Saturday, August 4, 2012
still-sound 91. Russian gifts
My dear friend Marina gave me this beautiful cup and saucer for my most recent birthday. It was made by the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory in St. Petersburg and features their best-known pattern called Cobalt Net. I drink coffee from it every morning. The porcelain is so fine that sunlight glows through it, illuminating the drained cup.
I first discovered Lomonosov porcelain in the Mariage Freres teashop in Paris. I admired it and for my next birthday Rob surprised me with a pair of teacups and saucers of the Cobalt Net pattern. I kept them in my studio in London and served tea whenever someone would visit me. The studio was in Whitechapel, downstairs from a bookbinders and was bone-achingly cold for most of the year. I shared the space with three other artists and many mice. I curtained off an area to keep it separate from the workshop - I always kept this enclave tidy for tea.
Marina has spoiled me with several beautifully-chosen gifts. Last year when she discovered my love for Lomonosov porcelain she responded by treating me to a coffee cup, straight from St. Petersbug, featuring a modern, striped pattern.
Last Sunday she visited me at the perfume shop where I work and presented Carlos and me with Russian jelly candies, in the shapes and flavors of lemon and orange slices. I tried one of each and then proceeded to eat half the box. Marina urged Carlos to try them before I ended up eating them all. This was a wise piece of advice.
Of all of Marina's gifts, my favorites are her stories. When she was a little girl, living in the Soviet Union, her father took a job in Mongolia. The entire family packed up and boarded the Trans-Siberian Express. They reached their destination after several days and lived in a yurt.*
In the 80s she defected. She stayed in Italy temporarily until she could settle in Canada, then the United States. Her husband is a jazz saxophonist. I like the idea of a jazz saxophonist defecting. It makes me think of the movie Moscow on the Hudson featuring Robin Williams, a cold war, feel-good classic. I saw it when I was a kid.
On Sunday we started talking about The United Arab Emirates and discovered that we knew very little about them. We didn't know if Abu Dhabi and Dubai were cities or states. They are both emirates or principalities evidently. There are seven emirates in total. We carried on reading about the UAE while I nibbled on jelly citrus fruits. Marina didn't have any.
*Since writing this, I've seen Marina again. She informed me that I embellished the facts a little bit. In Mongolia her family lived in a wooden house, not a yurt. She's never been inside a yurt. She told me that no Russian reading this would ever believe that she lived in a yurt.