Sunday, May 31, 2009

Gifts, Swaps & Thrills - Sylvia

I made my 1st miniatures for someone else. I know it's corny but it took some courage. Anyway, after I received the gifts from Sylvia, I thought it's time I make something for the people who have spent their precious time making things for my palace. And I guess, Sylvia was the "lucky" first although Mercedes, if you are reading this, you know I wanted to make you something sometime back but for for the lack of a crucial part. Didn't help that you kept receiving beautiful minis from Sylvia!!

I was inspired to make a wind chime for Sylvia after I saw her beach house. My own home has like a hundred of them . I hang 2 on my poster bed! Which means I think every beach house should have a wind chime. In line with the sea theme, I used tiny dolphins and 2 Indian cushion bells in the blue of her beach home. I made it "shabby" and tried to make it rusty or at least with paint that is wearing off. I wanted it to look home made and I am sure I succeeded.

Above is the 2nd version and below is the 1st:

Version 1 doesn't look so bad today but I didn't think it look like a wind chime that day. It also was too long. So I took it apart and made it in progressive lengths. Also added another bell hoping that it would chime louder. Kept testing it by shaking it at my ear. Does it chime well, Sylvia?

The barrel of flowers were much easier to make. I used dried moss from my home. So Sylvia, you have the Singapore soil in your beach house !

I dried tiny flowers picked from the road side and sprayed them "French Blue" again to match the house. Painted the barrel off white. The red flowers are from my pot pourri.

I made all these while staring a lot at Sylvia's house on my computer and visualising where she can put these. I picked the exact spots where she could place them and she did! (see her pic above which you can click through to her post about my parcel).

Sylvia thanked me in her post. She said they made her happy. The funny thing is when I saw her put my work at her porch, I really wanted to thank her! It's a deep deep satisfying feeling. Very pleasurable.

It was also a tremendous experience, making something for someone far far away, just by looking at their pictures.

Three days ago, you had that mini in your hand and today , they are in the Netherlands , in a far away home. Its not the same when you buy than when you make even though I take a lot of care in choosing my gifts.

So, I have quite a few tiny creations in the pipeline for houses far away that I have come to love and for the people who has come to mean so much. You know who you are. And don't worry, I won't be upset if they are not suitable. Just return them to me and I will make you another.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

My Maharajah Palace-Hookahs

I made 2 types of hookahs for My Maharajah's Palace and posted it on the other blog on Day 67 and Day 69 . Here's the excerpts from both posts:

Day 67:

.....I knew immediately what the Maharani wanted. I set to work immediately and after 7 hours of toiling, I made her these hookahs (2 1/8" tall (for the bigger one and 2" for the smaller, 1/2" at base)-.

Fashioned after the best by nargile craftsmen from Turkey, the base which holds the water are handblown glass (to borrow a quote from my 4 year old nephew, "pretend please") covered with the most exquisite cloisonne from China. The pipes, made from Persia's purest gold has been delightfully fashioned into little melon balls so that they match the sweet taste of the molasses. Little clay bowls, painted the colour of antique gold sits on top with the coal tray just beneath it.

Wooden straight hose have been used instead of gaudily decorated rubber ones to elevate the elegance, both of the implement and its owner. Just like how old ancient hookah pipes were made (see pic below).

After I completed the hookahs, I immediately sent them off by the fastest mode of ransportation to Ranjit.
And they quite clearly reached Ranjit well and early. Ranjit however had other ideas. Instead of sending my hookahs straight away to the palace, he held on to them for a month, smoking himself half to death (see how his eyes are almost rolling back into his head in sheer giddy delirium).

Alas, the delay turned out fortuitously fortunate for me. For it created such a pent up demand for my pipes (thanks to Ranjit's daily sale puffs) that "Sans! Pipping Hot Pipes" became instantly "to-die-for" and remain so for the next 6 decades. No girl was more proud than when she held a Sans! in her hand. Murders were committed over limited edition San's!. It was rumoured that a young princess even attempted suicide by jumping into the garden well when she found out that she would be 72 years old before she got her 1st San's! thanks to the long waiting list.

The funny thing is no one cared that the hookah was not even really well made because the glue used was not strong enough. If anyone out there can recommend a really good glue for metal, Sans! will be eternally grateful.

