I'm Julia Allen, a designer in Napa,
California. This blog is my place for
gathering and sharing inspiration.
It's also where I can share ideas and
processes for my design work.
(and sometimes, you might just see
a posting for the rant, of just because
a moment needed to be shared.)
Please feel free to say hello &
share your tendencies at
Chicago in the summer... there's nothing quite like it. Magnificent.
My stars lined up perfectly. Where I should have missed my flight with 25 min before take off, I fly through the airport getting clearance to "take your chance and run to your gate", bypassing all waiting in lines, because I was randomly selected as the "easy one" and getting clearance... at my gate in 5 minutes from stepping out of the car... and having to wait because my "group" wasn't called yet. (I'm still shaking my head that all that happened in my favor).
An amazing night with Irish crooners Glen Hansard, Lisa Hannigan, members of The Frames, and Levon Helms band...all at The Metro last night, Sunday, June 9th, 2013 -a big 30th Anniversary celebration for The Metro. Chicago is Glen's 2nd home. "The people of Chicago have always welcomed us with big open arms." he said. It's their home base for the states. I know what you mean Glen.
Another night tonight at Millenium Park with Glen again performing a free concert. Old friends who I haven't seen since the age of 14 shall be there... and friends who have been at my side all through the years. This time, my son too. All this forshadowing a very important meet up with members of my family from my father's side, who I haven't seen in over 30 years. (There's that repeat... 30). I will get a chance to be reunited with them, introduce my son to them, and get access to the "Allen" geneaolgy book that dates back over 200 years, to Ireland, and to England. I am humbled and amazed in how all this just came together with such ease and perfection. I feel so much gratitude that this is being made possible.
I leave you with a few pictures and videos from last night's performance. Magical doesn't even begin to describe it!
“A Place to Gather is about a respect for the power of Irish material culture. It is an exploration of how design, craft, literature, film - all these different parts of our culture - can connect people, ideas and places. It is about taking a holistic approach to Ireland’s material culture.” – Jonathan Legge, Curator
I can honestly say, connected for me it was. The vignettes of each artist/craft person motioning through their sacred cocoon of creation— of what their hands expertly and automatically operated is layered with thought-provoking dialogue. I find it fascinating... to hear them reveal their daily struggles of working with their Crafts and how those same struggles became the intrinsic quality of their romance of Craft-making. Perhaps even more importantly, it's the vehicle for which they learn and discover more about themselves.
Here, Craft has a much bigger meaning, more than what most of us realize, as the word has been simplified and applied to the notion of an innocent, every person's afternoon of art-making. That craft is sweet and fun, endearing too. Their Craft, their forefathers' Craft is different, deep and in my opinion, the most over-looked. A Craft that has taken them, to surrender their life to the sole purpose of making and doing at such high levels of precision.
It's so comforting to hear and see how personal one becomes in the creation of something. Yes, connected we all are in this. I am still smiling at what the basket weaver said... some passionate words coming from a sweet grandmotherly woman... I hope I never loose that fire in the belly when I get that old too.
I've written out some of the dialogue below. Being able to dwell on what they said and watch the video a few times created a ripple effect so wonderful! Enjoy!
Wood worker I like to use the knots, I of kind like because it gives more character. The product is quite a clean design so we do like to put a small bit of character if we can get a funny defect here or there. I quite like to use it. The thoughts of where my ideas come from?… They're just as much coming from architecture, sculpture and music as they are coming from anything else. Architecture is frozen music.
If I'm working at sixty-eight inches wide, there's eleven thirds to an inch both ways and lengthwise, and these robes are of a seventy-four inches length, and an have eight inch fringe, so the machine comes across directly across a seventy with a four and half fringe. This thing wool garmet here, I could actually could do seven days a week twelve hours a day.
I've spent my life picking up nails off the ground and straightening them because that is what my father use to do. ....You don't know whether you're going to be good at it, you have to become good at it
so whether a person has determination to learn, whether they have they have the burning desire to learn to make baskets is the REAL thing.
It's been likened to twisting honey up onto a spoon. It's a similar kind of consistency. And the whole way through the process it's about trying to balance it and trying to guide the hot glass in certain directions. I first worked out in the factory when I was in transition here. We were doing some work basements and it was just one of the ones I opted to do. I've been here almost ever since.
Ceramist I would use a kind of porcelain, it's a beautiful material to kind of use. it's quite a difficult material to throw because it tends to have a mind of its own. And so, it tends to warp or kind of crack. Or whether it kind of works, its a lovely material. My work would be quite refined, I wouldn't really decorate it, though it's more about the simplicity and minimalism. You know and that kind of showing more the kind of form in the material and the slight imperfection and subtle differences in each piece. There does seem to be more a lot more interest from the art world and design world, and there does seem to be a lot more opportunities for young designers…
Yesterday was our 40th and our first birthday apart.
