Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


21 March 2013

hangjik tile

This is the ‘Hangjik Tile’ designed by Lois based on a book of traditional Albanian textile designs. Lois has made four ceramic tiles and they are installed as part of the indoor windowsills of the pleme.


19 March 2013


The arke is an old bridal chest. Albanian brides are special.

“Gold, white light and beauty were all present in the room. The gold circled the girl’s thin wrists. The weight of gold tugged at her ear lobes and hung as a medallion around her neck. She stood before the window and the sun lit her veil, caught the satin formed around her figure and drew sharp contrasts in the appliquéd flowers, leaves and ribs that made their shape around her; the girl become woman. Her hair was timelessly curled, fixed, her eyes etched, her lips reddened, straight. The broad fan of her skirt filled space. But, beyond all this was her presence, her being; the statue with the power to move, the servant dominating, the submissive spectacle conquering the inquisitors. She did move. The princess stepped forward. Her still hands took the hands of a guest, lifted them slowly to her forehead, the body bowed, the guest hands blessed in the service were returned. The bride passed on to the next guest, hands touched, raised, blessed, returned. The ‘nusa’, for that is the name of a bride, glided to the next, hands brought to the forehead, the frame obsequious but controlled, disciplined, generous, afraid, servant, actor, ordered, in the dilemma of choice, obedient. Silence.”

Luboten from Runjeva by Doreen Price

1 January 2012

Doreen worked from a winter scene to imagine the blossoming of early summer.  Her first use of impasto technique.  I love it.  A wonderful gift to start the year.  Thank you!


21 October 2011

I’ve not developed a fetish in relation to bugs and beasties but with my family away I have to turn to other animals (hee hee).  However, this specimen found dead in the bathroom, it was probably eating the washing powder!  What does amaze me is… how did it get there?  A new house, the bathroom window closed, and the outside ground 6 or 7 meters below!  Sabrije said that there are not so many in Kaçanik – so don’t be put off… however, I might be checking my shoes from now on!

Kaçanik Palms

8 October 2011

There has been a lot of debate recently about the ‘Kaçanik Palm Project’.  For a week or two a digger has been digging out the rough earth and rubble of the grass strip between the Kaçanik cafe road and the River Nerodime, preparing the ground for something.  Speculation in the newspaper teased the Mayor, about the palms, what was the plan, how will they survive?  Then they appeared: a fine row of 22 palm trees 2 metres high spaced along the riverside.  I like them, but I am worried!  It would not be the first ‘greening of Kosovo’ project that ended in dead sticks because of the lack of care and maintenance.

On Friday I trundled into work with Mentor as a travel companion.  He explained that the Skenderbeu Gymnasium students had started the project.  Seeking to improve the Kaçanik environment what would they propose?  The riverside is THE place in the evening and all the town promenade or pause for a coffee… the avenue could take some trees….  then there was research, what place in Italy, for example, would have a similar climate and also palm trees?  The type of palm was chosen on this basis and with the opinion that they will survive winters down to minus minus, even -40C.   Others express scepticism as to whether the 550m altitude of Kaçanik and severe winters (certainly to -20C) will permit the survival of palm.

From my little research the palm looks like the Trachycarpus species, a native of China but now spread widely across Europe and North America.  If they can be kept above minus 10C for a few years until they mature then they have a chance.  Ironically they may find the summer tougher going than the winter.   Mentor told me that an underground watering system has been included in the project so that should really help.  Plus I suppose the river creates a slighter-warmer-than-everywhere-else micro-climate.  I am hopeful of their survival.


No longer for cows!

4 October 2011

After a few short days at home to meet baby Evangeline I was transported back to Kosovo.

With this a leap back into the developing world of Han-Gjik and the wonder of stone, lime mortar and wood.  The mjeshter is delighting in the opportunity to build again in the old style.

The materials for the ‘house based on the old cowshed’ have not been easy to find.  Nazmi had a break-through when he was offered the stone of a ruin in the village of Krivenjeva high in the hills.  Examination proved this to be a rich find.  However, the lorry man trundled once up the hill and once down and then phoned Nazmi (stranded in the hills) and said ‘I’m not doing that again’!  He got 4 cubic meters of stone down to Runjeva but decided the risk to his truck was not worth any gain.  Next, a neighbour in the village offered another ruin.  Examination proved this to be a rich find, and so it has proved.  However, the tractor man jump started his tractor with a full load of stone behind and the momentum drove the pistons round too hard before the ignition kicked in.  However, he has come back… ( a costly repair later).

