Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Cayman Pillow

Stylish After-Dive Soft Landing
By Stephen Weir, March issue of Diver Magazine

Kate, Conch and Cayman Pillow - photo by Weir
For Toronto-based London-trained Interior Designer, Kate Thornly-Hall, Grand Cayman Island evokes a certain Seven Mile Beach chic.  Her new line of pillows, towels, hand-woven carpets, and wallpaper are inspired by Cayman life, below and above the water.

Diver Magazine doesn’t want to typecast her as the Cayman Pillow Lady, but, just saying, that, when viewing her collection your eyes are drawn to her green and white trellis design throw pillows, her indoor outdoor pillows covered in 19th century four-masted Cayman schooners and Royal Palm fronds. 
 
Late last year, in a private downtown Toronto club she unveiled her Cayman Island Collection to Diver Magazine. 

The Cayman Islands Tourism Office in Toronto called and ask if I had ever been to the Caymans. I had not.” Said Kate Thornly-Hall, in explaining how her new collection came to be. “They said to me, come to Cayman and be inspired. That is exactly what happened -- it was just the most uplifting experience. Rum Point, the starfish. Turtles and fan coral. The design of the traditional Caribbean homes --that was 9 months ago, and I continue to be inspired!”

Chair with Cayman fabric - photo - weir
“Grand Cayman is very much an indoor / outdoor island experience,” she continued. “ So we have used a lot of out-door fabrics for your Cayman condo, your home, or maybe your condo balcony. We use bright colours that are able to handle both the rain and sun.”

Once you have bought the pillows, the designer fabric rolls, the King Sized duvet ($390) and even a king sized ($2,500) fabric covered headboard, one needs a Cayman inspired room or two to put them in! The collection includes wallpapers and carpets.

Her new wallpapers are a riot of Little Cayman coral, turtles and Cayman Brac parrots.

Everything is made in Canada, save for the hand-woven wool and silk carpets. The carpet design continues the Cayman look – turtles, George Town trellises, parrots, sugarbirds, turtles and corals.

“ We are showing carpets in 9x10s but we are very much into custom sizing and colour matching,” said the Toronto designer. “ Since the carpets are hand made we custom size any order.

It takes two or three months for a custom carpet to be made.  They are made in Nepal and cost $100 a square foot for a wool and silk hand woven Cayman carpet.

All of the products are available for sale in Grand Cayman and Canada in discerning design shops and on-line.  With a very positive response to these high-end products, the designer is now producing a second wave of Cayman inspired products just in time for the coming 2015 Spring Break dive season in the Cayman Islands.
The Cayman Pillow Lady and her designs




Monday, 9 March 2015

Aga Khan Museum Answers the Question - What is a Dhow?

ANCIENT SHIPBUILDING DESIGN - THE WRECK OF THE LAST DHOW EXHIBITION - AGA KHAN MUSEUM - TORONTO


Model of Dhow  - Aga Khan Museum - photo by George Socka
The Dhow is a traditional one or two masted sailing vessel usually with lateen rigging (slanting, triangular sails) that has been used for two millennia in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

It was constructed of wood.  Boat builders steam-shaped wooden hull planks, roughly 2.5 centimeters thick and between 20 and 50 centimeters wide.  These planks were stitched edge to edge with rope. According to the Aga Khan Museum “wadding was placed under the stitching both inside and outside the hull. A lime-like sealing compound applied to the exterior waterproofed the hull.”

The Last Dhow Wreck was in danger because of pirates, weather and political change

DR ALAN CHONG TALKS ABOUT THE LAST DHOW RECOVERY - THE VIDEO

Video talks to Dr Chong about the shipwreck
of the 1,200-year-old dhow
by Stephen Weir and George Socka for Diver Magazine

DIVER MAGAZINE talked to Dr Alan Chong, the head of the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore about underwater archaeology and shipwrecks in the Java Sea.  Alan Chong is a former Toronto Art Gallery curator.  That interview can be seen in a short YouTube video at: http://youtu.be/jfI5pnTn-1U

Shipwreck a controversy magnet - now an exhibition at Aga Khan Museum


The Lost Dhow
Only showing in North America. 
Dhow’d that happen?

