One Woman, One City, One Month

It’s about time.

Here I am in Havana, Cuba in February, a very welcome change to the weather at home in the UK and I am experiencing total gratitude for gifting myself with this time. “Thanks to yourself” I hear you ask. well yes, it me, my idea, my vision, my dream whatever you want to call it but I would say YES to gifting myself with time. In our world time is a currency, we either have it in abundance or not enough of it, time is measured and it is billed, it has a value that more often than not we do not connect to. We are aware of money and how long it takes us to make it without giving much thought to how long it takes to spend it. So what I am saying is this is a gift to me from an investment of time and money earned over my working life to  invest in my dreams of a reality that I now want to live, experience and enjoy.

My first choice is Havana, and for me right now it was a right one to make.

Before coming here I had heard several opinions from people who don’t really know me about their experiences in Havana. I was shocked by their reactions, what I got was a projection of their experience which with some different levels of extreme was what I would call a toxic dump. Urm, I have never being one to knowingly put out someone elses fire but one persons reaction was visceral, they even used the word anger that I was staying in Havana for a month without seeing the beauty of the whole of cuba.

Hey ho, another persons visions of a dream is someone elses vision of hell, ce la vie.

I live in London, and am busy most of the time, there are things that have to be done and things that I like to do and things that must be done. Time is pretty much taken up with doing. To be honest I like doing and will be doing in Havana, in fact I am doing a lot here and I love it. The difference is ‘doing’ on my terms which by other people standards is that for me it will be a month to do what some people will do in 1 week or 4 days or less.

Which brings me back to time, in London,  conversations have been reduced to text, not so much of the spoken word and text is now being replaced by imogis. All this smart phone technology and we are reduced to experiencing ourselves through a sticker designed by someone else. Oh Wow, evaluation……

Holiday time, by this I mean time at home, Christmas or whatever family time we might have. It’s a big deal because its one of the few times that everyone makes an effort to get together and talk to each other face to face, over meals that they make togther and maybe exchange a well-considered gift.

So here I am in Havana with a gift of time and what I am to do, or now after a week into my trip, what I am doing.

Well first question should really be hows it going? And I will say it is going good, thanks.

Any anxiety that I might have absorbed from others negativity was soon diminished by my own reality in feeling happy to be here. It is everything that I hoped and expected. I am comfortable and capable and time is my friend.

I am lost in wonder by the scale of urban decay, I am immersed in the layers of past revealing itself though worn out shades of colour, broken tiles, sun damage, sea damage and war damage. Buildings without roofs, people living in derelict buildings that chime with noise and vibrate with industrial labour. Peeping through the gaps in doors there are the picture post card images of what we know to be relative poverty compared to western standards, (why that is a photo opportunity I don’t know, I guess it’s a glimpse of a life been lived) old style shabby chic. Yes there are men sitting in shorts on PVC sofas eating food. Its grimy, choked up with exhaust fumes from the old cars, there is no sense of heath and safely. Behind doors I see what is left of a stair case, I see people restoring furniture, I see small factories with people at sewing machines, I see the interiors of homes with so little physical substance, I see an upholsterer at work and restoration on the scale of what looks like something from the italian renascence.

I also see colour and feel the vibrancy of the people and the sunshine bouncing off the buildings, there is music and dancing everywhere.

I see progress, it’s on a collective scale, everyone is in this together, there is something for everyone. As the historical restoration replaces what has been, and still is a demolished city, it is a city is in transition, whilst been true to its identity and community this is a time of change. The romance and the old style charm is not just been replaced but enhanced, drawn out from the rubble that has held its memories, nothing has but everything is changing.

Oh for the gift of time, to immerse myself in this vision, lost in the decorative beauty, the long conversations and laughing with exchanges in a different language, taking time to try, to be vulnerable to understand myself better through experience. taking time for change.

Thoughts on sharing. To blog or not to blog

 

I am returning to blogging after a bit of a break. My relationship with blogging seems to be similar like that of any other relationship. It brings up issues around what to reveal about myself and share and what not to.  My thoughts about healthy engagement with social media is to be discerning and to make positive choices around what is relevant to our life at any given time. That said I don’t intend to use my blog as a sounding board for the world that we are living in but to use my blog to pick up from where I left off and the share stories as I would with friends and colleagues based on what is inspiring me in my work and life, be that art, making, designing or just observing on my travels and what I find at home here in London or the UK.