Next wood, we need around 15 beams five meters long and 5 six meters long… the old pleme (cowshed) and the village ruin had some, but not enough, too much damage on most from years of open exposure… so Nazmi and Ylber and the cutter-man wandered up into Nazmi’s forest looking for suitable trees.  Nazmi has not been cutting his forest (although bits of it get stolen) and after 3 hours of searching he concluded that all his trees were too fat.  Well, good for the trees and the forest, but not so good for the building project.  This unsolved and with autumn closing in further progress looks doubtful this year.

Finding adobe bricks is also difficult… they don’t survive if unprotected.  There is a guy in the village making adobe bricks using a compression mold and he brought us some samples.  He mixes mud and packs it into a box and then uses a compressor arm to squeeze out water whilst compacting the brick.  This is the technique that has brought a revival to adobe in America and Australia.  Unfortunately his bricks are larger than traditional adobe (qerpiq) and they look wrong.  So, we are in discussion.  I would love to use locally made adobe.  However, now this year it is also late… they dry in the sun… and although today hit 24C the days are shortening and cold and rain may come.



Evangeline Sarah

4 October 2011

Oh so difficult to choose a picture!  How to catch someone who is changing moment by moment?  So, here, Evangeline Sarah, not many hours after she came from the hidden world to the revealed world… and, unknowing of all that is really out here, she delights in what is close…. and she sleeps… good news this princess!


11 September 2011

The main idea was to create a garage for use of guests, get their cars undercover etc.  However, this budded into the possibility of two craft rooms above the garage….  and utility space at the back of the garage…  but although small I wanted it to echo older themes and ideas… and to sit with what will grow from the old stone walls in the front corner…

See earlier post I am playing with ‘han-gjik’ as the name…  but… a good few months before guests can find lodgings!


11 September 2011

My joke is that this is what happens when you plant British seeds in Kosovan soil.  Anita (4 years) simply says, ‘oh they’ve got curls!’ and carries of a look of surprised amusment.

Demolition Dilemma

5 August 2011

The old house was built in 2-phases.  Phase one in the 1950s: stone down and earth bricks (called qerpiç) on the upper floor.  Phase 2 in the 70s.  Now, in the corner of the two bedrooms upstairs there (were) in each a small cubicle style shower room.  It was my assumption that these were late additions.  However, after their destruction, it became clear that these ‘modern’ en-suite facilities were part of the original construction.  Consequently I woke up the next day in a state of desperation that instead of making the old house live I was in my amateur blundering only destroying something historic, unusual and rare.  Hence the demolition dilemma.  Well ’tis done.  There will eventually be larger ensuite shower rooms exempt from claustrophobia.

This ‘mistake’ has generated some interesting conversation.  Such shower rooms are known as ‘hamman gjik’ – and this has me curious.  Hammam is easily understood as turkish baths… so the little shower rooms were for washing.  Elizabeth has enlightened me to the fact that ‘Gjik’ is from Turkish ‘xhik’ and simply means ‘little’.  So there we have it.  I have since been collecting ‘gjik’ or ‘xhik’ words as used in Albanian, and now have kapigjik (the little side gate for people beside the main gate for horses and carts), kamxhik (a whip), nenexhik (peppermint, possibly because it has smaller leaves than mendër = mint), janxhik (the small back pack in which a shepherd carried his lunch), and finally a modern streetwise mini-gjik meaning tiny!

I am enjoying a 1979 Kosovo book called ‘Gjurmë e Gjurmime’ (Footprints Investigation) by Mark Krasniqi… in that there is an old house layout with a part called ‘hammam xhiku’.  In the drawing this is the arched-off corner of a room with a drain where you might wash.  But, ‘xhikë’, is the name for the woman who accompanies the bride to the bridegroom’s house and who stays over the night to ensure the consummation of the marriage.

This mix of sentimental thinking did leave me with the amusing picture of a woman stuck in the shower cubicle peaking out through a crack in the door!