28 October 2011


This is called Project Stereo Box. There is blue like the sky and the sea, because music embodies emotion and for freedom. And I see lots of faces.

There is much more space between the tiles, the surface is not flat, but curves at the edges.

This is grain in a storm.

There is way too much space between the tiles, although I really like the design. It could just do with more tiles, although I would still prefer to fill up the empty spaces rather than tighten up the design. Live and learn.

I decided that I was losing white tiles, so added black ink to the white grout. Grout is not very attractive and the greater the space between tiles the worse it can look. Not sure if it behaves differently on wood.

I have a rectangular terracotta tub that I sealed ready for my next attempt. Feel awkward about actually trying to draw a design on first and follow it, but favouring bees and butterflies in that regard.

Chance to collect rocks and seashells at the coast this weekend.


This bread is so good.

It is from Tufara Valle and Carmine is doing the cutting. You can see how big the loaves are. It was still hot from the oven when he bought it home.

You can buy Italian wood-oven bread here, but it is still a simulacra, as it lacks the moist fluffiness within to some extent.

The closest I have eaten to it in Australia is in Adelaide when I was a kid. My grandparents used to buy bread from a family on their street who baked it in their own backyard oven.

As this set of grandparents came from Tufara Valle and immigrants often clustered together, it would not surprise me if the bakers were related. One day, we stopped being able to buy the bread, because the family was reported for running an illegal business.

25 October 2011

Marble Pt I (Pisa)

Pisa Baptistry

Construction 1152 - 1363 (211 years)
Largest baptistry in Italy
The portal, facing the facade of the cathedral, is flanked by two classical columns...
Photographs below of the left column demonstrate what sculpted marble exposed to the elements looks like after close to 1000 years.

I am fairly sure I saw a marble quarry from the highway on the way to Pisa, but I am not sure which one. (I made a no photos from the bus rule fairly quickly, because it was too frustrating in the main.) Anyway, check out this link about mining marble at Pietrasanta.

Taking marble from the ground is lot a work:

During the Renaissance, marble was quarried by inserting wooden pegs into naturally occuring cracks in the rock, then pouring water onto the pegs to make them swell. Eventually the rock would split, liberating a piece of marble.

The principal tool of modern quarrying is a wire cable 1cm in diameter, fitted at 5cm intervals with diamond-studded collars. Holes are drilled in the mountain, the cable is threaded through the holes to form a loop, and the loop is driven at high speed by an electric motor.

In this quarry the marble is extracted in rectangular blocks measuring 8' x 8' x 16'. Once the sides and back of a block have been separated from the mountain using the wire cable, the bottom is undercut from the front using a chain saw that translates along a horizontal rail.

If you want to go and look at the famous leaning tower, mi raccomondo you visit at 3am or some other time when the seemingly endless row of tawdry souvenir stalls are closed. (It must be close to a kilometre long and is L-shaped.) This does offer the disadvantage of probably missing a chance to buy a cut-price Rolex watch, but will greatly improve the aesthetics of the location.

It is probable this column is made of travertine, which is technically a type of limestone, not marble. Travertine is formed through the accumulation of calcite from hot springs. Typically, hot water passes through limestone beds and takes the calcium from the limestone into suspension and takes that solution to the surface where the water evaporates and leaves the calcium crystals in layers on the surface. It contains lots of holes that were formed from water flowing through the stone.

Travertine is not of sufficient quality for statuary, even if it will take a very high polish. This explains the prominence of the holes, but only in combination with pollution and weather, particularly water. If acid rain still exists and even fruit juice can "damage" a marble benchtop, then the impact of nature and time on the design has been exaggerated. It is fascinating how the result has integrated with and responds to the carving.

So I am not a geologist, results are not scientifc, sue me.

PS Despite appearances, it still feels absurdly soft and smooth to the touch.

24 October 2011

Finished mosaic

Pretty happy with this for under four hours work.

May do some smaller pieces on wood for indoors before a 127cm x 227cm piece on my outside wall.

Gold tiles and pieces of mirror would really add a lot.

It's a flower.

23 October 2011


You know you want it...


One of the things I liked about Italy was the super-prevalence of mosiacs. I took many photos of same with the intention of copying designs, but haven't sorted many of my pictures yet.

This afternoon after a trip to Bunnings I made my first mosaic. It is an organic design, although I had a tree in mind.

To make a better one I will need a tile cutter with more accuracy. Still, happy with it as it took under three hours and the goal was finish before sunset, which I did. Though of course the grouting has to be done tomorrow.

Working on a plan to get a 4.4m piece of "Blue Board" home as they won't cut it at the hardware store. This can be used as a backing for outdoor pieces. The pictured piece is on a bessa brick paver. It is very heavy for the size and I won't be driving iron pitons into any walls soon. Blue board will let make large pieces that can be attached to brick.

Mosaics offer a lot of artistic decoration potential. Bathrooms, kitchens, outdoor areas, but that will probably have to wait.

Murano glass

About 20 minutes by fifty seater boat from Venezia is an island called Murano. They have made glass there for centuries to avoid the risk of setting fire to Venice itself.

We saw a short demo where a 72 year old made a beautiful vase in five minutes and a dancing horse in two minutes. 1200 degree Celsius furnace. I wondered if they used it to heat up their lunch. The guy who talked us through these artistic labours was louche as Flash Harry.

Canberra has a glassworks too with the same type of furnace, but at their demo they spent half an hour faddling one big lump of glass.

After the veteran artisan finished, Harry took us to the showroom, a three floor mezzanine with eight rooms. There were masive unique pieces with price tags fit for oil-well owners.

