Forest Flame Millinery

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dreams & Reality

Many A couple of years ago at Uni SIM, while studying for my English Language with Psychology degree, I remembered doing a theme on dreams and reality. There was GBS's Pygmalion which I  remembered well because I did a short comparison between Eliza Doolittle and the Julia Robert's character in Pretty Women and my tutor liked it.  Also another crazy Greek tragedy which I hate utterly, cannot remember the title but the book is still with me somewhere. Anyway, it was about how a stupid women whose husband had left her for another woman. Her revenge was to kill all her children. Craps! Well, my favourite is Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. Remember Bronte's Jane Eyre? Mr Rochester and the devilish woman who burned his house down? WWS is a prequel of Jane Eyre and written from the perspective of that deranged woman - Bertha Mason (in Jane Eyre), or Antoinette in WWS.

I shan't digressed. I visited National Museum's Dream and Reality Exhibition this afternoon with my students. It was VERY crowded. Most people tend to crowd round Van Gogh's Starry Night, well I cannot blame them. Afterall, it is one of the world most recognizable piece of artwork. Just like when I was at National Gallery in London, the Sunflower had the most people around it.

Here's some of my students drawing listening to instructions:

 The man in blue with a hat is Mr 'Van Gogh'. He demonstrated to the students horizontal lines in Starry Night.

These are a few painting that I like, unfortunately, I didn't get to take more as the battery in my camera went flat. Just my luck.

Cezanne's Card Player

Laermans' Work

This is a woman with a hat. Her hat is kind of abstract.


Van Gogh's Starry Night

Cabanel's Birth of Venus

I was hoping to find a painting that I will like for a hat challenge organised by the Milliners of Etsy. The challenge is to design and make a hat based on a painting. I am still unsure which painting to base on and may ditch my original choice i.e Diego Rivera's. Nothing is fixed and I will make up my mind this weekend.

If my hat block arrives earlier, I may make a bowler hat based on Monet's The woman with the blue parasol. But the colour scheme is rather dull, well at least to me. I am not big fan of Monet as I rather like stronger colours.

In the meantime, I am taking a break from hat making ... for 1 day at least. I cut my finger with a pair of scissors last night and the gaping wound is taking its time to heal. For now, I am going to locate my Wide Sargasso Sea and re-read it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Forecast for those born in the year of Dragon

A milliner whom I admire has designed 2 hats inspired by the year of Dragon. She is Anya Caliendo based in USA. She has worked very hard to be an established milliner since arriving in America from Russia and I admire her work ethics.



I don't know why Chinese families like to have babies born in the year of Dragon. So I have been told that these babies will have good luck, good fortune and possibly a good life. Ya, right.

Look how scary this dragon looks.

If this picture belongs to you, please let me know so that I can credit you.

I was born in the year of the dragon several 12-year-cycle ago. At age 7, my mother could not find me a primary school to enrol in. All three schools near where we used to live at Bartley Road, were FULL. At that time, there were only 2 phases to register for Primary 1 - Singaporeans and Malaysian. Singaporeans kids registered first, followed by Malaysian. My parents were Malaysian and so by the time I registered for Primary 1, there was no vacancy. It was because the 1971 cohort are all dragon babies. My mother was told to go to Aljunied Road to look for this new school specially built to accommodate us, the dragonlets. So I ended up at Aljunied Primary School, a new school. So much for luck at age 7!

Until this time of writing, I am still waiting and searching for luck and the elusive good fortune.

Then some geomancer from Channel 8 has to ruin my year by predicting the following:

In 2012, those born in the year of Dragon MAY meet with some kind of accident that there will be blood! So we must drive carefully. Phew, since I don't have a car, that doesn't apply to me, right? No?  I may still be hit by a car instead or fall down a flight of stairs. What the....!

We will lose money in a business venture or make bad judgement involving money. Woa..that's Bad with a capital B. Since I don't have a business, I guess it must be the bad judgement involving money.

My lucky number is 7 and lucky colour is red. Thanks but no thanks. What do I do with a single number 7? Red, no thanks. The last time I wore red, a Science HOD (a guy with  minus 100 EQ) at my previous school told me that I looked like a big ANG POW! I should not let that comment traumatised me since he was also the one who told everyone that I cut down plants in school to bring home. Hello..I was clearing a plot so that students can grow herbs as part of my CCA! I guess dragons don't forgive easily. Wish I could send him a whiff of my dragon fire.

With no luck and fortune in sight, I so regret that I did not invite the God of Wealth to my house this year. Apparently this God will bring fortune to you but he comes only once a year at a Temple in Sembawang. He was supposed to be available on 22 Jan (Sun) at 10.30pm in Sembawang. So I have missed the auspicious date. Many people have testified that they know of someone who knows another one who also know someone who won big money after inviting him to their house. Okay, what do I do now since I had missed the invite?

A kind taxi driver told me that I should prepare in advance for 2013. He told me the deity's website - and his facebook account.
All I need to do now is to be God of Wealth's friend in Facebook to find out how to get my fortune. Cool!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My bread and butter - headbands

I find that I have been spending a lot of time making headbands.  As much as I want to make hats and try out my Jackie-O style hat block, I find that I am spending my night, after work, making headbands. But they sell well at bazaars and I have to make sure that I make them to pay the rental of my stall.

