Tag Archives: vintage

Yes! Textiles in Tirana, Albania

I´m in Eastern Europe, starting out along the southern Adriatic Coast of Albania in the capitol city of Tirana. I’m on a cultural tour of the region that has no particular focus, with a friend who needed a roommate. It would never have occured to me to put this on a travel bucket list, but I´m glad I did.

I call this Eastern Europe because it was once part of the Communist bloc pre-Gorbachev, that turned it’s loyalties to China and Mao, a stricter version communism after Glasnost.

Marble bust, Greek style

This is a developing country. It broke its shackles of repression after more than 30 years of isolation, forced labor camps, concentration camps, and extermination of liberal opposition. This is a city of bunkers built between 1960´s and 1980´s out of paranoid fear of invasion by foreign powers. By 1983, over 173,000 bunkers were built. Tirana today dedicated two to the martyrs who died in opposition, a memorial to a holocaust.

Obsolète; Communist era military buttons

With this in mind, the group I´m traveling with visited the National History Museum. The galleries are devoted to Albania history with ties to Greece, Italy, Macedonia and the Ottoman Empire. Artifacts, including marble busts, bronze weapons and jewelry from archeological sites are on display here.

Goddess Appolonia

An entire gallery is devoted to remembering those who suffered and died under the regime of Enver Hoxha. Here, I cried. This is fresh history. Recent history. Living history. And politics here is everywhere.

Wool apron with embroidered embellishment

Albanians love Americans. Woodrow Wilson said Albania should be independent after the Balkans were divided after WWI. In 2007, George W. Bush was the first US president to visit here. Two young students told me it is their dream to go to America. It is heartwarming to be welcomed so enthusiastically by people we meet. The history is dark, yet there is a sunrise to the east in the second poorest (only to Kosovo) country in Europe.

Heavy wool coat with appliqué

There is a small gift shop at National History Museum. It is filled mostly with vintage textiles that are 60 to 80 years old. The cloth is handwoven wool or cotton, embellished with embroidery or appliqué. The symbol of the country, the double-headed eagle, reminds me of some of the indigenous regions of Oaxaca where the same iconography is central to the language of cloth.

Rugs at the New Market, new, I think

I see weaving patterns that look like Zapotec rugs. I see tiny joining stitches that looks like Mexican randa. I see belts woven on backstrap looms embellished with fringed and wrapped tassels. I see the creativity of a people who desired to adorn themselves in beauty, a consistent them worldwide.

Vintage belts in the museum store

There are mostly European visitors here in this city of one million people, in this country of three million. We were told that there are six million visitors here annually now and the country is struggling to keep up with tourism infrastructure. The time to come here is now!

The tiniest stitches on traditional blouse

I am meandering on my own after the museum. I want to go to New Market and head in the direction a museum guard points me to. At a corner, I hesitate. I ask two young people where to find it.

Casey and Ben, Albanian college students, and me

That’s how I meet Casey and Ben. They speak English. I ask them if they will be my guide for the afternoon. They have free time. They are university students starting their first year, and classes are delayed because the registration system is kerfluffled. Along the way they tell me that young people don’t stay here. There is huge unemployment and the jobs are in Italy or Germany. Their dream is to go to the US. They are delighted to help me and I am delighted to give them each 500 Lek, about $5 USD each. Lucky us!

This is an olive-growing country — delicious!

After New Market, I continue on my own to Oda Restaurant and have a traditional Albanian lunch of stuffed eggplant with veggies, corn bread and beer. Then, back to Hotel Rogner for a rest.

Clay pots to store and cook with

Tomorrow, we are off to Montenegro. Who knows what I’ll find there!

Tasty beer at Oda Restaurant

In Japan, Searching for Blue Indigo (Ai-zome)

My quest for Japanese indigo fabrics and clothing took us to remote villages and high-end designer boutiques. I searched old kimono stacked in department store corners and flea market stalls. In the old Geisha district of Gion, two vintage textile shops offer 100+ year-old pieces in varying condition. I traveled from Tokyo to Kyoto to the remote thatched roof village of Miyama with blue on my mind. We lingered at the Amuse Museum exhibition of boro cloth in awe of indigo-dyed hemp and cotton patchwork born of poverty.

Indigo is my passion. It’s why I wanted to go to Japan. Oh, and the food. Oh, yes, and the cherry blossoms. Temples. Zen. Gardens. Oh, my.

