Sunday, 22 April 2012

Enchanting Portugal

Have you ever been to Portugal? It is the most beautiful place.

I was lucky enough to visit Portugal for five days a couple of years ago, and the experience has really stayed with me. I spent most of my time in Lisbon, with a couple of day trips to Sintra and Cais Cais.

Portugal isn't a big tourist destination, so even in summer I didn't see too many tourists around. I enjoyed just wandering up and down the cobble streets, exploring the old city of Alfama, taking in the colours, sounds, textures and smells. Portuguese people are friendly. The food is excellent. All in all, it is a great place to visit.

In the afternoons locals gather in squares or outside cafes, talking, watching, or eating cream pastries dusted with cinnamon. As night falls they gather in restaurants for roast chicken or barbecued fish, or are entertained by fado singers who sing mournful songs about longing for the homeland, beautiful Lisbon, or jaunty folk tunes that the audience joins in with.

Sintra is truly a fairy tale. As you walk down to the town from the train station, turrets and follies peep out from the thick green forest. The Palacio de Pena is the most sumptuous, embellished palace high up in the hills, surrounded by a park filled with statues, grottoes and luminous green trees and moss.

All in all I had a wonderful time in beautiful, enchanting Portugal. Obrigada, Portugal, e adeus!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Melbourne Flower and Garden Show 2012

Recently I had the opportunity to help my mum set up the Floral Art Society stand for the Flower and Garden Show (above), which won a silver medal. The flower and garden show is interesting - the part outside is dedicated to gardens, which as I see it is mostly suggested designs for your outdoor area, and tips for how to look after your roses, camellias etc. Inside the building is the flower section, but it's not just flowers, it is living sculpture.

It is so interesting to see florists at work. The demands of the medium - flowers and plant material - dictate the kinds of things that can be done. They must have access to water. Delicate petals and stems can't take too much pressure. They might only come in a limited range of colours. And yet so many amazing things can be created.

Working with living flowers and delicate plant material means that structure is really important. Florists will spend much time developing and sculpting the structure that goes underneath the arrangement - or living sculpture - before the flowers and plant material are inserted.

One stand by Michael Strownix took a deconstructed approach to the flowers, setting thousands of carnations in bands in a surreal display inspired by Hong Kong.

This ikebana arrangement (below) by Emily Karanikolopoulos had white branches cradling bowls of lilies, seemingly suspended in space.

RMIT fashion students also had an opportunity to create fashion pieces for the flower show. As a contrast, many of them treated the flowers and plant material as types of fabric, or beads, buttons and sequins. In one, the fine skins of garlic were glued to a fabric train extending behind the mannequin, while the bulbs of garlic were attached to the front. In another, seeds and other materials were glued in intricate patterns to make a fitted garment.

I find that the limitations of materials pushes us in new directions and makes us more creative. I only hope us textiles students will get a chance to do a project as fun and challenging as this in the future!