Day 69:

Katie of Katie's Clay Corner made a comment on Day 67 about looking for a "perfect hooka ". That was the day Sans! Pipes for Palace Girls made their debut. I told Katie then that she had given me an idea and here it is, the idea in fruition: Sans! Pipes for Marlboro Men:

This silver hookah is the Father of all hookahs.It stands at about 2 1/8" high and if made entirely of silver would have sold for USD1000.00, like the one on your left.

Many would have thought this hookah is better for display but really, a silver hookah smokes better than any other hookah (according to the ad of the Thousand Dollar Hookah).

For another reference, hookah on your right is a real life Silver Harem Hookah. According to This imposing Harem hookah tops out at 5’7” and weighs 45 lbs. Coming with three 60” hoses, this inspiring decorative piece is sculpted from brass and is ideal for use on a special occasion.

I have designed my silver hookah to be masculine with a boxy body and black hose. The double hose may appear "couple-like" and smoochy-woochy but they are really meant for a couple of guys on a game's night, sharing a smoke. I made a plateful of pipes in case the boys turn out in throngs which they generally do.

In the meantime, I have updated the girls' pipes by giving them a new hose:

Monday, May 25, 2009

Art, Artisan,Artistry-TreeWizard And the Bombed House

Last weekend, I met my friend, Chris aka Treewizard who's trees I featured on Art, Artisan, Artistry-Tree Wizards and Bonsai Priestess. Chris was so excited with his current commission, he could not stop talking about it.I had to go and see it for myself.

This is a 1:24 model of a Chinatown shophouse that has been attacked by a terrorist. Chris was commissioned by the Ministry of Home Affairs to build this model for a particular occasion.

He is especially proud of the "bomb" that he made (Clue 4). There was also a decapitated head at 3, a crashed oil can at 6 and a broken circuit at 8.

Below is a pic of the other side of the house and you can see more body parts on the floor. This model will come complete with sound, maybe even smoke and definitely lights where "live" wire will be flickering dangerously.

For those of us who prefer pretty things, I found out that Chris also built the row of shophouses I featured at Miniature Museum of the World-Singapore. Chris did all the houses, the wayang stage, bumboat etc. A friend of his did the human beings.

I am very proud of my friend, Chris.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Maharajah Palace-Indian Carpet Chairs

This post 1st appeared on My Maharajah's Palace Day 66. This is part of a weekend "carpet project. I had wanted to make a few things out of carpets which I bought for the palace:

MY 1ST CHAIRS, these low Indian chairs are made to accompany the "carved table" for Maharajah Ranjit Singh, my carpet seller. The measurements are: Base- 4 3/8" by 3", height 1" without the bolsters and another inch, with.

I did this while working on another project. They are my "carpets" projects with carpets that I showcased on Day 64. This one took me 2 hours while the other which I shall not name at the moment has taken me almost 2 months from conceptualisation to Step 1.

Anyway, I thought of making these chairs when I bought the handwoven coasters for S$2 each. The wood base are from the clay dolls which I pried off so that they can fit into the "party house".

The "legs" of the chairs are beads I picked specially for the chairs. 24 of them cost only S$3.

Apart from sanding the chair base, construction method is really just glue, glue and more glue. Sanding really makes glue stick. So it is highly recommended.

Here's the 7 steps to successful carpet chair making:

Step 1: Sand base
Step 2: Glue carpet onto base top

Step 3: Stick 2 beads together for height

Step 4: While waiting for glue to dry, make bolsters
Step 5: Glue beads onto base of table
Step 6: Fit bolsters onto chair base and admire or groan

Step 7: Make a scene (optional) and take pictures (must)
This is so simple, you don't even need all 7 steps.

On the other hand, the other project is still at Step 1. If I can finish it by tonight, I will post it up and then I will have completed my Weekend Carpet Projects.

I sent one of these carpets to Meli of Casita de Meli and she posted it on her blog on 20th May 2009. I wonder what she will do with it...

Friday, May 15, 2009

My Maharajah's Palace Projects-Carpets

This post is an excerpt from the one at My Maharajah's Palace Day 64. I have added 1 more picture and more pointers from Casey in this post. I hope that my mistakes and Casey's pointers will help newbie-"weavers" with some "do's and don'ts" of stitching a mini rug.

Picture above is added. I am showing off the back of my carpet. Despite many shortcomings, one thing I am rather pleased with is that my back can pass off as the front for a few seconds. MarJ saw the back when I was holding it and actually went "wow, your carpet is looking good" not knowing any better. When I showed her the front, she actually said "oh..." I guess to her, my back looks better than the front. Quite an accomplishment, don't you think?

