.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army was founded in London's East End in 1865 by one-time Methodist minister William Booth and his wife Catherine. Originally, Booth named the organization the East London Christian Mission. The name The Salvation Army developed from an incident in May 1878. William Booth was dictating a letter to his secretary George Scott Railton and said, "We are a volunteer army." Bramwell Booth heard his father and said, "Volunteer! I'm no volunteer, I'm a regular!" Railton was instructed to cross out the word "volunteer" and substitute the word "salvation". The Salvation Army was modeled after the military, with its own flag (or colours) and its own music, often with Christian words to popular and folkloric tunes sung in the pubs. Booth and the other soldiers in "God's Army" would wear the Army's own uniform, 'putting on the armour,' for meetings and ministry work. He became the "General" and his other ministers were given appropriate ranks as "officers". Other members became "soldiers"

As the Salvation Army grew rapidly in the late 19th century, it generated opposition in England. Opponents, grouped under the name of the Skeleton Army, disrupted Salvation Army meetings and gatherings, with tactics such as throwing rocks, bones, rats, and tar as well as physical assaults on members of The Salvation Army. Much of this was led by publicans who were losing business because of the Army's opposition to alcohol and targeting of the frequenters of saloons and public houses.
Best known are the military style cap for men and the female hat as part of the Sallies uniform, but I also found this picture of a black beret with embroidered Salvation Army shield - no other details provided...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ukrainian Ché

An interesting variation on the Ché-theme: Ché Yushchenko in the Carpathian Mountains, taken from this web site that offers a frightening insight in the dealings and greed of Ukrainian politicians. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Emir Kusturica

I have mentioned Emir Kusturica before on this blog, be it on the sideline (here, and here). I don't believe Kusturica himself ever wears a beret...
I saw Arizona Dream the night before I went to Bosnia, in 1993, and it had an enormous impact on me. Kusturica's only Hollywood production was a box office disaster in the US, but a huge success in France and Eastern Europe. And everywhere in war-torn Bosnia, I heard the music from the film... Magical music (by Goran Bregovic and Iggy Pop).
Over the years I have become a collector of all his films (which sounds a lot easier than it was; they are hard to get and then often illegal copies), admiring the director until his later films Underground and Life is a Miracle came out, with a bit too much Serbian nationalism to my taste. 
Either way, despite political messages, Underground is a memorable film and it shows some berets as well!
If you have the chance to ever see (or rent) Time of the Gypsies, Black Cat - White Cat or Arizona Dream: do it. They're fantastic.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Aurélien and Navina

Two travellers and bloggers I came across on the net: Navina and Aurélien, by coincidence presently in New Zealand (but I haven't had the pleasure to spot their red berets in real life).
Fantastic promoters of the Basque beret, with an enormous amount of beret-clad photographic evidence of the places they visited.
(And if you two read this little post while in Wellington, make sure to get in touch with me - I make good coffee!)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Contemporary Painters from Russia

Janos Pirkei Self-Portrait in Red Beret 
Marina Lukyanov, self portrait
Tatiana Belokonenko- Old Man in Beret

Saturday, March 19, 2011

More on American-French Relations

Following up on yesterday's post, I paste in an article I found on this web site:

John Kerry launches line of French cameras to help Americans break "American lens" habit.

On the heels of his comments yesterday that it is “unfortunate” that Americans look through the world with an “American lens,” John Kerry has signed on with a French camera manufacturer to produce a line of French-flag adorned cameras. The former presidential hopeful said he hopes the new camera will remind Americans to pause and consider the feelings of other countries, particularly those who have long histories of deftly handling world issues

Friday, March 18, 2011

American Hang-Ups

I find it fascinating how often I find cartoons and pictures from American (US) sources depicting Obama as a Frenchman (that is, as someone wearing a beret, holding a baguette, sporting a moustache and often a ciggie hanging from the lips - the Frenchman one only sees in American films and indeed, cartoons - a vicious circle). 
Looking into the matter, it seems that many Americans believe the French to be: rude, cowards, communists, un-democratic (meaning not respecting religious freedom), dirty and lazy (Google "American stereotypes Frenchmen" for lots more).
And obviously, keeping the above in mind, you can't insult your president better than by portraying him with a beret as a Frenchman. 
Reversing the search, the results are not overly positive either: dumb, insular, naive, overly religious, intolerant, loud, arrogant... and not many berets (and the last one, I take as a good measurement of a people).