A deep calling and need for soiltude and I found it walking Grace Cathedral's Labrynth in San Francisco. Entering its meandering path was met with emotional sadness, to go back into the memories of loss and separation. The center felt timeless where I paused, for a long while. Then, my first step, of coming out of it, much like my entry into this world—first born, but without John. Ironic to think that he was born all black and blue, from me kicking my way out. Foretelling? I wonder. I paused more, along the way... realizing it is time to move forward into this different being, me and as one. I am me, yet will always be a part of him.
Today, again in solitude, I heard the cry of a hawk. Not a kestrel, but above, in the skies over me were a pair of red tails circling and crying out: "Happy Birthday Julia". Thank you John... for being my twin brother, and celebrating this life with me. I'll always love you. See you on the other side one day.
Hmm. Oct. 13th. Last posting. Of course, the question posed is: should I close the blog? Undecided. But, for what's it's worth, a desire to post moved me today.
As I type, I can see a glorious beam of sunlight coming through my west-facing window, the warmth of light hitting my fingers. Ahhh, mother nature, you tease! It's February 5th, a Saturday, and the weather here in Napa is 79 degrees. No joke. This is not normal. I'm sure the rest of this town is out and about enjoying the weather... it's ok.... I'm enjoying it working. No interruptions. Music blaring. My own time: My own space: to be creative.
Loving this tune right now by Local Natives. A song about the sun, or maybe someone like the sun.
Life has a funny way of giving you a wake up call. It can happen in the most subtle and split-second manner, where most people would probably not "catch the moment". Or it can happen as loud as a bomb, rattling the very core of your world. Lucky for me (or unlucky, depending on how one might look at this), I'm one of those individuals who can for whatever reason, recognize the most miniscule to the most explosive moments where the universe/God/Buddha/pick-your-passion-theology perspective, says... "Ok Julia, lookie here, this is intended for you to learn from... so what are you gonna do with this experience?"
Last Thursday, August 19, 2010 my friends Julie, Rachelle, and I drove down to Saratoga, California to attend a very long-awaited concert at the Mountain Winery to see The Swell Season. Now, anyone who has a decent playlist on their iPhones/iPads/MP3 player would know who these amazing artists are, but another well known fact is the lead singers: Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová were in Once, a 2006 Irish musical (low budget/indie) film, that received a 2008 Academy Award for Best Original Song for the song "Falling Slowly". Yes, we are big fans and drove 1.5 hours to get there on a Thursday afternoon, taking the afternoon off from work to get dinner and an early start to the concert.
The lead up to the event couldn't have been more perfect. Beautiful warm day in Saratoga, California, early arrival to our destination at The Basin, our selected place to get drinks and dinner. We had 15 minutes until the restaurant would open when we heard someone yell... "Go across the street for some free wine and nibbles and say you are there for blah-dee-blah-dah...!" And, yes, we did just that, crash a little wine tasting party. After tasting a lovely rosé, and posing as if we were truly guests, we scanned the tables for what nibbles could be grabbed. And I saw... pickels! Yum! Perfect! So we grabbed a few before saying our thank yous and headed to The Basin.
Last minute bar seating was scored as it was a full house due to the 2 concerts happening in the area, one of which we were attending. Cucumber martinis for Julie and Rachelle, and a Stella Artois for me, launched us into the perfect setup for "letting our hair down" and getting excited for the show. Dinner and then a surprise run-in with friends of Julie made for an even more pleasant experience at our eatery. (thought in my head... What a perfect night!)
Arriving at the winery was a site to be seen. Can we say GINORMOUS? The grounds to the estate were breathtaking and seemed to go on and on. Again, a perfect build up to the anticipated show. Car parked, bathroom break, more beer, seats found....we were ready. Balmy evening was cooling off quickly for a crisp summer night sky. Moon aglow, eerily bright, even for a half lunar phase. I made a curious mental check on how luminous it did look. Opening band done and at last... The Swell Season on stage! WAHOO!
A few sets into the show, Markéta disappeared and came back in a warmer attire. She went up to the mic and admitted, "This is my first EVER wardrobe change. I wanted to look cute for you but got so cold. I will remember this night forever!" About two-thirds into the show Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Swell Season's violinist performed a hauntingly beautiful solo of a 300 year old folk song from his home town on the Western shores of Ireland. It seemed like not a soul took a breath while watching this lovely moment. Please listen if you have the time.
The band returned to stage after, about to launch into their next song when someone from the audience yelled "Tell us about Lois!"... Well, we all were like, "Who's Lois?" Curiosity got the cat!
