Sunday, November 19, 2017

Louis Toffoli

Louis Toffoli was a painter who was born in Trieste (Italy) in 1907 from an Italian father and a Slovenian mother. 
Due to changing borders and the rise of fascism in Italy he acquired Austro-Hungarian, Italian and French citizenship over his lifetime and was therefore European before the letter.
He signed his paintings neither Luigi nor Louis, but only Toffoli.
Louis Toffoli studied art at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Trieste in 1924. In 1928 he exhibited his paintings in that city and was promptly condemned by Mussolini's fascist regime.
Two years later Toffoli emigrated to Paris and began regularly exhibiting at the Salon d'Automne, Salon des Independants, Salon des Peintres Temoins de leur Temps and elsewhere. With the outbreak of the Second World War (1939-1945) Louis Toffoli sought refuge in the countryside of Touraine and worked for the French Resistance. After the war he returned to Paris and received his French citizenship in 1947. 

Toffoli died in Paris, 1999.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Makhila in Aquarelle

These early 19th century watercolours (artist unknown) depict a Basque man with his makhila. 
The makhila is a traditional Basque walking stick, and is notable as both a practical tool and a cultural symbol of authority and strength.
The makila walking stick consists of an engraved medlar wood shaft cut to a length to suit its owner, generally either hipbone or sternum-height. The bottom is often shod with steel or other metal and ends in a ferrule (blunt spike for traction).
The handle is also often covered with metal or woven leather to form a hand-grip, with a lanyard attached to the bottom of this grip. The stick is capped with a flattened knob or pommel, made of horn, steel, or bronze. 
The top portion consisting of the knob and hand-grip can be pulled off the top of the stick, revealing a hidden spike or blade, which effectively turns the stick into a short spear. The pommel's shape resembles the beret worn by the Basque shepherd.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Fake Bakarra Berets

The ‘Bakarra’ is an old label by former manufacturer Blancq-Olibet and now owned and used by Laulhère.
The beret and label look like pretty good imitations, but the detail in the label gives it away. Also, the textile label of the original will have the official importer’s name printed on it. 
There are suggestions that even Brazilian government agencies fell for it and have purchased fake Bakarra military berets (undoubtedly making money disappear in someone's pocket). 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Portuguese in New England

In 1915, four Madeiran men organized a feast at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in New Bedford, Mass., to celebrate the safe arrival of Portuguese immigrants after a stormy journey. 
In 1914, immigrants from Brava, Cape Verde, looking ashore from the Savoia as they await the disembarkation process to be finished. 
The festival mimicked the traditional religious feast observed in their village on Madeira Island, with a celebration of the Roman Catholic Mass, a grand procession, traditional food and folk dancing.
Today, the 103-year-old Feast of the Blessed Sacrament is the largest Portuguese festival in the world, reflecting both the size and the identity of the Portuguese-American population in New England.
Portuguese dory fisherman gossiping in the sun, Provincetown 1942
Two great waves of Portuguese immigration gave Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island the densest concentration of people with ancestry from Portugal, including the Azores and Cape Verde.

They made their mark with restaurants and bakeries, with fishing fleets, with Catholic churches and with the Boston Red Sox. 
Evening recreation of the "Young Holy Ghosters"  – all mill workers – all Portuguese immigrants.  Location: Fall River, Massachusetts
Dustin Pedroia, Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino all have Portuguese ancestry. So does actor Tom Hanks, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry. Portugal also produced John Philip Sousa, who composed that most American march, Stars and Stripes Forever, and Emma Lazarus, who wrote the inscription on the Statue of Liberty.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Freshman's Green Beret

Traditional Green Beret used by freshmen of the Universidade Federal do Triangulo Mineiro (UFTM)  in Uberaba-MG. 
The Beret is a source of pride for the freshmen, and a way to differentiate them from other freshmen of other courses.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Portuguese Boinas in Texas Art

