Monthly Archives: February 2009

February 27, 2009

wabi sabi

cover to book Wabi SabiWabi sabi is a Japanese aesthetic that is really more of a feeling than just an expression or description. It is beauty that is simple, unrefined, natural, ephemeral. It is the feeling you have when you find a leaf in fall that is shades of red and orange and yellow and maybe even has a little hole edged in brown; or holding a piece of handmade pottery in your hand and taking that first sip of warm tea in the morning that stirs your senses and warms your soul; or when you look out and see in the distance a peaceful gray mountain with a foggy mist clinging to the top and hear unseen geese honking. Many of tea’s designs evoke a sense of wabi sabi. That is probably one of the reasons I was initially drawn to tea clothing for my son. I appreciated the colors, softness and straight-forward designs that are uniquely tea and uncommon in the world of children’s clothing.

On a recent trip to our local, very rural library, I unexpectedly discovered a children’s picture book called Wabi Sabi written by Mark Reibstein and illustrated by Ed Young. In the story, a cat named Wabi Sabi tries to find out the meaning of her name. She asks all her friends what wabi sabi means, and then she ventures out further in the world to find someone who can explain the meaning. Everyone she asks replies “That is very difficult” and gives her a tiny piece of the answer in the form of a haiku. She finally discovers the meaning of wabi sabi by experiencing it. And in reading the story you and your child will do the same.

The book has beautiful art collages. Each page has a haiku in haibun form (a short prose passage sets up the haiku). Japanese calligraphy is written in the margins. These are actually haiku that are translated in the back of the book. This is not your ordinary children’s book. But nevertheless, my almost 3-year old was completely absorbed as I read haiku after haiku. Sometimes I mistakenly believe that complex thoughts and art are beyond my toddler. But really I think if we as adults could appreciate art and words like a toddler must, we might have an unanticipated deep understanding of truth. That is, in one sense, the beauty of wabi sabi.

hello hoi an

If you’re considering visiting Viet-Nam, a must-see is the lovely coastal town of Hoi An located in Central Viet Nam.

The best way to arrive is to take a train from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. I recommend the sleeper train, it’s a bit cozy but you get amazing views as the train passes through rice fields and vast flatlands with water buffalo.

The people are charming and less likely to upsell foreigners. There are abundant tailor shops and art galleries that won’t break your budget. One of my favorite shops is Hoai Ngap (Reaching Out )Handcrafts, a gift shopped filled with fair trade crafts made by artisans with disabilities.

The cobble stone streets make it a pleasure for walking or biking amidst the ancient Japanese and Chinese style architecture. Kids will love drinking fresh fruit shakes on the beach or even taking a lantern making class in town. At night, the town is picturesque with several outdoor cafes and strings of colorful silk lanterns illuminating the streets.

 

The women at the market place will tempt you with fresh marigolds and lotus flowers and even offer you fresh slices of mangosteen and sweet lychees.

Officially Hoi An is listed as a UNSECO heritage site. Unofficially I can tell you this place has a lot of heart. Look for my auntie and grandmother who make banh mi (baguette sandwiches) with a slammin’ secret sauce. Their stand is near the south entrance of the marketplace on the river. Grab sandwiches to go and hop on the ferry for a breezy tour of the scenic Hoi An River.

super baby food recommendation

Back in the days when there was just my husband and I, we took turns with “cooking” dinner and by “cooking” dinner I mean walking to the kitchen drawer where we keep the take-out menus. “I’m cooking tonight. Do you want Thai food?”

Nothing like a baby to make you behave in oh so many ways. Luckily for baby Olivia, our granola-Berkeley friends sent over an amazing book called Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. Initially I flipped through it and it looked too complicated and utterly impossible to follow so I put it aside. Somewhere along the line I picked it up again for a quick reference. Our pediatrician told us that she was not getting enough iron so I referenced “the book” and found good food sources. I then found useful information after more useful information. This book is like having an elder at your fingertips. It is chock full of knowledge which ranges from how much should your baby eat, what should a 5 month old eat, a crash course in nutrition, play ideas, homemade silly putty and toddler (and grown-up) recipes…to name a few. Tonight I pulled out “the book” because I couldn’t remember how long to microwave corn on the cob while in the husk. Viola. 3 minutes and turn halfway through. Today, Yaron’s food index is the most valuable part of the book for me at this point in my 5 year olds life.

In the end, I never bought baby food from the store. I followed Yaron’s suggestions to puree, pour into ice cube trays and freeze. It was easy, it felt good and I saved money.

February 19, 2009

journey to brazil

When I thought about the inspiration destination for our Spring 2009 collection, I was still stimulated by the beauty of the Norwegian fjords (our Fall 2008 inspiration) … scenes of the dramatic mountain & beach landscape in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil elated me as a warm interpretation of similar voluminous silhouettes. With its innate colorful, celebratory culture I was thrilled to seek out treasures for translation.

My only previous exposure to Brazil were tales from my mother. She had spent 6 weeks traveling all over South America when I was 10 years old … and for the next few years I heard plenty of stories about her experiences and the sounds of native flute players from a 12’ vinyl.

Laura’s husband – “Matt the architect” – joined us to see Oscar Niemeyer’s famous buildings.

We visited Sao Paulo first – a metropolis, similar to New York. All 3 of us once lived and loved New York (and still do), so we were excited to get a glimpse of this urban jungle.