This indigo vintage undergarment from Gallery Kei, perfect as a tunic

My sister was more interested in Kabuki and Noh theatre, so we negotiated time dedicated to our interests. We attended performances of both and met with a foremost expert on Noh, a US ex-pat living and teaching in Japan for 40 years. We managed to walk blocks that became miles, traveled by bus, train and taxi, all in search of blue, art and food.

We saw the famed kabuki actor (far right) at Kyoto’s Minimiza Theatre

Finding indigo in Japan is not easy. Sometimes we couldn’t locate the address. Sometimes we got lost despite Google maps. Sometimes I would stand on a street corner and call out, Does anyone speak English? to help us get our bearings. (Always, a kind, helpful person came to our aid, even guiding us to where we needed to go!) Sometimes the source was in such a remote area that we couldn’t get there. Tokyo is a vast megalopolis, on a scale beyond my ken. Kyoto, described as smaller, hardly pales in comparison.

The art of dyeing with indigo today is uncommon, as it is in Oaxaca, Mexico, where it is necessary to travel twelve hours from Oaxaca City to meet the maker. In Japan, one must also ferret out the dye masters and makers who turn indigo-dyed cloth into clothing. The practice is almost extinct, just like Mexico. And, as with all things made-by-hand, quality comes with a price, when you can find it.

I also noticed construction similarities between traditional Oaxaca huipiles and Japanese kimonos. Both are simple assemblages of cloth squares and rectangles, with hand-stitchedSi seam sewing and no tailoring (ie. no darts). The long, drooping kimono sleeves are merely rectangles attached to the main robe. Hand-stitching for seams and embellishment a standard practice.

Meiji period shibori kimono, vintage and pristine, 100 years old

Few pieces, I discovered, are hand-loomed now. Indigo-dyed ready-to-wear can be designed in Japan and made in India to keep prices in check. I found one amazing Meiji period kimono in perfect condition. Price tag, $1,800 USD. Pass. I’m looking for wearable art and not creating a museum-level collection.

At Chingireya Vintage Textiles, this outstanding kimono, $1,800 USD

What I also discovered is that a focused quest for indigo takes time. Even more than a three-week introductory visit such as the one I just completed. Perhaps another trip is needed to go deeper and wider. Perhaps.

I’m grateful to Elli Sawada, a Kyoto-based indigo dye student originally from San Diego, who referred me to several sources for investigation. Elli is studying with famed master-dyer Fukumi Shimura. Elli and her brother participated in our Oaxaca One-Day Natural Dye and Weaving Study Tour last month.

Vintage indigo cotton cloth, once used to wrap gifts, repurposed as large scarf

I also want to thank Nancy Craft of Esprit Travel and Tours, Japan Travel Expert, who generously shared her list of Kyoto textile shopping resources with me. I hunted down those most relevant to my interests.

Resist-dyed detail of large cloth, patterns perfectly matched

My friend Madelyn wrote, I hope you found yourself a wonderful indigo garment or textile. Plural, I replied. I filled a duffle bag with blue. Ancient blue. New blue. Traditional blue. Deep, dark, almost black, blue. Kimono with wide, boxy sleeves. Cozy, contemporary long-sleeved jacket with roll-up cuffs. Vintage farmer’s coat with sashiko stitching. All perfect with blue jeans or black skirt. I have satisfied my lust for blue.

Sashiko stitching detail, indigo farmer’s jacket, all hand-sewn,

Sidebar: Barbara and I were flaneuring down the main street of Tokyo’s Aoyama district (which easily overshadows Fifth Avenue and Rodeo Drive) after visiting the Meiji Jingu Shrine. I noticed a pop-up shop and stepped in to find Yu Design Office featuring hand-crafted indigo clothing.

Cropped tunic, hand-woven by Yu Design Office, similar to the Oaxaca blusa

Yu Design Office was founded by artisan Hiromi Yamada and her architect son Yuji Yamada. They use natural indigo dye from Hanyu City, Saitama, employing a traditional kimono-making technique called itajime from Mizuho City, Tokyo, and fine cloth from Hachioji, Tokyo. Combining indigo, persimmon juice and pitch black, the wool-silk scarf they make takes on a deep greenish blue hue. The cloth is folded and stacked and pressed between wooden boards to give it texture.

Yuji Yamada showing us ai-zome from Yu Design Office

Recommendations for hunting down Japan Blue:

Konjaku Nishimura Old Textile Arts, Gion, Kyoto, Nawate Street, Higashiyama-Ku, Kyoto. Email: info@konjaku.com

Indigo ikat remnant, now a scarf for Barbara, at Konjaku Nishimura Textiles

Chingireya Vintage Textiles, Gion, Kyoto, Nawate Street, Higashiyama-Ku.