Glen Hansard, in his most endearing Irish accent and style of speech launched into a story. (note: I am going to do my best to recite what was stated/recounted, but because it's all from memory, an exact replay of how things were said might be off. I do think the gist of the way I will tell the story will remain truthful. I know repeating the story to myself, Julie and Rachelle, and close friends has helped to maintain consistency and integrity of what happened.) Glen continues to the audience on how 6-7 months ago he was in Chicago (a big "Wahoo!" escaped my lips as it is my hometown!) and just checked into a hotel and was heading out, riding the elevator down to go out into the cold Spring air. He noticed an older woman standing in front of him in the elevator who was wearing a very impressive, intensely blue, Paddington Bear style coat, covered from head to calf, with only the feathered gray strands of her hair escaping around her face and the tip of her nose showing. He said, "Well, that's a mighty fine coat you have on and it looks lovely on you." She turned around and looked at him and said, sternly, "Thank you. What's your name and what do you do?" He replied, I'm Glen Hansard, and I'm in a rock band called The Swell Season and we're performing in Chicago... just had a show in New York." She said, "I'm Lois. Never heard of you." He continues, "I was also in a movie called Once and in another Irish rock band called "The Frames". Lois, "Never heard of it or the movie." At this point, Glen admits that unless you are Bono or Jesus, no one will give a shit who you are. Everyone laughs. Lois says, "This is my first time leaving my apartment in 2 years. I'm visiting my daughter who lives here in Chicago. I saw this coat in the window, and decided to buy it. I've never done anything like that before, so I just bought it."... she continues... "You know, I told my son not to go to that building." (Glen realizes and tells the audience she was referring to 9/11). "I had a funny feeling. He worked all weekend long and I called to tell him to stay home, that I had a funny feeling. Well, he didn't listen, and now he's dead." At this point Glen makes a statement at how remarkable a one-off chance of running into a stranger on an elevator can impress upon him an intensely deep and inspiring felt emotion that it was the source of inspiration for his next song. They exit the elevator and hotel, and as she grabs a cab, stops before closing the door and says to Glen, "That was a very nice thing you did back there. Telling me I looked good in this coat. You didn't have to do that but you did. Don't ever NOT say what's on your mind and heart. Live your life, LIVE YOUR LIFE", as she proceeded to close the cab's door and speed away. Glen faces us, the audience and says how often does something like that happen in a person's life? And he launches into "When Your Mind's Made Up", a gorgeous, impassioned song so powerful, and of course my favorite song. I've embedded it here, please watch.
The crowd was alive! Feeling the setup of Lois and the beauty of this song. Glen starts bantering about another humorous story, and then it happened. A body, landing 3 feet from him coming out of the sky. Is this a joke? Was it a technician who fell while clapping? Is he ok? What the F*CK is going on!?!? And then I heard a woman a few seats to my left saying how she saw this man jump onto the rooftop of the building behind the stage and took a running leap off, landing right on stage, between Glen and Colm. A hard, weighted, graphic fall. If I had left my iPhone's video on, I would surely have caught the impact.
MD's from the audience ran on stage, Glen's reaction is what still haunts me. He immediately put down his guitar and went up to the body, and then put his hands over his mouth and the whites of his eyes illuminated, like the glow of the moon. And panic. The band was quickly wisked off stage... and the audience... tears, cries, people hugging and making their way out of their seats. Julie, Rachelle and I were caught in the intensity of our eyes glued to it all. We couldn't have had the most perfect seats to see everything. And then I felt anger... deep anger at how selfish this person's choice in ending his life became my own and everyone else's reality. The staff asked us not to leave our seats so that paramedics could have access to the stage. After 20 minutes of CPR, I knew he was gone. The three of us eventually left our seats to walk around the perimeter of the grounds, with the rest of the audience.... some zombie like, some rattled to the core in tears, some nonchalant, and some, like me feeling anger. And then it hit me... my own connection to suicide and my brother's attempt when we were 19. I won't go into the details here, but he survived. He shouldn't have. He did... but the heart-ache and stress our family was put through over the reason he did it... is what triggered my anger.
No one was allowed out for 2 hours. Obviously the show ended. We found Julie's friends (from The Basin) and headed back to their car where their dog was happily waiting for them, Zaya, a French bull dog. Zaya's owner, Ben worked his magic of tasteful but raunchy humor that definitely helped to take the edge off the night. Of course, Zaya caught the eye of a woman parked near us who became embarrassingly silly, telling her boyfriend/husband how much she wanted a dog exactly like Zaya, but would call it "Pickels" (insert here: remember pickels from the winery party we crashed? Interesting connection, I thought).... Well, if you clicked on the link above to "it happened", the media soon found out that the jumper was named Michael Edward Pickels. A man who was facing charges of assault with a firearm, domestic violence and false imprisonment, recently released from jail on a $150,000 bail.
Was this a random act of violence and stupidity with the off chance that a certain number of people were there to witness something so horrific? Perhaps. Questions swirling in my head... What's the meaning between all these connections?, "Pickels", the moon, Markéta's comment about it being a night she will forever remember, Chicago (at least for me), Lois' message to speak your mind and LIVE your life, and MY song to be the chosen one?
Still processing, but what this experience has opened for me, at every core of my being is: I choose "Lois". What about you?