This week we visited the little known architectural wonder that is Tai O fishing village in Hong Kong. A fishing village built entirely on stilts, visited mainly buy tourists wanting to purchase dried fish and eat local snacks. But look a little further, delve into the back streets and you will find a community that has built (and is still building) an entire village on stilts in the inlet of the South China sea. Here is our photo diary of a quiet Sunday spent exploring the structures that seem to defy gravity, and watching the villagers build new structures and maintain the old houses.
A christmas wreath is a tradition, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be traditional. Follow our easy DIY wreath and give your guests a colourful surprise to look at whilst they stand on your doorstep.
- 2 old wire coat hangers
- Wire for securing everything in place
- Wire cutters
- A long strip of fake fern
- A can of white spray paint
- Colourful feathers
- Newspaper to protect your home
Start with spray painting your fake fern. Do this outside and make sure that you fully cover the area with newspaper before you begin spraying.
Now make 2 circles with your coat hangers, one smaller than the other and secure them together with the extra wire. Try to get a round shape but it really doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect, nobody will see it because it will be covered up with all your wonderful decorations.
Now start to attach the fake fern. Starting with small sections, build up from the outside in. You will need to use the wire to secure the fern. We added 3 rows, one on the outer circle, one on the inner circle and one between the two. If you place them in alternate directions you will get a nice bushy effect.
Once you are happy that your fern is nicely placed and secured with the wire, you can start adding the feathers. Add them in small sections building up as you go. Keep checking that it looks balanced. Keep going until you are happy with the overall effect, then secure all the feathers in place with the wire.
Whilst doing my trip to the market this week I came across the humble Chinese Gooseberry being sold by the punnet load for next to nothing. This made me laugh; in the UK we pay extortionate prices for this fruit – which we call Physalis – it is often used to decorate pudding plates because of it’s pretty skin. I discovered that in Asia it is considered a wild fruit (much like the common blackberry in the UK) so it is picked and sold cheaply. The Chinese eat it for it’s health benefits such as helping to cure a sore throat.
But I wanted to try to make something different with it. So here you are – my easy Cous Cous with Chinese Gooseberries. Simple, naturally sweet and a little bit tangy. It only takes about 15 mins to prepare so it is an easy weeknight supper or a weekend lunch. Serve with hearty kale salad or mediterranean roasted chicken thighs.
Ingredients – serves 4 as an accompanying dish.
- 250grams of dry cous cous
- Boiling water to cover cous cous (approx one cup)
- One teaspoon of vegetable bouillon
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- One cup of chinese gooseberries
- 150 grams of feta cheese
- 1/4 cup of pinenuts
- A handful of lemonmint (normal fresh mint will work if you cannot get lemonmint)
- One Tablespoon of Zaartar
- Juice of half a lemon
- Freshly ground Salt and Pepper to taste
- Add your dry cous cous to a medium sized mixing bowl (ensure that the bowl is at least twice the size of the volume of your cous cous because once your cous cous cooks it will swell and need space for this).
- Stir in the vegetable bouillon powder and one tablespoon of olive oil
- Now pour over enough boiling water to just cover the cous cous, cover with a plate and leave the cous cous to steam and cook itself. This will take about 10 mins.
- Whilst your cous cous is cooking, take the leaves off your gooseberries, wash and chop into halves.
- Wash the lemonmint and roughly chop it.
- Gently toast your pinenuts by placing them in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until they are golden.
- By now your cous cous should be cooked, take the plate off the bowl and check if the grains are light and fluffy. Use a fork to gently separate the grains and bring air into the mix.
- Now all your gooseberries, pinenuts, lemonmint and mix thoroughly.
- Add the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and give a good stir to make sure everything is fully dressed.
- Transfer into a serving dish and crumble the feta on top.
- Sprinkle with the zaartar and a little more olive oil to finish.
- You can eat it warm straight away or chill it and enjoy it as a cold salad.
Ever wondered where all the fabrics, trims and beads on your new dress come from? Or how the latest colours are so quickly translated from the catwalk to your local Topshop? The chances are pretty high that a little unassuming low rise area in Hong Kong – Sham Shui Po – will have been part of the fashion chain.
Before I moved to Hong Kong 6 years ago, I had heard of this fabled place through industry chatter. It sounded like a textile Mecca but I wasn’t sure if I was just hearing Chinese whispers. Fresh off the boat and straight into my job, I was taken to Sham Shui Po by a colleague on my third day in Hong Kong. Let’s just say I never looked back! The rumours were true; a place where you can freely pick up bundles of fabric swatches, ribbons arranged with scissors for you to cut yourself a free sample, beads by the bucket load, and sequins – well don’t get me started.
Colour, print, texture, wools, silks, nylons, trims, furs, stretch fabrics, knits, wovens, glitter, feathers and the list goes on. You name it – it is here. Fueled by the high street’s love of fast fashion, this is where fashion buyers and designers from all over the world will come to source fabrics and new ideas to create the latest looks for your wardrobe. I see Sham Shui Po as a giant moodboard and colour palette for the latest trends. When I want to see what direction fashion is about to take, making a trip to Sham Shui Po is normally a good place to start.