By Stephen Weir - article in March issue of Diver Magazine

Canada’s newest gallery, the Aga Khan Museum, has just opened a major exhibition about one of the world’s oldest and most controversial underwater archaeological finds  – the 1,200 year-old Belitung Shipwreck.  The exhibition about the ship, The Lost Dhow; A discovery from the Maritime Silk Route, had its North American launch in Toronto in early December instead of a planned debut at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.


Pottery lie on the deck of the wreck of the Dhow. photo -Tilman Walterfang

In 1998, the shallow waters off Belitung Island in the western Java Seas yielded what has proven to be the earliest marine archaeological discovery of the century – a wooden ship filled with gold, silver and bronze objects and a staggering 57,500 Chinese ceramic artifacts. The 15-metre long wooden trading vessel has been identified as a 1,200-year-old Arab dhow. 

Two years ago the Freer Sacker Gallery  (the Smithsonian’s Museum of Asian Art) withdrew its commitment to bring the exhibition to the USA because it questioned the manner in which a private company recovered and sold over 60,000 artifacts from the shallow wreck. It accused the recovery team of being more treasure hunters than archaeologists.  So now Toronto is the only North American venue to host the show.

“As far as we can recreate the Belitung wreck was discovered off an island in the west Java Sea by local fishermen diving for sea cucumbers,” said Alan Chong, the director the Asian Civilization Museum in Singapore, which now owns the treasures of the Dhow.  “A few of these bowls were taken out and sold locally and local archaeologists working in Indonesia, noticed that these items were being sold and they (eventually) tracked down the wreck.”



A German firm, Seabed Explorations, then received an excavation license from the Indonesian government. That company describes itself as dedicated to the discovery, excavation, conservation and exhibition of artifacts that have been lost in shipwrecks to the seas of Southeast Asia. “Seabed is a commercial enterprise that, in addition to a core team of specialists, employs distinguished scholars, undersea archeologists and restoration experts to assist with the care, management and authentication of finds discovered during our projects.”

Their artifact recovery was completed in 1999 and the collection sold in a single lot for $32 million. The entire findings were then transferred to the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore.  That museum, headed up by former Toronto Art Gallery curator Alan Chong worked with the Aga Khan Museum to bring the show to Canada before opening its own permanent exhibition of the treasures back in Singapore soon after the show closes in Toronto on April 26, 2015.

The Smithsonian, once a stronger supporter of the show, “objected to the display of the Belitung cargo, arguing that commercial involvement in shipwreck recoveries can compromise scientific standards of excavation and lead to exploitation of shipwreck sites,” it explained in a press release. 

“Others support the exhibition,” continued the Smithsonian, “contending that public–private partnerships can help prevent loss and dispersal through looting and commercial fishing. Supporters argue that such partnerships are especially valuable in regions like Southeast Asia where underwater cultural heritage needs are great but funds and expertise are scarce”

Recovered pottery on display at the Aga Kan museum -photo George Socka
Seabed has published extensively about the construction of the 1,200-year-old dhow, its cargo and the methods used in recovery the find.  Company owner Tilman Walterfang freely contributed photographs and information about the shipwreck to Diver Magazine.

In talking about the Smithsonian’s comments, Mr. Walterfang bristles at the American accusations of treasure hunting. “We were fully licensed and enjoyed full support of the government. The problem was that the government gave us only 2-weeks to recover the entire cargo. When I explained that it will take years they gave us another six-weeks. That was due to the volatile situation in Indonesia. (The recovery took place) in the year in which the 31-year Suharto Regime fell apart and civil war was raging in various regions of Indonesia. Security couldn't be guaranteed for us and the artifacts (and looting was also a major concern)”

The Smithsonian has modified its stand on the original expedition and has recently called for further scientific research at the wreck site using data from Mr. Walterfang.  Meanwhile The Lost Dhow has been welcomed to Toronto with open arms. It is the first showpiece exhibition in a building privately funded by the Aga Khan Trust For Culture and dedicated to presenting an overview of the artistic, intellectual and scientific contributions that Muslin civilizations have made to world heritage.

