Sunday, June 26, 2016

Summertime in Santa Fe

13th International Folk Art Market

Several times I have written about the International Folk Art Market, which is held in Santa Fe each July.
Today I want to give you a heads up in case you will be in our area the second week of July.
 Voted the Best Art Festival by USA Today 10 Best Reader’s Choice Awards, the Market features artists from all over the world.  This year’s Market features an increase of market space (20%) for the biggest and best Market ever!  Market events run July 8,9,& 10.  For more information contact

Other July events in Santa Fe:

60th   Anniversary Santa Fe Opera  - July 1 – Aug.27
        Santa Fe

65th Annual Traditional Spanish Market – July 30-31

30th Annual Contemporary Hispanic Market – July 30-31

Summer Season – Aspen Santa Fe Ballet

Please check the internet for other New Mexico summer events

Have a special and SAFE holiday. Come see us!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Gift of Prometheus

In the beginning only the Immortals had Fire.  Prometheus looked with compassion on the cheerless creatures of earth.  In defiance of the gods he stole Fire from the heavens and brought it to earth.

Yesterday was the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.  Although, it has felt as if summer has been with us for several weeks.  Across the country temperatures have soared, creating new weather records.  Living in the southwest we are no strangers to summer heat and drought.  The combination all too often results in disastrous wildfires.

Throughout history firefighters have been the heroes who braved the flames of Prometheus to protect the towns and homes of the citizenry.  Because of the dangerous conditions they faced, firefighters were given special protective clothing which differentiated them from the populace.  One of the most familiar apparel was worn from the earliest times by Japanese Firemen.  Their jackets (Hanten) were made of various materials.  In the Edo period some were made from deerskin. In the 19th C they were constructed from quilted wool or cotton, sometimes with silk linings.  The unique feature of these jackets, from an artistic point of view, was the elaborate decorations (many were considered lucky or protective symbols) which were woven, painted or embroidered on the surface of the garment, as well as on chest protectors (Maekeke).  There are many examples of these vintage fire jackets to be seen on the internet.

One component of many protective garments has been used for centuries.  It is the mineral asbestos.  Asbestos is found throughout the world and its fibers were used as  reinforcement in early pottery. Once the fire resistant properties of asbestos were known the fibers were woven into cloth.  The unfortunate aspect to the use of this mineral in a wide variety of applications, is the fact that asbestos fibers are carcinogenic and could cause Mesotheliosis.    Over 50 countries have banned the use of asbestos fibers, the US is not one of them.

Modern firefighters wear garments called “turnouts”, protective clothing.  These garments have 3 layers: an outer shell, a moisture barrier and a thermal barrier with pockets of air (dead zone) in between the layers.  Footwear is boots with a steel toe insert or rubber boots. There are additional items such as gloves, helmets and hoods.  Depending upon the type of fire, they may also wear hazmat suits.  For fighting wild fires their clothing is modified.  Their garments are a single layer, they wear industrial hard hats and leather logging boots.  They cannot wear steel-toed boots nor rubber boots due to the heat conditions of the fire.

These garments are made of a combination of two fibers of the nylon family : Nomex and Kevlar.  Both of these synthetics are product of the DuPont Corporation and are variants of aramid.    Kevlar is an aramid that does not melt, is highly flame resistant, is exceptionally strong (5 times stronger than steel on a weight basis). It has a high resistance to stretch and maintains its shape and form at high temperatures. It was first synthesized in 1971.
Nomex is a variant of aramid but unlike Kevlar, Nomex cannot align during filament formation and therefore has poor strength.  However it also has excellent thermal, chemical and radiation resistance.  Nonex was developed in the early 1960’s and first marketed in 1967.

May the Immortals protect them all.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Fez, Morocco - The Tannery

The Tannery

One of the many textile – related side trips in Morocco was to a large tannery in the city of  Fez.  Morocco is known for its high quality leather textiles (as well as carpets, jewelry and ceramics).

Animal skins were probably the first textiles used for clothing and shelter.  The term skin is meant as the outer covering layer of the animal body, which would include the fur, hair and feathers of the animal as well.  Animal skins were, and are still, used in rituals and ceremonies. Leather is a term for animal skin (goats, cattle, sheep, pigs, horses and  other animals) from which the hair or fur has been removed and prepared by tanning, ether by exposure to weather or chemicals.  The ostrich is the only bird used for leather. Evidence of tanning and the use of leather for clothing was found in ancient Egypt (2420-2258 BCE).  Leather “nets” were made by ancient Egyptians from a single piece of hide by cutting small slits, allowing the leather to expand.  The “nets “ were used to protect the clothing of sailors, workmen and soldiers. Suede, a popular apparel leather, is made by napping, running the skin under a coarse emery board.

At the tannery, which is in the middle of the walled city (the Medina) visitors are free to examine the most beautiful leather goods in their retail space and also view the actual workmen and their vats of various solutions and dyes.  By ascending a 3 story, winding staircase and walking along an outside wooden ramp I could view below (from a safe distance) the tanning process.  Accompanied by one of the workers, the scene resembled a vast ancient work yard of activities.  The processes used are the same as those employed centuries ago.

Animal skins (goat, sheep, cow and camel) are delivered to the tannery from the abattoir. The skins are then placed in limestone baths for three days to kill vermin which may be present in any left over fur or hair.  The skins are then rinsed and rescraped.  I saw piles of fleece remnants which were of poor quality and, therefore, not used for commercial purposes, but for filling leather ottomans, called poofs.  (At one of the carpet houses the carpet seller showed a rug made of this type of inferior fibers.  The fibers were very coarse and an entire knot cold be plucked from the surface of the carpet easily. Just a cautionary note!)
The rinsed skins are then submerged in bath solutions made from bird dung and finally treated with vinegar as a fixative.  Only natural dyes are used (natural dyes are not fugitive, that is they do not run after the textile is finished.  Think of a red tee shirt in the laundry.  The skins in the dye vats are turned every 4 hours to ensure an even absorption of the pigments.

The quality of the workmanship is very evident in the finished leather products produced by the workers.  An entire floor of the retail space is devoted to apparel.  The most beautiful coats, jackets, hats in  the most beautiful rainbow of color choices.  The temptation to max out any line of credit you may have is overwhelming.  The ground floor featured bags and purses and wallets of every size and shape.  It was here I lost all control.  Of course, they also sold handmade slippers and shoes.

View of the 2 story retail area.  Note the hand carved and painted walls

  One interesting item for sale is the ottoman or “poof”, a leather footstool or small stool for sitting or even useful as a small side table.  They are usually round, although there were some square and rectangular ones.  You can purchase them already filled (with the aforementioned  fibers), or, because most would want to carry their purchase home and carry-on space is more precious than gold, they are unfilled and folded flat.  There were racks of these articles and one visitor mentioned that they thought they were pet beds. What do you think?

 I think if I had a retail pet supply shop I would be buying dozens in different colors and sizes.
I probably should have brought one home for our cat.