Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Eye of the Dragon


Photo courtesy Flickr

As I recall art history, an emperor asked a famous Chinese painter to make an image of a dragon. The painter practiced hundreds of times over several years, and one day the emperor showed up to collect his job.

The painter knocked out a sumi dragon, and the emperor asked, “Where’s the eye?” The painter said, “I don't want to paint one.” The emperor insisted, so the fellow dipped a brush in vermilion and added an eye. The dragon sprang off the paper and was gone.

So, I learned that the eye of the dragon is the last touch that brings a project to life.

An improvised interior starts with a good cleaning, perhaps some paint, and hard-working furnishings that are already on hand. It comes to life when a dragon’s eye is added. The final touch can be an artful can of dried weeds, an interesting hubcap, or a useful decorative textile like a throw for naps or a tablecloth.

If you vote for tablecloths, the dining table can have a rough top and double as a workbench, as long as you avoid toxins. A stable, well-designed table with a distressed top is a good bargain and not hard to find. Everyday tablecloths can be gently amusing. Geeks like a simple length of butcher paper for making notes. In the Fifties, the ballpoint pen drove white cloths out of restaurants, because the ink is permanent. Before then, diners had used fountain pen to make notes on the linen.

I enjoy playing with lengths of yardage hemmed with iron-on tape. An English friend told me that after World War Two, people were so poor they set their tables on newspaper. My perennial favorite is the hand-printed cotton cloth that comes from India, home of ancient textile motifs thought to be the oldest cultural images we have. European printed cottons bit East Indian patterns, as did crewel embroidery and native American beadwork. These patterns are period for any place up to and including the Cape Cod tract house that blanketed the country after WWII.

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