Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Style: The cook-poet and her wardrobe.

Yasmin is a San Francisco-based poet, comic book artist and cook. Her tasteful aesthetics are reflected in her wardrobe, her living environment, her graphic art and her cuisine, a subtle mix of flavors and colors, that please the eye and the palate.

Meet the keeper of Grand Canyon dresses, American Pride dessert plates, vintage Rolodexes and very un-PC books.

Yasmin and her second-hand kitty, Parsnip the Little Cashew.
Shirt: Thrift Town; Jeans: Crossroads; Princess bed: Craigslist

Which are your favorite pieces, and why?
I have several favorite pieces.
I love my mermaid scarf, a memorabilia from an aquatic show in a theme park in Florida, in the 50's. The scarf illustrates the different numbers in the show, and ladies in bathing suits posing as mermaid. It looks really gay. I found it at a thrift store in Berkeley. I have hung it in every place I've lived for the past ten years.
The amazing Mermaid Scarf

Florida mermaids

I guess I have geographic inclinations: I have a growing collection of state plates and an amazing, hand-sewn, Grand Canyon dress, probably made from a sheet or curtain fabric.

Proud to be a State plate

Proud to be a crock pot owner
Grand Canyon Dress: Mars, Berkeley

I also have an original 1950's UC Berkeley library card catalog, that I bought from a furniture maker who buys old items and refurbishes them. I was going to use it for art, but now I want to keep it as furniture. I also love vintage Rolodexes, that I use for art projects, or as decorations.

Books, vintage Rolodexes,
and a library card catalog purchased via Craigslist.

My bicycle was also bought used for very cheap and a friend did some work on it.
And last but not least, my favorite piece is my second-hand kitty, Parsnip the Little Cashew, a former stray cat who was saved from the pound.

Yasmin and her used bike.
Sweater and shoes: Thrift Town, San Francisco
Collar: Montreuil flea market, France

I love finding old, out of prints, nicely-made, books. Books written in a particular moment and wouldn't be considered interesting by today's standards. Books from the 1910's, the 1940's, are interesting time capsules. The content is very colonial, outrageously not PC but funny to read. I own "I went to the Soviet Arctic" by Ruth Gruber, "Our wonderworld", a 1918 textbook about the world and its peoples, written in a very colonialist way, "Vogue's book of etiquette", a 1948 manual on how to talk to servants and shoeshine boys.
"For men lonely" (1947), a guide to twelve women's colleges, how to harass and pickup on women who chose to go to college.
"The modern home medical adviser", mostly for women, about taking care of their family. There is weird stuff about sexuality and masturbation, homosexuality, but also tuberculosis.

What percentage of your wardrobe is used?
I would say 75%.

The cook in front of her second-hand stove and salvaged cast iron pan,
wearing an embroidered gingham shirt.

Why do you shop used?
I find nice, well made clothes for less expensive. The vintage pieces I find are very well sewn, from the 50's, in a very nice fabric. They don't fall apart, they last. They are inexpensive, but not cheaply made.

Yasmin at her salvaged desk,
drinking tea out of her vintage dish ware.

Her comic book, Maid's Room, is an illustrated poem about Paris' minuscule servants' bedrooms and their dwellers.

Do you use stuff for other purposes?
My books are for research and inspiration purposes for writing, I get a sense of a certain writing style.
I make new clothes out of old clothes, like this collar that I made from a recycled sweater, when I was living in Paris. I needed new clothes but was too poor to buy anything, so I made them.

Do you mend or discard?
Things that need repair, I try to repair or take it to a seamstress, if it's an important piece.

Sweater and scarf: Goodwill.

Where do you shop?
I go to Thrift Town, which I find cheap and interesting, mainly for clothes and cookware. I also like Goodwill. I sometimes go to Crossroads, for work clothes. I found my Grand Canyon dress at Mars, in Berkeley.
I found interesting pieces, like my State plates, at garage sales.
For furniture, Craigslist or the streets have provided me with invaluable treasures.
For art supplies, I shop at Urban Ore in Berkeley, Scraps in San Francisco (Scrounger's Center for Reusable Art Parts), or the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, in Oakland.

Yasmin's chocolate love cake, on a plate bought at a garage sale.

What are your suggestions for recycled gift ideas?
I reuse paper for cards or wrapping. I also buy used cake pans and bake my friends' birthday cakes.

What are your tips to earn karma points?
Two of my everyday choices to be environmentally responsible are:
1. Riding my bike to run errands rather than taking public transit or borrowing a car. Even though sharing a car and riding public transit are already steps in the right direction, when I ride my bike I get exercise and burn no fossil fuels.
2. Borrowing and lending. We don't need to own one of everything. It's more economical and environmentally responsible to share something useful than buy your own. For example, a car, a book, a large cooking pot, gardening tools, camping equipment, etc. -- when you're not using them, someone else could be. When we share and lend eachother things for free, we lessen our own consumption in the process.
The public library is a great example of responsibly sharing resources, and on an individual basis we can do the same with our friends and property. The key is making sure we return things in the same condition we borrowed them, so that people will trust one another.

Yasmin runs a catering business, Calico Pie, an ethical, green-based business that supports sustainable agriculture, small businesses, fair wages, and good food. You also can taste her fine cooking at San Francisco's Queer Food For Love dinners.
Yasmin's comic books can be found in San Francisco boutiques: Needles and Pens, the Curiosity Shoppe, or online, on


eddieys said...

What a great profile of someone with great taste! I hope this will inspire more folks to live the recycled life. Never pay retail again!

I love this article!

sharad said...

i LOVE this article, and i LOVE yasmin, and i want her eggs so that I can have a second-hand Yasmin the Cashewnut.. *sigh*

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