“The show really bridges our understanding between China, Southeast Asia and the Islamic world. It is really one of the most interesting tales that can be told,” continued Alan Chong. “ We don’t why the dhow was there. This is a great puzzlement; some scholars believe that the ship was dropping off goods in the courts of Java. Other scholars think it was just blown off course. Or was it taking a circuitous route because of pirates in the Malacca Straits? Honestly no one has given a satisfactory answer and no one has any ideas (on how an Arab built ship found its way to China and into the Java Sea).”
Artifacts on display - Photo by Stephen Weir
The exhibition looks at the gold, silver, coins and some of the 57.500 Chinese ceramics brought back to the surface.  The items on display are the first hard evidence of a Maritime Silk Route that saw the exchange of goods, ideas and technologies between The Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) in China and the Abbasid Empire (750 – 1258 AD) in Persia.

“ Nearly the entire surviving cargo of the Arab or Indian ship consisted of Chinese ceramics. Some 60,000 pieces have been recovered. The breakage level was particularly low, perhaps twenty per cent, so the original ceramics cargo would have been in the order of 70,000 pieces. The vast majority of the ceramics are in the form of bowls. There are also many large storage jars, but the additional weight of these is offset by many tiny jarlets, “ wrote Mr. Walterfang “Many Chinese coins were recovered.”

The dhow is shown as a small-scale model in a glass cabinet. As well there is an outline of the 15 metres by 6 metres dhow on the floor, to show the actual size of the treasure ship.  Visitors see storage pots as they were seen underwater, covered in 1,200 years of muck and coral and after salvagers had cleaned them up. In Toronto three show stoppers among the 300 items on display. A priceless gold cup, a green splashed ewer and a white ware cup stand are must-sees.

Much of the wreck itself was brought out of the water and will be on display in the new Singapore museum.  However, some of the dhow’s hull is still on the bottom of the Java Sea.  The Smithsonian, in a bit of reversal of its criticism of the Exploration company, now wants scientists to go back to the site and use Mr. Walterfang’s information to study the remains of the ship and conduct more excavation of the site.

The dhow is just one of hundreds of historically significant ships that have been recovered in the patrimonial waters of Indonesia.  “ There are whole sections of southwest Asia that have yet to be investigated let alone in the Indian Ocean. That ocean is of course a much deeper challenge, literally a deeper challenge, for maritime archaeologists,” said Dr Chong. 


SIDEBAR – What is a Dhow?

Model of Dhow  - Aga Khan Museum - photo by George Socka

The Dhow is a traditional one or two masted sailing vessel usually with lateen rigging (slanting, triangular sails) that has been used for two millennia in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

It was constructed of wood.  Boat builders steam-shaped wooden hull planks, roughly 2.5 centimeters thick and between 20 and 50 centimeters wide.  These planks were stitched edge to edge with rope. According to the Aga Khan Museum “wadding was placed under the stitching both inside and outside the hull. A lime-like sealing compound applied to the exterior waterproofed the hull.”


ALAN CHONG - THE VIDEO

Video talks to Dr Chong about the shipwreck
of the 1,200-year-old dhow
by Stephen Weir and George Socka for Diver Magazine

DIVER MAGAZINE talked to Dr Alan Chong, the head of the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore about underwater archaeology and shipwrecks in the Java Sea.  Alan Chong is a former Toronto Art Gallery curator.  That interview can be seen in a short YouTube video at: http://youtu.be/jfI5pnTn-1U


Saturday, 14 February 2015

From Handcuffs to the Group of Seven. Thaddeus Howlownia in Toronto for Show Launch

.
Handcuffs led to marriage and a strange encounter with Canada's grand master of photography: Thaddeus Holownia. Why it is worth checking out the Jane Corkin Gallery's launch of a new Thaddeus show this  Saturday in Toronto. 
. Huffington Post Blog  by Stephen Weir 


Hollownia Flickr photo by Christopher Mackay

Back story: It was the fall of 1969. Somehow at the age of 16 I got accepted at the new Windsor University and I left my Renfrew home, pretty well for good.  It was me and a huge number of Americans  avoiding the draft and Vietnam who enrolled in an advanced style of Grade 13 - Windsor's Q-Year.