Textiles Yoshioka, exquisite, all natural dyes, mostly scarves, shawls, accessories, Gion, Kyoto.

Aizenkobo, indigo workshop and gallery, Kyoto. Third generation workshop, producing traditional garments, scarves, yardage. People love it. I was underwhelmed.

Little Indigo Museum, Miyama, Kyoto Prefecture, is operated by Mr. Hiroyuki Shindo. In picturesque town of thatched-roof houses, this is a full-day trip. Small souvenir indigo samples and scarves are for sale. shindigo@cans.zaq.ne.jp

Indigo dye vats at The Little Indigo Museum, Miyama

Gallery Kei features vintage textiles and is operated by Kei Kawasaki on the famous Teramachi Street (671-1 Kuoinmae-cho Teramachi Ebisugawa-agaru), just south of the Kyoto Imperial Palace. At our visit, she had vintage boro from Northern Japan, garments and cloth fragments of hand-woven natural materials (hemp, linen, cotton, silk) and dyes. Write to confirm they are open. gallerykei@live.jp

With Kei Kawasaki at Gallery Kei. Shawl was once mosquito netting. Hemp and indigo.

Gran-Pie, also on Teramachi Street between Ebisugawa-dori and Nijo-dori, is a contemporary clothing store with garments designed in Japan, dyed and made in India.

I can’t publish this post without mentioning NUNOworks Fabrics in the Roppongi district of Tokyo. On our last afternoon in Japan, I went bonkers over the bolts of fabrics, and sewn-on-the-premises clothing. Delicious scarves. Beautiful garments. Outstanding design. Reasonable (by Japan standards) prices. Though few pieces are naturally dyed.

Department stores like Isetan (Kyoto Station), Takashimaya, Mitsukoshi and Matsuya Ginza feature contemporary Japanese designer boutiques, including Issey Miyake, Comme de Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto, and others. Some use indigo and other natural dyes, and are priced in the stratosphere.

Exquisite creativity is boro, from northernmost Japan

Where to Stay in Tokyo: the b roppongi hotel. Loved our stay here. Convenient to metro, restaurants, fair price, excellent service.

Where to Stay in Kyoto: we loved the YADO Hotel in Arashiyama. Book room #308. Recommend also staying in Gion area for more central experience.

Rare Find: 18th C. San Pedro Quiatoni Necklace, Coral and Blown Glass Rod Pendants

This necklace is SOLD.

It could be that this San Pedro Quiatoni necklace is from as early as the 17th century, or maybe even the 16th century. When Hernan Cortes, the Spanish Conquistador, came to Mexico and other parts of the Americas in 1521, he brought with him Venetian glass trade beads to use for barter. 

For some reason, there is only one village that adopted this particular style of beading using these trade beads — San Pedro Quiatoni, which is high up in the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains almost three hours from Oaxaca city. 

These necklaces are rare, prized and very collectible.

I came across one last week in my wanderings around the Tlacolula valley with my friend Gretchen who was visiting from Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, located on the Sea of Cortes within an hour’s drive from the Mexico-USA border. I was showing her some of my favorite haunts. It just so happened that someone had just brought this necklace down from the mountains.  

Since I already have two in my collection that I do wear, I decided to send this necklace on into the world for someone else to enjoy. Perhaps that someone is YOU!

22 inches long, coral and blown glass necklace, San Pedro Quiatoni, Oaxaca

16 vintage, mouth-blown glass pendants suspend from this double-strand coral and Venetian trade bead necklace likely from the 17th or 18th century, found only in the Oaxaca mountain village of San Pedro Quiatoni, located about 2 hours from Oaxaca city. Hernan Cortes brought trade beads and European glass rods to the new world in 1521 with the conquest. The people in this village coveted the beads and strung them with Mediterranean coral on hemp and agave rope to hang around their necks. The more beads, the greater the symbol of wealth.

This particular necklace has blue and clear glass rods that are uniform and rare in color. I had the necklace professionally restrung (it was strung by the man who took it in trade) so it is now more secure with a sterling silver hook clasp. Traditionally, the necklaces were tied with blue ribbon (which has a tendency to come loose). This is a rare and collectible piece, perfect for wearing on that special occasion, too. The necklace is 22 inches long. Each rod measures approximately 2-3/4″ long, with some variation in each because they are hand-made. I just came across this spectacular beauty and want to pass this along to another collector since I already have two in my collection.