My lace appliques headband sold very well last month at Red Dot Museum. This is a design that will be difficult to copy because the lace appliques are hand-dyed and I made my own beaded leaves. I designed them such that it can be worn as a headband or clip.

With some yards of polyester chiffon flower petals that I bought in Hong Kong, I made flowers and assembled them to make bridesmaids' or flower girls' headband. Initially, I spent many hours trying to figure out how to put them together and when I finally stitched all the flowers together, I was relieved to see that each flowers overlapped each other rather naturally.

Since I have booked a spot for MAAD Pyjamas at Red Dot Museum in Feb, I am remaking old favourite- heart shaped roses for Valentines' Day. The white one was featured in Her World Brides last year.

This design takes up a lot of my time, So far I have made 3 colours - soft pink, antique pink and mauve. I think I may give white and natural a miss as I want to have time to make more cocktail hats.  I am really low on stocks as I sold 6 hats last month at MAAD. This came as a surprise because I thought sales would be slow in January. Several of the cocktail hats sold were prized at S$90 and I was very happy when customers commented that my workmanship is very good. Yes, thank you....that's what I strive for.  And only one customer (who bought a sale item) asked for discount but I have to politely refuse. It is my policy not to 'bargain' with customer because I am already selling at very affordable prices. For similar size hats, it cost double in USA, Australia and UK. In fact, with the price increase in millinery supplies, e.g parasisal (or hand-woven straw) now cost double. I may have to increase my price very soon. Furthermore I spend a lot of time designing and crafting a hat that I feel I should not do myself dis-service by selling low.

The milliners of Etsy is organising another hat challenge. This time, we will design a hat based on a painting that we choose. I am pushing myself to take part as this is a good way to improve on my skills as I will be trying new things. I only hope that fellow Etsy members will not use an existing piece to take part in the challenge. I understand that some have no time to make new pieces but to use an existing design or the same piece and try to fit into themes defeat the purpose of this challenge. I am bringing my class to National Museum for the Dreams and Reality Exhibition next Wednesday. I look forward to masterpieces by Degas, Courbet and especially Cabanel's Birth of Venus. At the moment, I have picked one of Diego Rivera's painting as my inspiration but am hoping that the paintings from Musee-d'orsay Paris will further inspire me.

It's finally here...a day of indulgence

I woke up on Saturday at 1pm, a rare luxury since I have to be up at half-past five every morning and be out of the house by 6 - 6.15 am to catch 2 buses to school/work. Instead of taking my time for coffee, I hurried to a ATM machine to withdraw money as I needed money to fill the red packets. Any later, there will be no more cash as everyone is doing the same. Furthermore, I was afraid that the supermart would run out of fresh vegetables to last me the next few days. Most supermarts close during Chinese New Year and this year, with the weekend, we get 4 days of celebration.  I can have no meat but I must have my greens.

My family had an early reunion dinner on Saturday (instead of Sunday) where once again, we engaged in a  high cholesterol Steamboat. Being Cantonese, we are very particular about the stock used for steamboat. My mother made a stock with Jin-Hua Ham, chicken, pork bones, corn and apple which was simmered for 6 hours. As usual, my brother's kamikaze way of eating was to have abalone, oyster, large prawns, scallop and squids besides the 'mundane' fishballs, fish, greens, mushroom and pork slices. My aunt and her family who live in Australia also brought along a big heap of top quality beef slices and more abalone.

But first, we must eat the customary tossing of Yusheng, a dish of fresh and pickled vegetables with raw fish. This year, we made do with 2 trays of Yusheng from Sakae Sushi as there was no time to order from the Paradise Group. I must say that Sakae's Yusheng was very good with its unique sauce and mushroom bits. The salmon was average but the Hamachi that my sister ordered was excellent.

This over-indulgence, I believe, is ingrained in our DNA. In the past, our Chinese ancestors had endured famine and great poverty in ancient China. So I guess that now we are affluent and able to afford, we kinda over-eat to compensate for whatever we were not able to. As much as I do not agree with this indulgence, my family members seem to think it was okay to indulge when it comes to CNY. Not wanting to be disagreeable and incur the wrath of my mother (since I do not plan to visit any of her/our relatives during the long weekend), I went along with the meal and when it ended, I "unhappily" gave out red packets to my mom, my niece, my cousins and my daughter even though it wasn't officially New Year yet.

Still, I welcome CNY as it means that I get to wake up naturally (and not at 5+ in the morning); I get to have more time to set test paper and mark assignments and of course, to be able to make new headbands for Valentines' Day at MAAD next month. But first I need to find another ATM as I have already spent all the S$500 that I withdrew on Saturday. No, I didn't spend all the money, I gave away my money in red packets and I have just S$10 left. Now, do you understand why CNY is not what I look forward to each year. With S$500, I can get 2 brand new fascinator hat block from Boon and Lane Or 20 Para sisal Hood from Manny's or 10 yards of Jinsin from Parkins. These are things I covert but have been putting off due to lack of cash. If only I can just hid myself during Chinese New Year and go AWOL. At least, I don't do rounds of visiting relatives... the most I do is attend reunion dinner.