Monday, May 17, 2010

Atelier Conti Opens for the Season

When the leaves on the vines (which cover the walls of the house) leaf out, when the birds return and begin building their nests in the branches and hold loud conferences below our windows, when the phone starts ringing with wanderers looking for lodging along their rambling way, and the tourists line up by the castle gates to take the tour, we know it's time to open our boutique to the public again.

Our press room, with its little corner for displaying cards and prints, has been shut up tightly all winter long. The village always has a few visitors on weekends, even in the off-season, but lately the Place outside the house is filled with cars and people come and go with much more frequency. We don't really have any regular hours in the shop, but when we're there, which is frequently, we open our doors and make ourselves available to the curious.

Of course Montmirail is not a big commercial center! And more frequently than customers for our products, we get those who are just interested in our processes. My husband Rick is very patient about explaining how it all works, and when people arrive during a moment when the press is running, he shares the outcome with them.

Our B&B clients also like the atelier tour, and frequently we have people staying with us who love printmaking and have some experience with it themselves. 

Last year we were commissioned by the mayor to make photo-etchings of the castle, which were awarded as prizes to the winners of our local horse trotting races.

We do get the occassional walk-in customer, but more often than not, when people arrive, it's just another opportunity to speak some French. Everyone genuinely seems interested in hearing about what we do. I was asked this year to give a two hour long demonstration/class to the public during our Medieval festival. That will be in August. I'll wait until July to get nervous about it. Standing in front of a room of French people, talking for two hours, is a really intimidating idea.

Rick is framing a lot of my prints to make a kind of studio gallery. He does such a nice job and he's become quite skilled and fast. Before this spring, my wall was filled with scraps of paper with images; ones I had created myself and ones that I'd cut out of magazines or scanned and printed from books. Things to inspire me. I liked the way it looked, and I found it nice to have.

 But everything began to fade and I needed a place for the gallery, so I've replaced it with the framed prints. There are more to do, but it's a good start.


  1. Lovely gallery and I would love to someday visit your little print shop! I bet your town is beautiful ;-)
    Janet xox
    PS..your entry is stunning!

  2. So exciting! I'll miss the scraps (I have a wall like that too) but the frames look gorgeous.

  3. I'm never quite sure why I just have to keep coming back to your envy-inducing blog...
    Well, no, that is not true. I know it is because I will sigh and dream.
    And if I imagine hard enough I can just smell those inks.
    No need to get nervous; anyone stepping into your space is impressed from the beginning.

  4. I love this new post Nancy ! There is a special atmosphere very litterary one indeed, both sweet and full of energy. I think you understand well what the change of seasons means in France. We like everyone for its charm but the revival of Spring and the way to Summer is so sensible in yours words.You sd do a book with all your posts.

  5. I'm guilty of having not stopped by here in a while, but I did today and I love how you have improved your blog!!! It's just another reminder to keep reading and reading!! What a beautiful photo-etching!!! It makes me want to win the horse race!

  6. And your shop is seriously like a slice of heaven-so beautiful!!!

  7. What a great combination, print making studio and inn. The sort of place I would go out of my way for. My son goes to a french school and every time I have to communicate with the school I first need to take a deep breath and rehearse my lines. Very brave of you speaking in front of a crowd.

  8. Hi Nancy! How lucky you are... am so envious of you and Rick in that gorgeous place. Am finally back in Singapore for a little bit and have set aside some time to print the plates I made at Maison Conti in January. they're my favourite ones - and I'm sure it was the place more than my skills that make it so! Anyway, they will be on their way to you eventually. Love to Rick. Janine