By: Mimi Lipson
September 30, 2018

Part nine of a series of posts adapted from a travel journal originally posted on apexart.org.



This is Monica.

She owns a store in Ciudad Vieja called Tirio. They make and sell custom tassels, piping, fringe, pompoms, gimp — all manner of notions and trims for furniture, curtains, and every sort of military uniform and traditional costume. Monica is showing off a stanchion rope.

I’ve been on a number of these backstage tours now. I’ve seen a bronze medal factory, a home movie archive at the Universidad Católica, and of course the surgery. Javier’s mother, who owns a restaurant, showed me how to make ravioli while we discussed Joaquín Torres-García, her favorite Uruguayan painter. I’m always excited when something like this comes up on my schedule. Maybe the oddest such experience was when I reported for what I thought would be a tour of a numismatic museum and ended up meeting the head of planning and risk management for the Central Bank of Uruguay. He had not been briefed on my visit, and it didn’t clear things up much when I handed him one of my apexart calling cards, but we passed a pleasant hour talking about public banking, MERCOSUR, and the inflationary effects of monetary tightening from the United States.

This is a page from one of the many books Monica has containing formulas for the notions and cords and tassels.

It’s funny to think that everything in the shop starts out as thread. That is the only raw material they buy. The workroom is crammed with old mechanical looms — Rube Goldberg contraptions they bought in Italy in the 1970s, presumably from centuries-old manufacturers who were going out of business. Each product, a trimming for an ottoman, say, might go through several of them, transforming along the way from thread to cord to thicker cord to tassel.

As I said, I’ve been on quite a few of these field trips, but I think Tirio is my favorite. I love the clattering machines, the hanging gardens of ropes and braids, the rows of colored thread. It brings me back to a time when I was eight, nine years old and my mother worked in a furniture store stuffing cushions and stapling webbing onto the bottoms of sofas. Her boss used to let me take home sample books of ugly burlap upholstery fabric.

This cluttered old workshop reminds me of Ciudad Vieja itself. I fantasize about stowing away in Ciudad Vieja, or coming back one day to disappear. It has that great urban quality of surprise — an unexpected view of container ships at the bottom of an ancient street, a mysterious message stenciled on a doorway. Every time I’m sent here for one thing or another, I wander a bit farther out from the commercial center to see more of its beautiful residential ruins, the shutters and laundry-lined balconies, and I feel an anticipatory longing for the place.

Oh, another thing. Look at the picture of Monica. You can see a bit of lattice in the upper right of the photograph — a curvy variation on the diamond-pattern security grate, slightly more beautiful than it needs to be. I’ve seen them in every part of town, and they’re so pleasing to me that it took me a while to understand what their function was. I’ll miss them, too.


One in a series of ten posts contributed by HILOBROW friend Mimi Lipson.

MORE MIMI LIPSON: Tube Your Enthusiasm: THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES | Wowee Zowee: THANK YOU | #Squadgoals: THE RUNAWAYS | Lost Objects: DODGE DART | Klute Your Enthusiasm: MEAN STREETS | Quirk Your Enthusiasm: HOW COME YOU’RE SUCH A HIT WITH THE BOYS, JANE? | Grok My Enthusiasm: 1973 SEARS ROEBUCK CATALOG and TRASH PICKING | Hermenautic Tarot: EUPHORIA | Significant Objects: HALSTON MUG | PLUS: HILO HERO items on Joey Ramone, Divine, Redd Foxx, Russ Meyer, Shelley Winters, Noam Chomsky, and many others.

CURATED SERIES at HILOBROW: UNBORED CANON by Josh Glenn | CARPE PHALLUM by Patrick Cates | MS. K by Heather Kasunick | HERE BE MONSTERS by Mister Reusch | DOWNTOWNE by Bradley Peterson | #FX by Michael Lewy | PINNED PANELS by Zack Smith | TANK UP by Tony Leone | OUTBOUND TO MONTEVIDEO by Mimi Lipson | TAKING LIBERTIES by Douglas Wolk | STERANKOISMS by Douglas Wolk | MARVEL vs. MUSEUM by Douglas Wolk | NEVER BEGIN TO SING by Damon Krukowski | WTC WTF by Douglas Wolk | COOLING OFF THE COMMOTION by Chenjerai Kumanyika | THAT’S GREAT MARVEL by Douglas Wolk | LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE by Chris Spurgeon | IMAGINARY FRIENDS by Alexandra Molotkow | UNFLOWN by Jacob Covey | ADEQUATED by Franklin Bruno | QUALITY JOE by Joe Alterio | CHICKEN LIT by Lisa Jane Persky | PINAKOTHEK by Luc Sante | ALL MY STARS by Joanne McNeil | BIGFOOT ISLAND by Michael Lewy | NOT OF THIS EARTH by Michael Lewy | ANIMAL MAGNETISM by Colin Dickey | KEEPERS by Steph Burt | AMERICA OBSCURA by Andrew Hultkrans | HEATHCLIFF, FOR WHY? by Brandi Brown | DAILY DRUMPF by Rick Pinchera | BEDROOM AIRPORT by “Parson Edwards” | INTO THE VOID by Charlie Jane Anders | WE REABSORB & ENLIVEN by Matthew Battles | BRAINIAC by Joshua Glenn | COMICALLY VINTAGE by Comically Vintage | BLDGBLOG by Geoff Manaugh | WINDS OF MAGIC by James Parker | MUSEUM OF FEMORIBILIA by Lynn Peril | ROBOTS + MONSTERS by Joe Alterio | MONSTOBER by Rick Pinchera | POP WITH A SHOTGUN by Devin McKinney | FEEDBACK by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FTW by John Hilgart | ANNOTATED GIF by Kerry Callen | FANCHILD by Adam McGovern | BOOKFUTURISM by James Bridle | NOMADBROW by Erik Davis | SCREEN TIME by Jacob Mikanowski | FALSE MACHINE by Patrick Stuart | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | UNBORED MANIFESTO by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen | H IS FOR HOBO by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FRIDAY by guest curators