Here is the listing I have published on ETSY, priced at $695. If I sell it on Etsy, I will need to pay a fee. If you buy it HERE from me directly, the price is $595 USD plus $8 USPS priority mailing. Extra for insurance. Please purchase by Tuesday, December 11. I leave for the USA on December 12.

16 vintage, mouth-blown glass pendants suspend from this double-strand coral and Venetian trade bead necklace likely from the 17th or 18th century, found only in the Oaxaca mountain village of San Pedro Quiatoni, located about 2 hours from Oaxaca city. Hernan Cortes brought trade beads and European glass rods to the new world in 1521 with the conquest. The people in this village coveted the beads and strung them with Mediterranean coral on hemp and agave rope to hang around their necks. The more beads, the greater the symbol of wealth.

This particular necklace has blue and clear glass rods that are uniform and rare in color. I had the necklace professionally restrung (it was strung by the man who took it in trade) so it is now more secure with a sterling silver hook clasp. Traditionally, the necklaces were tied with blue ribbon (which has a tendency to come loose). This is a rare and collectible piece, perfect for wearing on that special occasion, too. The necklace is 22 inches long. Each rod measures approximately 2-3/4″ long, with some variation in each because they are hand-made. I just came across this spectacular beauty and want to pass this along to another collector since I already have two in my collection.

Exvotos Mexican Folk Art, Vintage + Silver Jewelry, Pillow Covers Sale

Mexico’s Ex-Votos are collectible naive folk art that tell a story of thanksgiving for being saved from near-death or disaster. Yes, it was a miracle to survive.  Usually, the person who escaped tragedy would hire a local artist to paint a tin square depicting the scene. The message of thanks may have included many misspellings, as the painters were not educated. They often include depictions of the saint to whom the supplicant is sending prayers of thanks.

Three of the exvotos are reproductions by famed Mexico City artist Rafael Rodriguez. One is a vintage piece dating from the 1950’s, acquired from a collector friend.

To Buy: Send me an email and tell me which piece(s) you want indicating the number of the item, your name and mailing address. I will send you a PayPal invoice and add-on $8 USD for USPS priority mail if you are in the lower 48 states.

Time sensitive. Purchases must be made by Monday, December 10, 2018. I fly away to North Carolina on December 12, and I’ll need time to package for taking with me.

#1. Vintage Exvoto, 1950s, $495

#1 is a whimsical, vintage exvoto, rare and in excellent condition for its age, is a perfect example of naive folk art, painted at Chapala, Jalisco in the 1950s, according to my collector friend in Mexico City (and she should know!). It says: Gracias a la virgencita y el niño por senar a mi hijo enfermo de Tifoidea a anto de morir. El sans infinitamente agracidas. (signed) Lupe Ma. Miraflores Lopez, Chapala, Jalisco.  (Thanks to the little virgin and her son for saving my son from typhoid before he died. He is infinitely thankful.) Measures 10-1/4″ x 8-1/2″

#2, Skeletons, $135

#2 is a reproduction by famed Mexico City exvoto artist Rafael Rodriguez, painted on tin. It measures 14-1/4″ x 10-1/4″ and says: Roperta Lara da las gracias con esta laminita pues unas calaveras nos atacaran a mi y mi vieja. Puebla, 9 de julio de 1940. Roperta Lara gives thanks with this plaque since the skeletons didn’t attack me and my old lady.

#3, The Temptress Snake Woman, $110

#3 is a reproduction by famed Mexico City exvoto artist Rafael Rodriguez. It measures 12″ x 9-3/4″ and says: Contava la gente que salia una serpiente mujer que se lleva va a los hombres a su gruta y alli se los come hasta con zapatos y zombrero.  Jalisco a 5 de Julio de 1938.  Saved from Contava the snake woman who comes out of her cave and captures men and eats them, except for their shoes and hat.

#4 Rufina Estrada is saved, $75

#4 is an exvoto reproduction by Mexico City artist Rafael Rodriguez. It measures 10″ x 7-1/2″ and says: Rufina Estrada dedica esta laminita porque me salve de la huesuda. San Luis, a 11 de enero 1939. Rufina Estrada dedicates this plaque because she was saved from death. San Luis, January 11, 1939.

