Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Sultan of Vancouver!

So I've officially moved to Vancouver!

Well, sort of. Let me rephrase that.

I'm officially couch surfing in Vancouver, while I look for a job and a more permanent place to live. A big thank you to my good friend Erin for being gracious enough to let me take over her walk in closet. Yes, as most people try to get out of the closet in Vancouver, I find myself spending a lot of time in one these days!

I admit, I wish I were in a warmer, more exciting climate, as I wake up to rain almost every morning. Luckily it's not too cold out yet, so it's bearable. I patiently wait by the phone to hear of anyone who may have a job opening at one of the various language schools I've visited in the past week. I know my CV is good, but it's a bad time to be looking for work as summer is finished and the winter is coming. If I had my own way right now I might have already given up and headed out on a plane for somewhere there is a job, but alas no, I'm here, because of one course I need for upgrading at UBC. One course. Hardly seems worth it, but without "Textiles for the Classroom", I can't get into the PDP programme next year. (PDP is that widely respected and accepted piece of paper that will allow me to work in high schools here in Canada or abroad.)

So I went to my first class last week. I plunked myself down between 19 other students- all twenty something, except another woman who was about my age, who bounced her baby on one knee as our instructor read out the curriculum. Sixteen of them are Asian. Starbucks coffee cups and Dasani water bottles litter the tables.

First order of business. Go around the room and introduce yourself and tell the class why you want to take this course. It's obvious with the amount of Asian Economics majors that this is an easy-peasy class for most of them slogging a hard school schedule in another department. There are a few Fine Arts Students and me.

"Hi, I'm Melanie. I have two degrees, and now I'm upgrading to take the PDP course. This is the only course I need. So I had to move all the way to Vancouver, now I'm looking for a job and a place to live so I can come here on Monday nights and take this one course." It's out there already, the bitterness in my voice. Damn. Did I really need to give this first impression?

The instructor eyes me carefully. I can see she's making the connection that I was the one sending emails asking if I could do a directed studies or if I could do this correspondence? Or could I move back to Istanbul and learn how to make natural dyes and weave kilims and string carpets from my old landlord Musa for credit? Can I Fedex you my knitting? Yeah, those panicked emails were from me.

"We'll try to make it worth your while." She says with a knowing smile. Sigh.

Second order of business. Close our eyes and try to think of our first memory related to textiles and write about it. I take a deep breath and scan my memory. I come up with the feeling of clothes on my skin and how much I hated it. So much in fact, that as a child, I was naked as much as I possibly could get away with. I remember taking my clothes off in our yard one afternoon and stuffing everything in our hedge, thinking that if my mother couldn't find the clothes, I'd be off the hook and I'd never have to wear clothes again. Ever.

What? Time's up? I've got to share this story?

I turn to my neighbour, a young woman from China, who greets me with a flood of tears. It seems this exercise has made her homesick and she can't even formulate the words to tell me the story between sobs. I tell her I used to live in China, and that I got homesick too. But I take a long hard look at her and realise I was much older than her when I moved to China. She also hasn't been home in six years as it's too expensive to fly her back and forth. Hard work pays off and her English is near flawless. She manages to spit out that her mother made her a sweater and put all sorts of protection things into it according to Chinese superstition. My story sucks compared to hers. I tell it to her in a line or two,then she excuses herself to cry again. And then it's time for the third order of business: a tour around the classroom.

I'm happy to report, there are lots of things I don't know about textiles. The sewing machine in the corner scares the shit out of me. What's this? a loom? Next week I've got to learn how to knit? Is that different for me because I'm left handed? and felting, and silk painting, natural dyes, block printing on fabric (Surprise!) and lots of other things, but not batik. This is textiles for the classroom, and kids can't be trusted with hot wax. The corners of my mouth droop a little. Oh well. I do have some self directed projects- it's possible I get my batik fix in that way. But I have to say I am excited to be able to take a course where I will learn how to do all of these things. I love textiles, I love making things, so surely I should love making textiles, right?

Fourth order of business, and I admit at first this made my eyes roll. Make a muse. We have an hour. There's a whole bunch of elementary school like supplies in the middle of the room-paper, tinfoil, beads, wire, but no cloth of any kind. Go. We've got an hour.

I peruse the table with my classmates and settle on some wire to start with. I star winding it around and messing around with it, and next thing you know, I'm working on a Turkish Sultan. and why not? The Turks are all about textiles. Muse sounds like Musa, my kilim weaving landlord in Turkey, so he will be the inspiration for my inspirational muse! If I can't be in Turkey, I can at least bring Turkey to Vancouver. Sadly, after an hour, This is what I end up with.

A few times I look up, I see my instructor looking over at what I'm doing. "Have you worked with wire before? She asks, admiring the little mass of silver which is now the structure of my Sultan. I look at it and think. Actually, I don't think I've ever worked with wire before! This is a first.

Anyway, I decided to redo my sultan. The first one wasn't inspiring me, in fact, it was downright depressing me. I won't even repeat what my sister said it looked like! So I went out to a few stores, and for about ten bucks worth of supplies, fimo, remnants in a fabric store and some sewing stuff and rhinestones from the dollar store, I created:

The Sultan of Vancouver!

Had I had to do him over again, I would have done the head last, but because I did the head first, all of the clothes had to be hand stitched directly on to the figure. It sounds gruelling, but I did it watching all of season three of 'Six Feet Under', so it wasn't so bad.

I decided he needed to be taller than my original wire structure, so I lifted him up using a paper coffee cup and some pipe cleaners. It's only fitting the Sultan of Vancouver be made of part coffee cup. But I weighed it down with a bag of red lentils. Still a little Turkish, after all, he is still a sultan!

So now that my sultan muse is done, I hope he inspires me in all things Vancouver, not just my course. I've got to spend almost two years here, so hopefully it won't take me too long to hit my stride and find a way to make this city mine. I've already taken advantage of an introductory pass to a yoga studio downtown so at least I've got my practice to get me off to a good start.



  1. You must "book" all this one day babe! The Diary of Melanie. I can see it now! Cynthia

  2. Ah, a painting poser has slipped off the page and joined the 3D world - can puppetry and ventriloquism be far behind? Will the Sultan of Muse become the "Conky" of Melanie and UBC? I'm staying tuned.

  3. He rocks.
    Now Mom keeps bugging me about what I said about the last one. I told her it's better not to go there. She understood.

  4. Much enjoyment FCH- and I really like your Musa:-)

  5. Musa in Vancouver and the story continues to get better and better. I know you'll love the class. Can hardly wait to see the next creation.