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The Dying Art of Tatting Is Kept Alive Through a Skillful Teacher-Practitioner

June 09, 1987|Herbert J. Vida

If you know anything about tatting, most likely you're an older person, or Greek, or both.

"Everyone brought up in Greece during my time knew how," said Dimitra Brasinika, 51, in her broken English. "Now there's very few who can teach you, but I can," she said. "In my village in central Greece, everyone taught everyone else to make the tatting."

She points out that people in other countries like to do other things but "Greek people like to tat."

Brasinika said her grandmother, who lived to be 104, taught her tatting--which utilizes a shuttle and threads of all colors to make delicate lace creations--when she was 10. "We all started young," she said, "but now the old people are dying off, and there's no one who knows how to do it." Brasinika teaches the nearly lost art at Golden West College, at workshops throughout the county and at private lessons in her Anaheim home.

"Today, young people want to learn how because they don't know how to work with their fingers," she said, "and that's good because it keeps their hands busy with this instead of drugs and other bad things that do no good."

Besides creating delicate lacework for tablecloths, doilies, runners, dress sleeves, and necklines and lamp shades, "tatting is very good as a hobby and good for people's mental health."

She points out that tatterers usually gather, much like a sewing bee, affording the chance to share tatting ideas as well as to discuss the ways of the world and their own lives.

"You can talk and work at the same time," she said, while deftly working the shuttle of thread into a round design that would later be connected to other like circles made from thread.

Brasinika said tatting books showing designs developed over the years are out of print or are difficult to find and must be sought in such places as Goodwill stores or in grandmothers' attics and closets.

"Some people use heavy thread, some people use very fine thread," she said, "But all of it is easy to do once you learn how. It's not difficult."

She notes that women and some men from various ethnic backgrounds enroll in her classes. "We have lots of Japanese, Chinese, Italians and other peoples who want to learn," she said. "But no Greeks. And no (Greek) men."

It clearly was an unusual sight to see James and Shirley Wisdom of Fountain Valley motoring down the highway at sunrise trying to keep the hot air balloon in sight.

"We would have liked to be up there," said the Wisdoms, whose daughter, Marilyn L. Wisdom, was marrying Robert L. Hinman, 28, of Anaheim, in the balloon. "There just wasn't enough room for us. But it was romantic and . . . well, different."

The hot air balloon cost the newlyweds $500 for their up-in-the-air marriage ride, including the preacher, best man, maid of honor and the pilot. It was filled to capacity.

"We wanted something unique, something special between us to remember," said Shirley Wisdom, a bookkeeper. Hinman is an assistant football coach at Loara High School in Anaheim. "We also wanted a sunrise wedding to see the effects of the sunrise on our ceremony."

The couple were picked up by the bride's parents following the balloon ride for a short celebration which was followed by a weekend in Palm Springs for the couple. The newlyweds

plan a honeymoon in Hawaii after school ends.

Do they plan anything unusual. "You never know," said the bride.

This month, Connie L. Thompson, 60, of Leisure World in Laguna Hills will donate her most extensive collection yet to the USC Special Collections Library. It's a 14-volume, two-foot-high paste-up of newspaper and magazine accounts of actress Elizabeth Taylor.

So far she has given USC media accounts of 900 movie stars. It takes her up to two hours a day, including weekends, to clip the accounts of the cinema stars.

"It's just a compulsion," said Thompson, who first began clipping articles of stars when she was 8 years old. "There's no money in this," she added, noting that her payoff comes from "realizing you're doing this for someone else."

Often at the library, cinema students sometimes thank her for helping their studies. "That's the icing on the cake," she said.

Besides donating the extensive collection, Thompson also keeps each of the files up to date. "I spend an awful lot of time clipping," she said.

Who is her favorite? "Each one is the best," she said.

Acknowledgments--Ervin (Bud) S. Pashley of Corona del Mar, a prominent figure in the Orange County arts community, posthumously awarded an honorary degree from Coastline Community College. His widow, Audrey Pashley, accepted the honor for her husband, who died in December.

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