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Fog

Fog

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ART: The care and feeding of creativity

ART: The care and feeding of creativity

Sunsets and sunrises don’t come too often in Xi’an, so I am enjoying them while I can in Port Townsend, Wa.

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I came here to attend the annual Artist’s Round Table – ART. This is a gathering of photographers, drawn from people who work with the guidance of Raymond Ketcham from Port Townsend, and was organised by Sabrina Henry.

Sunrises and sunsets aren’t the only things about ART that are special. The discussions about our work, our aims and philosophies, why we NEED to photograph, and how we can create stronger, deeper, more meaningful photographs have created wide open spaces in my mind that will give me the room to think more deeply about how I use my voice, my vision and my craft.

ART is not just about photographers looking at their work, but also gives us the chance to talk to writers (Wes Cecil) and sculptors (Jan Hoy) and how they see and develop their work. These synergies and cross-fertilisations add more understanding to our own creative processes.

Where will my own work go after ART? I’m not sure yet, but I do know that with the depth and breath of discussions, the challenge and the support of Ray, Sabrina and the other participants, it will become richer.

Thanks everyone!!

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Posted by DeborahH in Art and Craft, Homepage, 1 comment
Old friends

Old friends

One of the results of hanging about a place long enough is not just seeing the changes, but also in seeing what stays the same. When I first came to China one of my favourite breakfasts was ‘jia bing’ – a crepe with egg, veges and a crispy wafer on top – and my particular favourite place to buy this was from the ‘hoppy lady’. This lady and her husband ran a mobile stall specialising in jai bing. What made her special was she was always happy and this happiness translated into a little hopping dance she did as she cooked the food. Her husband worked with her and as a couple they had the process down to a fine art, smooth and easy working. The fact that they were both deaf and had very limited speech had no impact on either the quality of their food or the enjoyment they had from serving their customers.

This weekend I returned to the area where the ‘hoppy’ lady worked, and was so happy to find her and her husband still there. I indulged in their fine jia bing for breakfast each day, and although our chatting was limited, we managed to work it out and she was quite happy for me to take their photos, and for me to ‘help’ her make the jia bing while her husband took our photo.

Nice to go back and see some things haven’t changed.

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Posted by DeborahH in China, Homepage, 5 comments
All the tea in China

All the tea in China

Tea? Who drinks tea? At home, generally our parents’ generation drank tea. It was Indian style tea, strong and black in colour. Some drank it white and sweet, some black with lemon, some straight out of the billy, boiled over an open fire and tasting of smoke and gum leaves. The younger generation is more likely to drink coffee or fruit and herbal teas. But Chinese tea in all its variety? Not very many people really know this wonderful part of Chinese culture.

Here, I have learned to love tea and one of my favourite activities is to hit the tea markets and spend all day there, chatting to the tea sellers, sipping different teas, drooling over the beautiful teapots and trying to decide what to buy, how much lightening my wallet can stand.

Little tea shops are lovely places to start learning about tea. Tea shop owners are happy to spend time chatting about tea, while we sip different teas. Fancy tea shops also abound, and in these, the art of tea is as important as the taste. Here, the invariably beautiful girl serving you tea will be dressed in traditional costume, she will sit or kneel before you at a low, highly decorated, ornately carved table, and with graceful gestures pour tea into your thimble sized cups. A traditional musician may be playing nearby.

The tea pouring ritual is fun watch. The tea leaves are selected and we smell them, good aromas, strong or fresh grass green. The tiny cups are removed from the sanitiser with special tongs, and hot water is poutred over them, then water at the correct temperature (it varies with the type of tea) is poured over the leaves to wash them and this tea is then poured over the cups. Next round of water is poured onto the tea and then strained and finally tipped into your cup. The lid of the small tea pot or cup is offered for smelling, the colour of the tea examined and then we can sip. Each round of tea changes flavour, some becoming sweeter, others becoming stronger. Then different teas are offered, and we start again. Tea tasting is fun!!

There is a touch of snobbery around tea, just as there is around wine or olives or cheese back home. ‘Real’ tea isn’t fruit- or flower-flavoured. ‘Real’ tea relies on the mountain it is grown on, the water the tree is watered with, the age of the tree, the time of the year the leaves are picked and many more things aficionados talk about for hours.

To appreciate ‘real’ tea head for the tea markets. Tea markets are wonderful and sell everything to do with tea – the leaves themselves, the special pots, cups, tools and implements that accompany tea. Nimble fingered girls sort tea leaves and stalks. I stop to chat with them and they show me the stalks which can be used to replace your earrings at night. These stalks have an antiseptic quality and prevent infection. Like everything else edible or drinkable in China, tea in all of its forms is good for you!! Pu’er is good in winter, green tea in summer, this tea helps you lose weight, that tea helps you regain your appetite.

I have three “cha hais” – the table-top trays to hold the tea cups and pots while serving. But these are small – not like the huge, elaboratly carved and decorated marble and wooden tables. I also have a collection (growing…) of ‘cha chong’ (tea pets), small scultpures to bring luck. and to keep them beautiful, the waste tea and hot water are oured over them.

Tea is fascinating.

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RED!

RED!

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