Saryk-Turkoman Rug
(5" by 8 1/2" including fringe)

I started this rug on 22 Feb 2009 according to this journal at Day 32. I finished it today, 81 days later.

At 2 months, this is where I was (left pic). The carpet was crooked and it was getting more so by the stitches. I remembered I was very demoralised at one point and actually stopped working on it for a while. Didn't help when I saw how other "mini -weavers" are doing such a great job with theirs.

The thing about stitching though, is that it is very portable, calming and makes waiting for anything tolerable. Just take out my carpet which I bring with me everywhere and I can wait, even for hours.

To say my rug is not exactly great is being kind. I made so many mistakes. 1stly, wrong number of threads,-should have used 3 instead of 2 (see white spots?). Also, not sure how I created a trapezium rug. Mum said it could be me pulling too hard. Maybe it was sewing through to the next stitch in 1 move instead of patiently doing the sew through and then out method . Perhaps I should have used the hoop.

Anyway, as I was also not sure how to finish the rug edge and fringe, I sought help from Casey who so very kindly did a post on finishing a rug. When I still couldn't get how to straighten it, she told me this :

Sans, Take your rug and face down, spray it with water and stretch it, pulling diagonal corners so that it goes back to square. Sometimes you can simply do this several times, ironing with steam between pulling and it will eventually square up. If that doesn't do it, then I resort to pinning it. When you do that you have to just let alone until it dries completely....

That's what I did. I watered, pulled. Next day, I steam-ironed and then got Fafa to help pull. It became better but I lost patience. So I decided to edge and fringe 1st (using Casey's suggestion -3rd method).

After that, I called on my men for help:

BUT they kept falling down. Spoilt, rich and completely useless! So my next resort:

Yea, see my baby elephant? New to the palace and so very cute. Alas, he was too strong for my camel. So my LAST RESORT:

Ok, some defects can't be cured even with a whole convoy of camels and elephants.

With that, I decided this shall be the story of my rug. It is an old antique piece not unlike this Dowry Kilim, Inventory Number: 3725. Age: Indeterminable, Price: Expensive.

Tomorrow, I will try and pin it. Thank you Casey! Don't give up on me, my next one will be straighter!

The following pointers given by Casey are very useful (you can also find them at the comments box of the post) :

Sans wrote to me privately and asked that I post a little check up on her rug. Sans, it is beautiful, but I fear that you may never be able to get it quite square. I wouldn't try pinning it now because you will probably pull out some of the stitches along the edges! Always pin in the margins outside of the worked area before you trim the rug.

I think that you have already realized that you are pulling too tightly when stitching. You have also already hit on some of the remedy. Using the "poke" method of stitching leaves less distortion that the "scoop". If you use the poke method(up and down in each stitch) it might also help to put your fabric on stretcher bars or a scroll frame. You do that before you start the stitchery. This will force it to stay more square. The main thing is to learn to relax and use a good light when stitching. As you go, you will be able to see to keep the stitches at a uniform size.

As for the rug that you just finished, putting a double edge on it may be keeping it from being straightened also. With your next rug, just do a single row like the rest of the rug. Now that you have done one with the glue, I think that you will have more confidence about cutting the edges.

This is part of my reply:

Hi Casey, your comments are deeply appreciated. These pointers are so useful for newbies to stitching because most how to books just assume (rightly of course) that most users are beyond elementary. The remark you made which really hits the ail on its head is a) that I was probably not relaxed enough and b) not enough lights. I stitch to de-stress so yes, my 1st few lines each time maybe a trifle "angst-sy" lol. I also like to stitch in bed just before I doze off. That's why lighting is not great. I will not pin the rug. Knew there must be a reason why I should have done there before trimming. I am going to post this and your comments on my projects blog. Thank you again, Casey for your encouragement. I am starting a new one today.

New Rug starting today:

Monday, May 11, 2009

Musings-Tribute to My Mother

This post is a short tribute to my mother. It does not in any remote way say ALL my "thank you"s and "love you"s but I am glad I am finally able to pen and share with you a tiny dose of my mum's selflessness.

I have often whinged and whined about how no one else shares my mini passion. Having said that, my mum did something so wonderful for me I am now taking all of that back.

Mum is the kind of woman who is really good with her hands. I have no doubt that she can be a great miniaturist if she ever had the chance. But life was a lot harder then and not only was she deprived of an education because she was an adopted child, she had to start work when she was barely in her teens, hawking cigarettes illegally.