On the boat in I had seen a whole row of smaller showrooms along the waterfront so I was never going to waste an hour in one spot as we were encouraged to do. I found all these tiny glass creatures in three different shops instead, which must be better for the local traders.

Shot in my garden.

10 October 2011


After meditating on the beach at Positano

Do you want to see pictures of Pompeii? Didn't think so. Very glad to have read Pompeii by Robert Harris before visiting there. And it is not as cold as it looks on the beach, it was windy, but I just really like wrapping scarves around my head. The sand is grey due to the volcanic rock from Mt Vesuvius.

Definitely the most awe-inspiring sight in Rome is The Pantheon by the way. The internet in my current hotel is supposed to cost 10 Euro an hour and only be available in the lobby, but it is actually free and available in my room, so I will try and get some more photos up after dinner.


09 October 2011

Roma II

I am on a Trafalgar Tour now. To see the highlights of Italy in a limited time it is a good idea. While not a fan of The Vatican and its ways, their museum is full of awesome works of art. With a tour group, you bypass all the queues which can be ridiculous - 20,000 people a day go through there.

Artemis in the Vatican Museum

Detail from painting in the map room of the Vatican Museum

Detail, map room, Vatican Museum

The Colosseum

The Arch of Constantine

Doing my best to fare una bella figura

The Sistine Chapel was the one place in the Vatican where I felt the art was definitely imbued with divinity. After all, the genius of Michelangelo spent 11 years painting the thing. But it is quite gloomy, the security are constantly shouting not to take photos and to keep quiet, plus it is always packed full of people. St Peter's Basilica is so massive that monument exhaustion quickly sets in. My favourite part was the map room.

With any interest in Roman history and enough time and money it would be easy to explore this city for weeks.

08 October 2011


Walked down the Spanish Steps to Piazza di Spagna from the church (la chiesa) Trinità dei Monti up top.

No squalling

Detail of painting in the Trinità dei Monti


Your typical Roman Legionnare has adopted a much
more relaxed approach to empire building these days.

Wall of the Villa Barberini

The following four statues made up the corners of a monument.

The Hebrew on the scroll translates as:
"Caution - you are about to pay five dollars for a tiny bottle of soft drink."

At dinner time, musicians roam through restaurants amongst the diners, along with folk selling scarves, wooden carvings, baubles and bangles. Even now, at 10pm, with the window open on the seventh floor of my hotel, the sounds of the piano accordion are making their way through the open window.

We are staying very close to the Termini Train Station, but we only had to wander about three blocks away from the row of hotels, past the falafel shops, to find a restaurant mostly lacking in tourists. The best thing about Trattoria Giovanni was the local just playing guitar to his friends as they ate. The owner, who was actually called Valentino, also took a turn on the the guitar, knocking out Knocking on Heaven's Door.

Unlike the vagabond players, they were not passing around the hat for Euros. When a Neopolitan wandered by and asked for a regional folk song, they all joined in. This made it easy to ignore the guy who eventually wandered in to play (badly) the theme from The Godfather on the piano accordion.

I don't know much about art, but the painting below, also in Trinità dei Monti, has awesome symmetry.

Zolli - a culinary introduction

When I have time, I will do a long post on the village of Zolli where I spent the last five days or so, but just a few pictures and stories in the mean time.

These are the mushrooms we ate for lunch one day, fried in olive oil with a bit of garlic. I found them down the hill on the way to the river. Dad's Zia (Aunt) was quite offended when I asked to actually cook them myself. Sitting at the table to eat sees the men sitting at one end and women and children at the other. The men are served first and start eating before the women even sit down. Old school. When I helped to clear a few plates one night, everyone was surprised and amused. Zia could only tell me they were funghi normale, i.e. normal mushrooms; they tasted great with pasta.

This is the bowl of spaghetti with fresh porcini, again foraged locally, we had for dinner one evening.

And not to reinforce stereotypes about Italians and pasta (much), but this was the amount of pasta on hand in my third of fourth Aunt's kitchen cupboard.

Buon appetito!

06 October 2011

Italian culture 2011

Io non credo - tastes okay though

I am proud not to own a television, but this comic from xkcd perfectly sums up the quality of entertainment here. The Amanda Knox acquittal (vergogna!) was shown live and every time I have seen the box in the past few days, a panel is discussing the verdict in a studio before switching to the street. This literally goes on for hours.

Also saw a bit of a candid camera style show which included:
  • a woman with a samurai sword walking around the audience to select participants; and 
  • a man with a shaved head, wearing leather pants and trench coat, shooting an apple from a model's hands with a bow that had a laser sight. 

02 October 2011


Word on the street

Local speciality

Advanced Italian language technique

View from my hotel - local bylaws require that balconies display either melons or washing

After Italy became a Republic in 1946, the royal family was banished, here the Queen is seen returning to reconcile with the President of the Republic

The President of the Republic leaving La Palazzo Royale (no joke)

The preferred method of transport

Mural in La Galleria

Neapolitans displaying their famous civic pride (and love of Rome)

The Ministry of Health's sunsmart campaign was well received by the locals

The Italian synchronised swimming team take a well-earned break from training for London 2012

The Spanish Quarter

Babbo, bambino e bicicletta

La Galleria

Interiore Galleria

"Chicks dig this hat right? They told me chicks would dig this hat."

Fiori di zuchhini

Performing for the camera

Local rat patrol

Legendary efficiency of the Italian beuracracy - this was the shortest queue seen since World War II

Once plentiful in The Bay of Naples, due to the obsession with frutti di mare, mermaids are now extinct


Hamming it up - Napoli beat Inter 3-0 tonight

Born to be wild