18.02.2015 § 1 Comment
During my adolescent years, there was a popular song with lyrics that went something like this:
When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, “What will I be?
Will I be pretty, will I be rich?”
Here’s what she said to me
“Que Sera, Sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que Sera, Sera”
In those years, I vaguely dreamed of becoming a writer (in Chinese, of course). I still dream of it, vaguely! I also loved to draw when I was young, but I never trained until college. I started ballet at age five, stopped for a while, and then spent almost all of my spare time outside of art class practicing modern dance during my college years. « Read the rest of this entry »
10.10.2014 § Leave a comment
I wonder if the Chinese saw birds like these and were so fascinated that they created the legendary phoenix? In Western legend, the phoenix looked more like an eagle—or a swan? The Chinese phoenix sometimes also had an eagle-like head, but the wings and tails were more like a peacock or pheasant. Maybe there really was a bird like that, but it went extinct like the dinosaurs? Otherwise, how did both the East and West develop a similar legend?
02.10.2014 § Leave a comment
I was searching for a color name and ran into the word “anomite,” got intrigued and looked into it further. I started amassing photos of these amazing fossils and also discovered an amazing museum, the Museum of the Earth. Although it’s out of the way, I will definitely try to visit the museum the next time I find myself in the area. If I had known about it when my children were young, I would have gone during our trip to Niagara Falls. What a great children’s camp opportunity! « Read the rest of this entry »
11.09.2014 § Leave a comment
I have always been fascinated with dyestuffs—what all the natural dyes can do, how the synthetic dye industry got started and how it replaced natural dyes. I found this wonderful story and extracted excerpts below:
During the Easter break in 1856, William Henry Perkin—an 18-year-old chemistry student in his second year at the Royal College of Chemistry in London—was doing experiments at his family home in Shadwell in the East End of London. His professor was Wilhelm Hofmann, a German chemist who was very interested in the chemicals that could be made from coal tar.
His efforts to make quinine, however, only produced a black tar. He then decided to try the same reaction with aniline, another « Read the rest of this entry »
06.05.2014 § 3 Comments
My Chinese name includes a word that means the color of jade. The same word also means the color of the kingfisher, so I have always been curious about the color of the kingfisher’s feathers. I have seen them on ponds in action, where they suddenly touch down on the water and fly directly upwards with fish in her beaks. It usually happens in a split second, so I hardly ever get a good, close look at the color of their feathers.
In the old days in China, the feathers of the kingfisher were used as inlays for women’s hair accessories. For those intricate hairpins with dangling beads that were pinned onto highly raised, decorative buns, the main component was often kingfisher feathers inlaid among gem stones and precious metals. It makes the birds romantic and mysterious to me. « Read the rest of this entry »
10.02.2014 § Leave a comment
Below are some more of the stories from my travels that sparked design ideas and eventually led to the patterns in our spring 2014 Discovery collection.
The National History Museum in Taipei is located in a botanical garden with a huge lotus pond, not too far from my undergraduate college, the National Normal University. My friend and I would go there very often, and after viewing the exhibition we would always buy a cup of tea and some sweets in the luminous cafeteria and look out on the ocean of blooming lotuses fluttering in the breeze. I can never forget that scene and the satisfaction that the tranquil environment gave me.
I saw many exhibitions there. The pottery in this picture is very similar to the ones in the National History Museum. It belongs to the so-called Cai Tao Culture from our history books. Cai Tao potteries are from 7800 years ago (Neolithic Period); this one and many of the others were excavated from the Silk Road areas in China. The primitive motifs, burned into my mind since my college years, have manifested many times through my work. Lumen is one such manifestation.
09.04.2013 § 3 Comments
Only recently did I learn that at one time Isamu Noguchi was married to Li Xianglan, a woman with a fascinating life. This knowledge came as a shock to me, or almost like regret, because Li Xianglan was such a legend and such a prominent figure during my childhood. She was a very famous singer and movie star during my mother’s youth. My mother was her diehard fan and would sing her songs and talk about her all the time. There were no pictures of her in those years because of her mysterious status and I always wondered, how beautiful could she be? What happened to her after she left China? I did not know that she had a long career after she left China using two different names, Yoshiko Yamaguchi and Yoshiko Ōtaka.
15.02.2013 § 2 Comments
I bought this antique lacquer in a small antique store for china and lacquer ware in Kyoto. The store was so small, the aisles so narrow that I felt like I was knocking things off the shelf with every turn or movement. Especially with bulky coats, etc. Anyway, this lacquer ware caught my eye. The color has such elegance and depth that a plastic imitation cannot reproduce.
I used to call this orangish red color “Ming red,” meaning the red color of the Ming Dynasty red lacquer. Some of the rare Song Dynasty lacquer ware I have seen in museums may not look that different to an untrained eye, but their colors are even more elegant and have more depth. The Song Dynasty was about 1000 years ago while the Ming Dynasty existed during the 1500’s. Is it because the older an object becomes, the more patina it develops? Or that the ancient artists had better taste? It is neither. It is because … please guess.
08.10.2012 § 1 Comment
I’ve been lucky to travel to Europe many times for business, to France, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, England. After a while, I got a little blasé about things and did not pay too much attention to anything other than getting my business done. I did take one or two short excursions for pleasure, dovetailing the business trip, to places such as Venice, Paris and Prague. I was not looking for anything in particular at those times, although I noticed the door handles in Prague were quite amazing and took many pictures of them. Unfortunately, my documentation was lost, and I have never been back to Prague since. « Read the rest of this entry »
21.06.2012 § Leave a comment
About 25 years ago, before I started Brentano, I was studying the vegetable dye color names of ancient China. This interest was first initiated by the incredible color descriptions in a classical Chinese novel depicting the lives of the aristocracy. I wrote a lyrical prose piece about “color names in literature” that was published in a Chinese publication and have been hooked on the subject ever since.
I wrote to a textile historian once who was a professor at the then Hwa Tung Textile Academy in Shanghai. To my surprise, he wrote me back and awarded me with many texts with old Chinese weaving references and some of their vegetable-dyed scarf samples to identify the names of the dyes that I had questioned him about in my letter—such as Su Fong, Madder and Gardenia, etc. Some of those color names were among the early product color names I used when the color inspiration derived from this lineage.
These two scarves are dyed with Shiso Leaf (lavender), Gardenia (yellow), and Su Fang Wood (red). My notes about the dyes are in pencil.
« Read the rest of this entry »