We visited modern art museums, walked the streets of the Jardin district, and discovered the Liberdade neighborhood during a Sunday flea market. There is a huge traditional Shinto tori gate and Japanese lanterns lining the main street.

Ginko Floral Dress and Waves Hooded Pullover

Brazil is a beautiful chaos of cultures.. with influences from Europe, Africa and the indigenous people of South America. Together they create the vibrant lifestyle that Brazil is famous for.

It was interesting to learn that the first Japanese immigrants arrived by ship in 1908 to work on Brazil’s coffee plantations. We combined the Japanese aesthetic with nautical notes, reflecting on the long voyage the immigrants traveled for a chance at a new way of life.

For girls: Kasato Stripe Top, and for boys: Heitai Sweater.

One evening we found the Shimo Sushi restaurant – the sushi quality fish is fantastic in Brazil. The walls are covered with incredible graphics using motifs often found in Japanese art. We were in awe – it inspired our printed French Terry pieces: Izumi Dress, Taiyou Hoodie for girls, and the Waves Hooded Pullover, Waves Long Shorts for boys.

In Rio, you can easily understand how essential it is for Brazilians to express themselves through music, dance and art – as much as eating and sleeping!!

This photo of the lawn and Sugarloaf Mountain is taken from the top of the Contemporary Art museum in Rio, one of the first buildings designed by Oscar Neimeyer in Rio, looking over Flamingo Bay. The Rio Dress was inspired by this beautiful place.

We stayed in a bed & breakfast run by an artsy Brazilian couple. Situated in the Santa Teresa neighborhood, the house overlooked a valley populated with aging colonial homes. We spent a few afternoons wandering along the cobblestone streets and took the trolley into the city.

The charming wrought iron work on these homes inspired girly flair for our Brasilia Crinkle Dress and Santa Teresa Dress:

You cannot miss the extraordinary sidewalks in Rio – they are famous. We used the tile design to create the Goncalo Sweater Polo.

Laura and Matt were captivated by the street art. We loved this one for color – inspiring our palette for the Spring Collection.

Other street art-inspired styling for our graphics – the Cavaco Polo for boys and the butterfly embroidery on our Zaba Stripe Halter Dress for girls.

Together, we spent a late afternoon on the Ipanema beach and watched the sun set … it was gorgeous.

To really take in the Niemeyer phenomenon, we flew to Brasilia, the capital city located in the driest region of this enormous country. What’s incredible is that this carefully planned city was built in 5 years under the direction of President Kubitcheck in the 1950’s … it was meant to symbolize the “city of the future.”

The most stunning structure of all is the Cathedral Metropolitana – a glorious thing made of concrete and glass, draped with abstract shapes of color. We interpreted the glass into a graphic print, and the shaped of the dress came from the structure. Our Catedral Dress is a perfect style for summer.

And no one can escape flora and fauna in Brazil … from the Botanical Jardin of Rio to the immense rainforest, tropical plants and flowers flavor the landscape of Brazil. The beautiful landscape inspired our summer Jardin Halter Dress and Jardin Crop Pant.

brazilian inspired izumi dress

My 2 year old daughter, Lizzie, is just starting to become interested in what she wears every day. It was so much fun to put her into the Izumi Dress, from the new Tea East Meets Brazil collection, and watch her animated reaction to the beautiful graphic on the front. I spent a few minutes with her telling her the story of the Japanese Fan Festival, and told her about the “pretty girl” on her dress. She loves to point to the girl on her dress! I love that the dress is soft, comfortable and easy to wash!

the imaginary book

My son, Jude, developed a fun (and challenging!) game that involves reading an imaginary story. He holds up an imaginary book (his hand), and his father or I get to make up a story while he turns the imaginary pages. Sometimes we use familiar characters like Thomas the Tank Engine or something he is interested in like dinosaurs, but inspired by Emily Meyer’s post last week about Brazil, I decided to use one of these opportunities to make the “foreign familiar”.

I re-created a story about Barney going shopping with two pals. Barney Goes Shopping isn’t exactly my pick for great children’s literature, but this is currently one of my son’s favorite books mostly because it is an interactive book which asks questions and has a little car at the top that the child drives to each destination.

In my story, I changed the characters to Isadora, Danilo, and Lia (Brazilian names). I described the rich scenery of Brazil including the highland mountains providing a dramatic backdrop for the city and the open-air market or feira. Isadora, Danilo, and Lia shop at various stalls to buy fruits, spices, and pastels (meat and cheese filled turnovers) for a party. We used our fingers to imagine our new friends walking through the narrow paths between stalls that sell all sorts of handmade items, clothes, baskets, and natural medicines.

Of course, this would be easy to do with any culture. And if your child was older you could make the story more elaborate and have them help create the story. An easy way to get started is to pick a story that you know well, you know the one you have read a hundred times, and use that as a starting place like I did. Change the characters’ names to ones that are from another culture, change the scenery to a less familiar part of the world. Insert activities or objects that might be customary for that part of the world. Try to use some words from the language that is spoken by this culture. Ask your child questions as you go through the story to get them to use their imagination and to keep them interested.

Using the imaginary book game to enlighten your child about other cultures will stimulate their imaginations and help them appreciate differences and similarities between their own lives and those of children living in other parts of the world. Believe me it is definitely more fun on my end as a parent, when I can offer an imaginary book as an alternative to the 123rd reading of Barney Goes Shopping!

techie tea

Check out this video over at BNET! Meet some of the Tea team and learn about how we use technology to reach you and your little citizens of the world.