IT was mandatory to live in residence if you made it into Q-year.  Most days were spent in the residence lounge since it was the one room on campus with a working stereo record player. I was listening to Jimi Hendrix for the very first time when a beautiful girl I'd never seen  on campus sat next to me waiting her turn to put on an LP. Before she could play her new album Thaddeus Holownia floated in, dressed like Sgt Pepper with a turkey feather stuck in his hat. He drifted over to us, slapped handcuffs on our wrists and disappeared out the door in his own purple haze!

Thaddeus used to do that a lot - walk around  for days in a haze -- but, this time he did snap out of it and eventually came back and unlocked us. We have been together ever since. My wife and I, not Thaddeus.

In fact I haven't seen Thaddeus much since then. He moved from Windsor, to Toronto and settled eventually teaching art at Mount Allison University in the Maritimes. He also has been taking amazing photographs that are bought up by  art galleries and collectors even before they have dried on the darkroom line,  I promoted a show of his large format landscape photographs at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection ( a government owned gallery in Kleinburg, Ontario ) a decade ago. It was a huge success, thousands of people felt the instant connectivity between his photographs of a  lonely Canadian landscape and the works of the Group of Seven, which surrounded his travelling exhibition.

I told him back then about how he introduced me to my future wife. He feigned to remember the event. We marked each other on Facebook, but, after a couple of years I think he dropped me. Sigh. Old age culling.

I do have chance to renew old acquaintances this Saturday at one of Canada's best photography galleries -The Jane Corkin Gallery in the Distillery District (7 Tank House Lane, Toronto, Ontario).

Thaddeus is travelling west to launch a new exhibition in the Big Smoke. He will be showing photographs of Paris. Jane Corkin says that these photographs "cut through sentimentality, while acknowledging his own mediated attachments, as well as the layered culture, and confrontations between cultures, in this rapidly recomposing city. "

New Book About East Coast Poet John Thompson

He will also unveil a new book "Working in the Dark: Homage to John Thompson" to Ontario book buyers, John Thompson (17 Mar 1938 - 26 Apr 1976) was an English-born Canadian poet who lived on a New Brunswick farm.

This new publication, again according to Corkin "contains a suite of photographs by Thaddeus Holownia, whose studio now stands upon the site of Thompson's home. It also publishes, for the first time, a prose poem by Thompson recently discovered in the Mount Allison University Thompson archives."

Holowonia is suppose to arrive at 2pm and stay to 5pm February 14th, 2015.  Everyone should come and watch the fun. I might just handcuff Thaddeus to Jane Corkin. Let him see how it feels to be chained to a beautiful woman when Nature calls.


AT THE GALLERY

46-years later. Maria Nenadovich, Thaddeus Holownia and Stephen Weir at the Corkin Gallery


The show will be continue through the month.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

How I met my wife and Thaddeus Holownia​. A true story.

From Handcuffs to the Group of Seven 

It was the fall of 1969. Somehow I got out of Renfrew alive! University of Windsor. Q-Year with a class full of American draft dodgers. I was in the residence lounge, the one room on campus with a working stereo record player.  I was listening to Led Zep for the very first time.  Beautiful girl who I'd never seen on campus  before was sitting next to me listening to her new LP. Thaddeus Holownia floated in, dressed like Sgt Pepper with the addition of  a turkey feather stock in his hat. He drifted over to us, snapped handcuffs on our wrists and slouched out of the building in his own purple haze!

