Judyth Van Amringe is an artist of metamorphosis; everything she touches, whether clay, glass, silk or steel, is transformed into something wondrous.
She has recently become enchanted by vintage fabrics, in particular old pieces of Japanese kimonos that are no longer wearable as garments. They are made of silk, wool, or silk and wool blends--though the silks have the softest hand and the easiest drape. The fabrics date from about 1900 onward.
Judyth hunts down the fabrics in the thriving online marketplace; she buys with an eye to the vibrancy of color and pattern. The range of her collection is breathtakingly beautiful.
In making a scarf--or a shawl or wrap, as she makes wider pieces as well--she combines different colors and patterns, so that there is no "wrong" side. They are reversible, if you will. And she often stitches a third pattern to either or both ends to lengthen the piece. The artistry is in the unusual, unpredictable combinations she creates; she creates startling contrasts, and they work.
Judyth also embellishes some of the pieces with subtle embroidery of her own, or she adds lines of intricate beadwork. Each piece is unique, of course. And they are quite comfortable to wear--either at the opera, or to the market. I happen to think scarves are indispensable to the well-dressed person, as they cover a multitude of sins, or lift a pretty shirt into another dimension of elegance! I have not taken mine off since I got it, even if I'm wearing jeans.
She also creates evening bags of heavier obi fabrics, using silk cords, tassels, and beadwork.
I guarantee that you will not see yourself coming and going at your next party.
I'm beginning to think about holiday gifts, and readers already know that I am a champion of the artisanal. I love buying things that are made by hand, and one of a kind, and I believe in supporting the artists and crafters among us. They are bewitching.
Judyth is not represented by a gallery, these days--the case with many artists. But I talked to her about whether she would create scarves by special order for readers of Slow Love Life. If you are interested in buying her work, contact her by email at Jvanamringe@aol.com. She works out of her house in Providence, Rhode Island. Let her know the general color palette you enjoy--or ask for a surprise. She will also consult with you by phone. By the way, these scarves are as appropriate for men as for women. Prices will vary according to size and embellishment, but will run from about $150 to $400, completely reasonable for the quality of work involved.
And while we are on the subject of kimonos...let me tell you about one of my favorite books in the world: The Pillowbook of Sei Shonagon. I have returned to it constantly over the years--it is the sort of book you can dip in and out of, and read in no particular order. Sei Shonogan was a lady-in-waiting to Japan's Empress Sadako; she lived from 965 to 1020--and this is a diary, kept under her pillow, of her time at court; it is filled with rambling musings of moonlit nights with lovers, errant courtiers, and, of course, the pageantry of court robes. She made wonderful lists, too, of elegant things, and things she despised. She seems to have been a bit of a wild child underneath that propriety; a romantic, outspoken woman who was snobbish, even decadent at times, but as well vulnerable, wistful, acerbic, frank, sparklingly funny and devastatingly opinionated. Looking at the piles of fabric in Judyth's sewing room, I could easily imagine the glamour and beauty of court life in Japan.