Putting my magpie tendency aside, I have also grown a special love for Sham Shui Po as an area over the six years I have been coming here. Certain shop keepers never change, the delivery men on bikes still make me smile and it is really quite photogenic when the sun shines! I enjoy coming here, not just for the textiles, but for the glimpses into Hong Kong life that has faded in other parts of the city. An afternoon in Sham Shui Po always puts a smile back on my face after a tough week in the office. Give it a visit if you ever have a spare afternoon in Hong Kong, with all that colour and sparkle – I challenge you not to come away with a smile on your face!
Japan is hands down, one of the most fascinating and inspirational places I have visited. If you have not already been – it should be on your wish list. The culture is so rich and that richness is carried through into all aspects of life – be it design, food, fashion or art. As you know, my passion is textiles and I have come clean as having an addiction.
Japan did not disappoint in fueling my addiction, the patterns that adorned so many of the traditional fabrics are unmistakably Japanese in style but, at the same time, incredibly current and contemporary when seen in a modern context. I found a wonderful store in Kyoto where I spent a happy few hours sorting through hundreds of vintage kimonos and somehow managed to select just 7! (Mr Eclectic East explained that carrying more than 7 kimonos around Japan for a week in his backpack was above and beyond the call of his duties as a husband). Here they are for your viewing pleasure in all their patterned glory! Note the beautiful embroidered details, rich silk fabrics and intricate hand stitching on each one.
This one is made with a traditional shibori technique which involves hand tying each of these white dots to create this resist dyeing pattern – the pattern and the colours are still very contemporary looking and the tie detail in coral makes a beautiful accent colour detail.
You get a free cat with this one!
I love the fluidity of the pattern in this one as it appears to flow up the Kimono. It is also printed with metallic pigment details which adds a little “bling” to the proceedings – shouldn’t every girl have a bit of bling now and again?
This one is the most classic Japanese pattern out of all the Kimonos I bought. I don’t know if it comes across in the photo but it is such a wonderful colour palette, such delicate subtle colours and the fabric (a stiff silk cotton blend) makes it have a formality that the others don’t have – it is stunning in the flesh!
By far the most decorative, with intricate hand embroidery. I can imagine this flowing silk Kimono adorning a beautiful young girl at a traditional ceremony. The colours are fresh and vibrant, the pattern is fluid and playful.
Part of me feels like I shouldn’t post this….. I want to keep it a secret so it stays quiet, calm and unspoilt forever. But it is too beautiful not to share, you are in for a treat!
Earlier this month Eclectic East took a mini break to crosswaters ecolodge. Nestled amid swaying bamboo forests in the valleys of the Nankunshan Mountain Reserve in Guandong province, it is so far removed from the hustle, bustle and pollution of urban China, it was easy to forget that it was only a few hours drive from Hong Kong. Designed by EDSA, the architecture considers local materials and the flowing landscape whilst still creating structures and spaces that feel contemporary and avant garde. The scheme was constructed using local and recycled materials that were all on the site. Bamboo is something that you get used to seeing in construction when you live in Asia but this lodge is exceptional, the use of bamboo brings together traditional materials with striking design which beautifully and simply expresses the structural elements of it’s form.
Windows that fully opened up to the cool forest outside brought in the wonderful mountain air, traditional bamboo screening the use of reflective pools are all designed to create a resort that feels contemporary in a way that doesn’t intrude on the landscape around it.
So what did Mr and Mrs Eclectic East do all weekend other than admire the wonderful architecture? Well… firstly we ate very well indeed! All the food in the resort is locally sourced so mountain frog (yes really!) and river fish are specialities of the lodge – very tasty indeed! Not surprisingly bamboo is also on the menu which is delicious and very good for your health apparently. Whilst we weren’t eating we enjoyed swimming in the natural swimming pool in the river, hiking in the surrounding hills, yogaing on our balcony overlooking the river and simply enjoying the swaying bamboo trees and imagining we were in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
When the sun went down and we had eaten too many frogs and drunk some very bad wine (suggest taking your own if you visit!) we climbed the resort’s very own star gazing tower and were dazzled by the beautiful twinkly sky and thought how lucky we were to have found this little bit of paradise in the mountains.
This weekend at Eclectic East we visited the Hi 60’s installation project at Fine Art Asia.
The project invited a group of local Hong Kong artists to create artworks which expressed Hong Kong in the 1960’s. The exhibition was bright, playful and energetic with striking colours and experimentation with light and shadow. We were really inspired by the work of Cornelia Erdmann. Erdmann’s City Pattern showed the changes that went on in Hong Kong during the building of the high rise apartments and “new towns” which define so much of Hong Kong’s architecture today. I am often inspired by patterns in architecture and have used such inspiration to create textile designs. It was interesting to see how Erdmann approached this often divisive subject with humour and visual audacity. See more of Cornelia Erdmann here
The work of Otto Li also stood out. Li had created a perspex motorbike in sections. When seen straight on it clearly showed a bike, from the side you saw each piece broken down. Li used the motorbike icon because it reflected the Teddy Boys in Hong Kong in the 1960’s. See more of Otto Li’s work here
The final artist really made my heart sing! Man Fung -yi and her work which depicts traditional Cheongsam made from metal. Man Fung-yi is a renowned artist who has been internationally recognised for her intricate sculptures made from heavy metal work. As a textile designer I loved seeing the structure woven from metal and the colours and patterns were inspiring. Find out more about Man Fung-yi here.
There is still time to get down to Fine Art Asia, it is open until the 7th Oct. Have fun and hope you are as inspired as we were!