#5 Vintage Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Silver & White Heart Necklace, $795

#5 is a rare necklace, attributed to Patzcuaro, Michoacan, according to famous Oaxaca jeweler Federico, from whom I bought this some years ago. The beads are vintage, rare and collectible Venetian glass trade beads called White Hearts, brought to the Americas by Cortes. There are 15 handmade silver Virgin of Soledad (?) pendants, each 1-1/2″ long by 7/8″ wide. Pendants have various designs. The necklace is 20″ long. An outstanding piece.

#5 detail, pendants have several unique designs

#6 is a vintage sterling silver beaded necklace, Taxco, $265

#6 is one of those unusual finds, 40 perfectly formed 15 mm beads made in the heyday of Taxco silversmithing, probably from the 1960’s. 23-1/2″ long. I bought these beads in Puebla. The chain broke and I had them restrung on very sturdy jewelers wire.

#6 detail of Taxco bead necklace

#8 new, Spratling sterling silver chain, $395

#8 detail, Spratling stamp

#8 is a new William Spratling sterling silver chain, made in the Spratling studios in Taxco, Guerrero, and is 22″ long. It is a contemporary piece cast from Spratling’s original molds by the Ulrich sisters, who own the famed franchise and whose father was Spratling’s business partner before Spratling died. 

#9 sterling and inlaid abalone shell fish pin, $95

#9 is a perfect specimen of Taxco silver and inlay mastery, from the 60’s or 70’s. 1-1/4″ wide by 1″ high. The abalone shell glimmers and the silver work is pristine. Fish pin, inlaid abalone on silver. Excellent. $95.

#9 Detail

Three Pillow Covers From Chiapas

These pillow covers are woven by the famed cooperative El Camino de Los Altos by women who use back strap looms. The designs are not embroidered, they are woven into the cloth. They each measure 17″ x 16-1/2″ and they are $35 each.

#10 Deep Gray, $35

#11, Gold, $25

#12, White, $35

A Bunch of Earrings and a Necklace: Jewelry Sale

I’m back in North Carolina for a while and I’m going through my 20+ year treasure collection. The pieces I’m offering for sale today are jewelry from the bygone years, an eclectic mix of “needed for professional life” or an “artistic point-of-view” that no longer fits my lifestyle. I’ll be listing an eclectic mix of pieces over the next weeks. Keep your eyes open! They are one-of-a-kind!

You get first choice before I list these on eBay and in my Etsy shop.

Nine (9) items offered today. Please email me with your interest (norma.schafer@icloud.com), plus address, specify August 13 and item number. I will calculate postage and send you an invoice.

#1.  SOLD. John Hardy Pearl, 18K Gold and 925 Silver Earrings. 14K gold posts. 6mm (approx) pearls set in 1/2″ diameter bezel, 1-1/2″ long, mesh silver ball topped with 18K gold crown. Bought at Saks 5th Avenue, 1990’s. Vintage. $165. plus shipping. No signs of wear.

#2. SOLD. Artisan-designed and hand-made sterling silver leaf and flower necklace 16″ long including clasp. Flowers have 14K gold centers. Bought at Smithsonian Crafts Show, Washington, D.C. $165. plus shipping.

#3. Contemporary Asheville, North Carolina jewelry artist Joanna Gollberg designed and made. I purchased these from her at the North Carolina Designer Crafts Show in 2003. Hand wrought sterling silver Ellipse (3a. left) and Stix (3b. right) earrings. $35. each pair. Plus shipping.

#4. I Don’t Remember Earrings. They are either platinum or white gold. Simple, functional. 5/8″ diameter. $85. plus shipping.

#5. Vintage Thailand Silver Fish Earrings, handmade. Bought in a Hill Tribe Village outside of Chang Mai, 1994. Old then. Fish dangles 1-1/2″ from hook eye. I have not polished these. $125. plus shipping.

#6. Abalone shell and silver triangle tiered earrings made by Chapel Hill, North Carolina, jewelry artist Rebecca Laughlin McNeigher. Shimmering abalone shell difficult to come by now. 2-1/2″ long. $95. plus shipping.

#7. Jade studs, approx. 5 to 6mm, with gold setting and post. $65. plus shipping.

#8. 14K Rose Gold ball earrings bought in Australia, 2002. 1″ long from curve of hook. Approx. 1/4″ dia. ball. $65. plus shipping.

#9. Rare spiny oyster pendant from South America with hand-made sterling silver setting/bale. 1-1/4″ long by 3/4″ wide at bottom. $65. plus shipping.