Texas born and based Timothy Norman is a painter who specializes in oil portraits. 
He has painted over 130 commissioned portraits, but also some very interesting portraits of beret and boina wearing Portuguese fishermen, peasants and woodsmen.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Fabrique de Bérets, Hendaye

Researching the old beret factories may not sound like archaeology, but it sure resembles it. Very little information is documented, many of the old workers have passed away and written (internet) material is sketchy at best. 
I was delighted to find an article on one of the few French manufacturers located in the Basque Country: the Fabrique de Bérets in Hendaye. Still, little information and ven less photo's....
The factory was set up by madame Benita Jauregui, widow of Perez; she married at 17, gave birth to her son at 18 and lost her husband at 19 and died herself at the age of 100, long after the closure of her factory. 
The beret factory was set up on the ground floor of a large American style colonial villa. The roof was turned into a bassin to collect rainwater, as the manufacturing process uses many liters of water per beret. 
The factory attracted skilled tradespeople from Spain, especially during and after the Civil War there; typically from Boinas Elosegui in Tolosa and many women were hired from across the border in Spain. 
Labels used, in order of quality, were:
Erregea (le roi en Français); Le Vieux Basque; Mon Béret; El Caserio
The business suffered during WWII, but saw it's best years shortly after. However, sales went downwards during the early 1950s and the factory was bought the competitors Olibetti and Crosnier.
In 1955 the extended factory had to shut its doors.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Multi-Coloured Berets of the National Republican Guard

The National Republican Guard (Guarda Nacional Republicana) or GNR is the national gendarmerie force of Portugal.
Members of the GNR are military personnel, subject to military law and organisation, unlike the agents of the civilian Public Security Police (PSP).
The GNR is responsible for the policing and highway patrol in the countryside and small towns of Mainland Portugal (large urban centers and all the Portuguese islands territory being patrolled by the regular police PSP). At national level, GNR also has duties of customs enforcement, coastal control, nature protection, search and rescue operations and state ceremonial guards of honor.
The GNR has a variety of beret models for its uniforms; black, green, blue, but also the more interesting tri-colour berets in black, green and gold.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Florencio dos Vilares

Florencio dos Vilares (1914 – 1986) was a singing violinist and natural chroniqueur the musical heritage of Galicia.
Florencio has preserved a repertoire, a way of interpreting music and a way of life that disappeared with him with his death, but he is remembered by a large part of the population of Fonsagrada. Romances sung by him with the help of his violin, such as "La Hija de Bartolo" or "El Testamento del Gato" are part of the collective memory of much of the region. Florencio sang at parties, fairs, wherever there was a group of people to entertain with his music and stories.
Until the middle of the 20th century, it was typical that blind people were dedicated to bringing their music at festivals and markets in European cities as a means of subsistence. The instruments that accompanied the song were often zanfonas, violins or pulsed string instruments. Normally they were accompanied by a person who guided them, often a young boy, who accompanied with some percussion instrument or used to sell paper tokens.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Malt Whiskey is Overrated

Bilbao's most famous (or notorious) liquid: 100% Bilbao rain collected directly from the sky to be bottled on Bilbao's most emblematic slopes, hills, squares and streets. 
Handmade decorations, bottled and labeled with love and passion in order to make it a perfect gift for anyone in love with this great City. 
All bottles are listed and marked on the map so you know where and when it was collected.
Better still, a good part of the money made with the project flows back into the local community, supporting workers with disabilities.

Thursday, November 9, 2017


An always great professional group: photographers!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Charcoal Burners

A Charcoal burner is someone whose occupation is to manufacture charcoal. Traditionally this is achieved by carbonising wood in a charcoal pile or kiln. As an occupation it has almost died out in the first world countries.
Charcoal burning is one of the oldest human crafts. The knowledge gained from this industry still contributes to the solution of energy problems today.
Since the Iron Age, high temperatures have had to be produced for iron smelting, for glassmaking and for the working of precious metals. Charcoal has been used to do this for centuries and, in order to produce it, entire forests were felled. With the increasing use of stone coal from the 18th century, the charcoal burning industry declined.