So these shots are taken on the beach at Dungeness. It’s a favourite place of mine and I was thrilled that my friends equally loved it. Dungeness can be a bit of a Marmite experience in that you either love it or hate it. Even though it is a recognised as a place of nature beauty, for some a long stretch of pebble and single beach scattered with an array of disused and broken machinery and old boats is the polar opposite of their idea of a stunning location.

The back drop of two  nuclear power stations only add to its charm, yes you read that correctly. The landscape is like a something from Mad Max, perhaps a setting for a dystopian future. Its surreal, the light is stunning even on a more typical British  grey day.

 

Forget the future though, how about the present. The Fish hut serves up the most delicious variety of snacks and meals, freshly caught on the day.

Going back to sharing, this is the life for sure, great friends by the sea eating lovely food and feeling the love, that quality of energy that comes from being with like-minded people who want to share their time with you.

You can find everything you need to know about the area on any google search, here is the wiki page

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeness_(headland).

But for now my joy is in sharing the images, the colours on the weather battered disregarded industrial items set against the natural beauty of the beach and the bright blue sky. You will  have to go there to enjoy the tranquility and the sounds of silence intermittently broken by the sounds of the gulls and the waves greeting the beach.

 

I CAN’T RESIST AN AUCTION

One of the things that I love about buying at auction is the preview days where you have the opportunity to handle some fabulous garments. Many vintage clothes shops don’t like you touching the items much where at auction you can try it on and get a feel of the era as well as understand the structure in detail. I don’t know anywhere else where you can get such a detailed close up of period clothing. This can be from Victorian frocks heading to a museum, garments that you are unlikely to see on the open market again. Famous people’s clothes, clothes that have contemporary value from designers as recent as the 1990’s, punk garments from the 1970’s along side clothes from glamorous eras and movie stars.

My love for clothes holds no time, I tend to collect garments that I can wear, sell on or just enjoy. Some of my garments are used for props in film and TV.

There is a thrill of buying at auction and getting to know other collectors are buying. My collection is somewhat random, I tend to get a look in on more eclectic lots as I am up against  collectors who are going to buy certain designers whatever the price is so therefore there is no point pushing the price up over what they are likely to pay.

Here are photos of some of  my collection, it changes over time. Some pieces are for sale and some are often on loan. Please email me for any info @ lisaaskem.me.com

I also source garments for clients.

 

 

Everything but the Dog

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Everything but the dog is the name of this is a very cool new venture started by Hannah and George along with their dog Billy a very handsome Shar Pei who sits in the shop window bottom. Whilst I was there he attracted a crowd of young people outside the shop, which is always a good advertisement for any business. Hannah and George have an eye for a good piece of mid-century furniture, ceramics and lighting. They recently took over a shop space on Chatsworth rd, Hackney, London E5 and have created a clean Scandinavian vibe to show their wares.

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I can never resist a shop selling mid-century wears and I just happened to be passing by the weekend that they had opened. We were greeted with an enthusiastic welcome and I am not surprised that things were selling fast. They have some interesting pieces dated from the 1960’s and 70’s alongside some new items, pieces that are made locally but fit in with their scheme. This seemed like a great opportunity to introduce my vintage textiles re worked into cushions and I am thrilled to say these are now accessorizing their re- upholstered Ercol furniture. Feels like a meeting of like-minded souls but I am also keen to see this shop thrive.

Over the past three years Chatsworth rd  has changed. Like many areas in this part of London the gentrification is obvious but here the owners of the shops, cafe’s and restaurants here have lifted a shabby and run down street into something vibrant for the local community to enjoy. And they do. The restaurants are full and the Sunday street market is rated as one of the best markets that’s Londoners go to. There is always a new pop up shop happening. New food outlets, no big names, just locals nurturing the area. The old and the new are making a living side by side. The street is under the radar of magazines such as Elle decoration and is featured in time out.

I buy interesting gifts from here, made by local product designers, along with handmade soap, cheese, bread, and of course cake. Which London market doesn’t offer cake? The restaurants are great value and full of energy. There is often a pop up art exhibition in what’s known as the dentist shop. A recent addition is the Hackney draper which for me as a textiles geek is heaven. Offering curtain making, haberdashery and selling fabric along with some home accessories and African textiles.

The street is a friendly creative hub, highly recommended for a Sunday stroll. Sometimes your stroll will be accompanied with live music, and a lot of laughter.