Saturday, 7 July 2012

Away in a land of orange

I’m a bit late updating this week as I’ve been away on a trip to a land of orange - and oranges. The deep orangey-russet of the soil in Portugal’s Algarve would be even more potent were it not for the bleaching of the sun. And plantsperson though I am, I’ve never before seen the developing, bright orange, fruit-carrying arms that stretch up so enthusiastically from the date palms along the sea-front. I hadn’t realised how fluorescent they look at that early stage.

The orange trees in Portugal were absolutely laden with fruit too, and almost all of it ripe and colourfully inviting against the waxy green leaves. The most vibrant experience though for a colour-imbiber like me was finding the orange ‘vibe’ of the area reflected on the walls of the Three Crowns restaurant in Albuferia, and seeing even this beamed back through the orange centre of a hot pink Bougainvillea climbing the walls. Apologies for the picture quality: the sea breeze wouldn’t let it still long enough!

Lace-making and rug-weaving were on the regional culture menu, and I was lucky enough to be allowed not just to look at but actually to sit at an estimated 200-year old pedal-operated loom. It was part of a display on weaving and old lace at the very recommendable Parque da Minta, inland near Monchique. Very kindly, the curator both opened the door and welcomed me to sit where many (much slimmer!) derrières had sat in centuries before.

I was even allowed to have a go at changing the sheds using the pedals. Much more complicated than my very simple rigid heddle Knitters' Loom - more like driving a car, but with vastly superior environmental outcomes. The ancientness and wear on the pedals makes one feel very humble thinking of the rigours of life for country weavers in the past, and full of admiration for their artistic output, given their circumstances. The detail in the weaving even of donkey back sacks reminds you just what a creative force textiles are in our lives, whether it’s practical astronauts’ space suits or art/fashion collaborations like those at Britain Creates.

I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to update the blog this coming Thursday as I’ll be getting ready for the Outward Images stand at Fibre-East. If I miss your company then here’s hoping we’ll meet in person at the show.

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