 Even in ancient times, charcoal was manufactured in kilns. Logs were arranged in a conical heap (a charcoal kiln or pile) around posts; a fire shaft was made using brushwood and wood chips and covered with an airtight layer of grass, moss and earth. The pile was ignited inside the fire shaft and, at a temperature of between 300 and 350 °C, the carbonization process began. 
The process took six to eight days - in large kilns several weeks - during which time the charcoal burner had to control the draught (by piercing small holes and resealing them), being careful neither to allow the pile to go out nor let it go up in flames. By observing the smoke exiting the kiln, the charcoal burner could assess the state of the carbonization process. If the smoke was thick and gray, the wood was still raw; thin, blue smoke indicated good carbonization.
In earlier times, charcoal burners led an austere, lonely life. They had to live near the kiln, usually in a charcoal burner's hut. During the Middle Ages, charcoal burners were ostracized. Their profession was considered dishonourable and they were frequently accused of evil practices.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Berets at MoMA

Béarnaise beret creations are honored and exhibited at MoMA.
Items: Is Fashion Modern? explores the present, past—and sometimes the future—of 111 items of clothing and accessories that have had a strong impact on the world in the 20th and 21st centuries—and continue to hold currency today. Among them are pieces as well-known and transformative as the Levi’s 501s, the Breton shirt, and the beret, and as ancient and culturally charged as the sari, the pearl necklace, the kippah, and the keffiyeh. 
Items will also invite some designers, engineers, and manufacturers (among whom Laulhère) to respond to some of these indispensable items with pioneering materials, approaches, and techniques—extending this conversation into the near and distant futures, and connecting the history of these garments with their present recombination and use.
Driven first and foremost by objects, not designers, the exhibition considers the many relationships between fashion and functionality, culture, aesthetics, politics, labor, identity, economy, and technology.
Rosabelle Forzy, CEO of Laulhère

Monday, November 6, 2017

Richard Gelardin 80!

Today is the 80th birthday of my good friend, Bluegrass musician and avid beret wearer Richard Gelardin; congratulations Richard - a new milestone!
In the 1940s Richard listened to country (and bluegrass) and he decided he wanted to be a country singer with a band (and also wanted to live in the woods and be a subsistence hunter). After running away from boarding school at 13, Richard got caught, jailed over night,and sent back to his parents in NYC.
However, he got a job at the University Of Alaska Anchorage Counseling Center (while also having his Bluegrass band).  
Richard attended the Bluegrass Program at South Plains College  in Levelland, Texas and some summers he would go to Ireland to learn the traditional Irish fiddle.
Richard is seen here playing a d'Angelico Arc-top guitar at Carters Vintage Guitars in Nashville.
Photo's by Suzanne Marie Carty 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Ché Guevara’s Beret in Himachal Pradesh

Berets with a silver star, as sported by revolutionary Ché Guevara, has caught fancy of Left supporters in Himachal Pradesh.
As Himachal Pradesh heads for the November 9 elections, the state capital is seeing red berets making an appearance in addition to the traditional green and maroon Himachali topis (caps), synonymous with loyalty to the Congress and the BJP.
“The demand for the beret has gone up in a week. People used to wear Himachali caps with pride till recently but this time the beret with a star is in vogue,” says Puran Chand, a shopkeeper in Shimla’s Ram Bazaar.
To cash in on his popularity, the Left-oriented Student Federation of India has ordered Ché Guevara T-shirts for supporters. The beret is also popular among activists of the SFI and DYFI.
“Che Guevara has a global appeal,” says Tikender Panwar, a member of the CPM state secretariat. The Left wields an influence in Shimla town ever since it tasted victory in 1993 when its senior leader, Rakesh Singha, trounced Congress candidate Harbhajan Singh Bhajji.