Now that she can afford it, her eyes are no longer good enough for mini work. Even then, she had been knitting for me, little blankets/ rugs / throws and each time she showed me unfinished samples, I kept saying: "smaller, mum, smaller" and she would go "Ok, I will try, no problem I can do that". See the little white cover (4" by 4" without fringes") and the round rug with colourful flowers (5" in daimeter)? They were made by my beautiful mum.

After I picked up miniatures, I just wanted to do as many of the craft work myself as I possibly could. Mum is the one who points me ever so often in the way I should go with them . I wished I had started this earlier then maybe by now I would have learnt all the needlework from my mum. She can quilt, crotchet, knit, sew, embroider. I remembered how she had crotchet or knitted an animal from balls of wool.

I was young then and thought many of the stuff she made tacky. Now, I wished she had kept all her handiwork so I could show them off here.

These days whenever she goes "you should not have stitched so hard, you pulled the string too much, that's why your rug is now crooked" or "just be patient, and do it a few more times..." or "hmm, that's not bad" (all in my dialect of course ), I feel really close to her. As I was never interested in cooking, sewing and all the other girl stuff, I believed these are our 1st real mother-daughter bonding moments.

And during these moments, I feel like a teenager again. Its a nice feeling, this Curiosity (which I thought I had lost), or the Awe of my mother's talent, better yet, the sense of Accomplishment after I have completed a simple craft. But most importantly, this feeling that my mum loves me and is teaching me something that she is good that is a feeling few can top.

You know, making these little rugs was hard for mum because her finger was injured from a bacteria attack that never went away. But does that stop her? No. Even after I told her not to make any more, she just kept asking me to buy her more threads.

So on some weekends, after Mum, Dad and I had our breakfast, she would ask if I want her for company, either to hang out at hobby shops or Daiso or Little India. Most of the time, it was for me to shop for My Maharajah's Palace but sometimes, we hang out at Spotlight to look for threads for both of us.

Now, the next time, you hear me whinged and whined again, give me a kick in the butt and tell me to shut up because you know it is not true no one shares my passion.

Love you so very much, Mum! I know I have wished you already but here's another " HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!"

About the picture at the top of this post, it was done by my ever talented bro, Win. He made this poster for my mum on her 68th birthday this February. The photo is of my mum when she was pregnant with her third child, Shir, also my 2nd younger sister. My mother who is as vain as all beautiful women should be, had an 18 inch waist before that and I think, 21 when she had my sis! Mum was over the moon that Win made her so beautiful again. In case you are wondering, it was a poster selling fabric set in the early 50s or 60s. Isn't that just so apt for this post? If I didn't tell you that is my mum, I am sure you will be wondering who's this Oriental beauty is, no?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Miniature Museum of The World-Singapore

In late February this year, I commented on Sumaiya's post that I wished there was a miniature museum in Singapore. This was what I said: .. I wish there were more mini museum in Singapore. Sometime back, someone here did a Singapore river scene in the 50s but alas, its gone before I have a chance to see it." As you can tell from the picture above, I found it! In the Fuk Tak Chi Museum. And it's not the scene of the 50's but the 1800s!

So I trot down there for lunch today, a break between work and spent about 30 minutes snapping away. There is just this one exhibit but the quality more than made up for the quantity!

The Fuk Tak Chi Museum was a Chinese temple built by Chinese immigrants. It was also the oldest Chinese temple in Singapore. In the museum are close to 2000 exhibits of artifacts which were collected by the residents of Chinatown over many years.

The model however is a recent creation. It is of a row of old shophouses at Telok Ayer Street (1:48 scale?). The real houses have been conserved and are right there outside the museum. Many of them have been converted to restaurants and offices, clubs and watering holes. I work in one of these conserved shophouses at the other side of the river. Can you imagine the mini model was right under my nose all this while?

Front View
Back View
Side View-Right
Side View- Left
Details -Coolies

In the days when Chinese immigrants settled here, Telok Ayer Street ran along the shoreline of a bay that has long since been reclaimed from the sea. The area was where many Hakka and Cantonese immigrants settled as it was also the area where a lot of coolie agents had their offices.