Thaddeus used to do that a lot - walk around in a bit of a haze -- but, this time he did remember to come back and unlock us. We have been together ever since. My wife and I, not Thaddeus.

In fact I haven't seen Thaddeus much since then. He moved from Windsor, to Toronto and settled eventually teaching art at Mount Allison University out east. He also has been taking amazing photographs that are bought up by collectors even before they have dried on the darkroom line I promoted a show of his large format landscape photographs at the McMichael a decade ago.  It was a huge success, thousands of people felt the instant connectivity between his photographs of  a Canadian landscape devoid of people and the works of the Group of Seven, which were hanging all around his travelling exhibition.
Thaddeus out of uniform

I told him back then about how he introduced me to my future wife. He feigned to remember the event.  We marked each other on Facebook, but, after a couple of years I think he dropped me. Sigh. Old age culling.

Anyway I do have chance to renew old acquaintances next Saturday at one of Canada's best photography galleries - The Jane Corkin Gallery in the Distillery District (7 Tank House Lane, Toronto, Ontario).

Thaddeus is travelling west to launch a  new exhibition in the Big Smoke. He will be showing photographs of  Paris. Jane Corkin says that she " is pleased to present an exhibition of photographs by Thaddeus Holownia (in a show he calls) Paris after Atget. Reflecting on Eugène Atget's landmark photographs of Paris at the turn of the century, Holownia visited the city over several years documenting changes. Holownia confronts past and present cultures in this rapidly changing city. The work explores themes of architecture, evolution of urban space and our impact on the environment."

He will also unveil a new book "Working in the Dark: Homage to John Thompson" to Ontario book buyers, John Thompson (17 Mar 1938 – 26 Apr 1976) was an English-born Canadian poet who lived on a farm in New Brunswick.
Homage to John Thompson

This new publication, again according to Corkin "contains a suite of photographs by Thaddeus Holownia, whose studio now stands upon the site of Thompson’s home. It also publishes, for the first time, a prose poem by Thompson recently discovered in the Mount Allison University Thompson archives."

Holowonia is suppose to arrive at 2pm and stay to 5pm.  Everyone should come and  watch the fun. I plan to handcuff Thaddeus to Jane. Let him see how it feels to be chained to a beautiful woman when nature calls.

http://holownia.com

Monday, 5 January 2015

3-D tooled replica of the Erebus bell at the ROM

 
Toronto Museum Has A Small (but important) Wreck Exhibition

3-D printer was used to make this replica bell.  On display in Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum


In 1845 the British Franklin Expedition sailed into Canada’s Northern waters to look for the Northwest Passage. There were 129 men, on two ships – the Erebus and the Terror – in the expedition. Early into their planned 3-year quest both ships and all hands were lost somewhere near the Victoria Straits in the Eastern Arctic. The search for Sir John Franklin, his crew and the two ships, began in 1859 and continues to this day.  Earlier this year a Canadian expedition did locate the shallow wreck of the Erebus.

Parks Canada underwater archaeologists – the first to lay eyes on the ship in nearly 170 years – conducted seven dives to the shipwreck over two intensive days of on-site investigation, taking diagnostic measurements, high-resolution photography, and high-definition video. The artifact was identified during the very first dive on the site, and recovered during the very last dive. 

In December a replica of that bell was put on display at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto. The pictured bell is part of a Parks Canada and ROM evolving exhibition about the wreck of the Erebus and the Franklin Expedition.

Even though the bell has been underwater for 170 years it is in very good condition. But what museum goers in Toronto are seeing is not the recovered bell, it is actually a 3D printer replica of the Erebus bell. 
Created by David Didur and Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, the replica makes the bell accessible to Canadians while the original undergoes conservation treatment in Ottawa. The replica bell is in a pop-up display on the first floor of the ROM. As part of the presentation there is an audiotape playing of the sound of a ship's bell!


Article for Diver Magazine. A version of this story has appeared on Facebook