In fact, the Fuk Tak Chi temple also served as the headquarters for the Hakka and Cantonese communities here. In the early days, temples also doubled as welfare associations, a place where disputes were settled and were closely associated with clan associations and development of the community.
"Coolie" is derived from the Chinese word "ku-li "meaning "hard labour". Ku also means "bitter". The coolie's life was thus a hard and bitter one in early Singapore. They came to Singapore, driven by poverty in China to seek a better life here but many, many ended up serving instead as indentured, unskilled labourers.
"Coolies worked as rickshaw pullers, trishaw riders and farmers. They were employed in mines, ports, in rubber and other plantations, in clearing jungles and on construction sites. They did back-breaking tasks such as loading and unloading cargo and dulang washing or tin ore mining under the scorching sun. It was a common sight in early Singapore to see coolies carrying gunny sacks filled with commodities such as spices and sugar near the Singapore river."-National Library, Singapore

"The majority of the early coolies were indentured to a kongsi, or a "clan association", and their services engaged through a coolie agent or headman. The kongsi was either an organisation, a group or a network of individuals. It acted as a contract or business agency that hired labour in China and supplied them to businesses in Singapore. The kongsi would pay for the passage of the coolies on the condition that the coolies worked for a designated length of time until all expenses incurred were duly paid off. Kongsis usually charged money either from the businesses to which they supplied labour or from the labourers themselves for their service of bringing them into Singapore from China." National Library, Singapore
"Most of the Chinese coolies usually were in different ways coerced and bonded into being coolies for the rest of their lives either before their arrival in China itself or soon after coming to Singapore. The newly arrived coolie recruit was called sin kheh which meant "new arrival" in Hokkien."-National Library, Singapore
Coolies were generally very poor and lived in cramped dwellings with hardly any windows or light. These lodgings could be described as "Dickensian" for most lacked water or toilets. Overcrowding was a big problem and coolie lived in cubicle so small some estimated it stood at about 60 sqft per man.
They were given to opium inhaling to relieve their tired bodies of its soreness and to gambling in an attempt to escape from their misery.
The picture below depicts a group of coolies playing "Chap Ji Kee". Some older folks still engaged in this gambling game but it is getting rarer now. "The whites and wealthy Chinese employed the coolies mainly because of their willingness to work hard for little money. The coolies were, in a way, the backbone of early Singapore's economy because they generated growth for the economy and caused the country to prosper. Few Chinese coolies went back to China later but most coolies settled down in Singapore doing other odd jobs."-National Library, Singapore
Details- Temple Celebration
I heard that in the old days, the image of Goddess of Mercy would be carried around various Cantonese, Hakka and Hainan temples around town . I would imagine the procession of "Mazu" in those days were pretty similar to practices still found in Taiwan nowadays. These processions are boisterous affairs with devotees following the procession with noisy drums and loud horns.

In tandem with a temple celebration is the inevitable staging of a wayang. A wayang (actually a Malay word) is a Chinese opera, performed in Mandarin or one of the numerous Chinese dialects.(usually Hokkien, Cantonese or Teochew).

Performed on a make-shift stage, wayangs are typically held in the months of August and September during the Hungry Ghost Festival or during temple celebrations.

I remember these scenes vividly as I have an elder cousin who was crazy about Chinese opera and we would accompany her to watch one of these everytime they staged it. It happened very frequently then and as children, we were excited not because of the opera but because the play we enjoyed, running between the stilts below the stage, eating sticky candy ( I remembered once I had to cut chunks of my hair off thanks to the candy!) and being in the crowd, watching in complete awe and fascination, the actors backstage, preparing..

Details-Vanishing Trades

/ "Shoe Last" Maker
"The immigration of Chinese coolies was high between the periods of 1823 to 1891 after Singapore became a free port, between 1910 to 1911 before the first world war and between 1926 to 1927, soon after the first world war. Coolie emigration decreased after 1927 because of economic depression, followed by the Japanese occupation and then the World War II. Coolie trade never peaked after this and most immigrants after World War II were skilled labour"-National Library, Singapore

Amahs (Lifelong maids)
Bullock Cart Driver
Cigarette Seller

When I was in India, there were these cigarette vendors who still sell them by the sticks. My mum told me she was one of them when she was young. She also remembered being caught once by the police as she was not licensed. The policeman treated her really well and even brought her food when she was detained. She was let off with a warning. A few days later, the policeman got a matchmaker to look for my grandmother to ask for my mum's hand in marriage!! My mum was still fuming with being detained at the police station and flatly said "NO"!

Travelling Food Vendors

Letter Writer

Opera Actors
Rickshaw Puller

Street Corner Barber with full service including shaving and ear cleaning

Five Foot Way Traders
Story Teller