Monday, August 23, 2010

Week 13: Eat, Drink, Print!

 A week of rain clouds and sunny clear skies, of hot days and chilly nights. Fall whispers its approach.

Georges spent some time printing in the atelier again this week. I always learn something interesting when he comes. No exception this time. One interesting discovery was made when he set up the press for himself, as I had not gotten around to that before he arrived on Monday morning. He printed all morning and was never satisfied with his results and could not understand what was different. The image was not accepting the ink correctly and there were little while spots all over the finished print. He tried adding oil to the ink, wiping in different ways, wetting the paper more or less and always the results were the same. Finally we realized that he had put the blankets on upside down. There is one felt blanket that goes on top of the print and one thick wool blanket which goes on top of that. The felt of course is tightly woven and the wool is highly textured so with the wool blanket on the bottom, directly on top of the image as it's printed, a texture is created in the warm ink. I had never put the blankets on backwards so I had't considered what an effect that could have.

Georges has a very interesting chine-collé technique which I have never seen anyone else use. He creates hand painted papers which he then glues onto the printing paper as a frame to his printed image. The plate is inked and the glued paper is placed on top, so it all goes through the press in one pass. Leyla used some of his hand painted paper to very good effect on her own swan image. Georges uses waterproof ink (which he purchases at Sennelier in Paris) to create the textures on his paper.


Georges also introduced me to the photographer Sarah Moon. She does beautiful fashion and art photography often with images that are out of focus and atmospheric. Her color work is particularly beautiful, I think, although she apparently prefers working in black and white. She inspired me to take a couple of my own out of focus images and create some prints of Quinn. I was happy with the results, though of course she creates all her effects in the camera while I used Photoshop.


We had some California friends as clients this week. I used to work with Ann at a private school in Lafayette. Her daughter Laura is studying theater and went to the same school as my own children, who are also both in theater, so we have a lot in common. Ann is showing her daughter around Europe before Laura goes off to study at RADA in London, one of the preeminent theater programs in the world. Ann also invited her 85 year old father to accompany them since he spent some time living in both Italy and France when he was younger. As he said to me, any place on the Mediterranean feels like home to him. Ann was actually born in Marseille, which is where they headed after spending several rainy days at Maison Conti. Larry is first-generation American born of Sicilian parents who met Ann's mother while stationed in Italy after WWII. I picture them in their rented villa below a sunny Tuscan sky as I write this.


I have lately had the enormous pleasure of planning out the Wonder Wander Workshop with Gail Rieke which will be given at Maison Conti in early October. Gail is a collage and assemblage artist who specializes in travel and journal creation. Her studio is itself a work of art. The creative responses to her numerous travels are contained within beautiful old suitcases. They become a kind of interactive sculpture as she mounts them on the walls of her home gallery. Each case contains a separate experience, beautifully arranged which reveals something special about a real place and a specific time.

During the three days of the workshop, participants will make three book forms. The first will be a kind of prototype of many ways to bind pages together in a unique travel journal. The second will be a book for holding collections of things we discover. We will take walks together in order to respond creatively to the landscape around us. We will draw, take rubbings, photographs and collect bits and pieces we find along the way to put together into a unique travel memory. The final form will not necessarily be a typical journal. Our ephemera can take many forms. The most important aspect of the project is to imbue it with personal meaning and creative response to our individual experiences. Gail has many unexpected ways to put these disparate pieces together into a coherent whole.

We will discover many unique ways to collect and bind our travel journals together. Gail has led many trips to Japan over the last several years, but this is her first European adventure. There are still a couple of places available in the workshop if you would like to join us. Pleasures of all sorts are guaranteed!


One of my favorite printmakers on Etsy is Andrea of Starkeyart . For Jos' birthday I ordered one of her incredible prints which arrived this week. I just love the colors and her delicate, precise drawing. This is a reduction lino print, which I find almost unbelievable. Rick did a beautiful job of framing it. It will be a bit of a wrench to give it away, but luckily I can visit it anytime I like. Jos loves trees and Andrea has some wonderful images of landscapes and trees in her shop. She also has a blog which I enjoy following.


Last summer around this same time, we had a lovely German family stay with us for one night on their way to a vacation on the Brittany coast. We were very happy to welcome them again. This time they came bearing gifts, two bottles of German wine which we fully intend to enjoy at the first opportunity. Wolfgang seems a passionate advocate of German vintners and explained to us that when buying German wines, which he insists are as good as any made in France or California, one must be sure to look for the eagle logo on the neck of the bottle. This insures that the wine inside is made of all the same kinds of grapes from the same location and not a mixture of grapes from hither and yon. Of course that means the wine is of the highest quality. You need to look closely at the eagle logo as there is apparently an imitation that tries to pass itself off as the real deal. Wolfgang and family will be revisiting us on their way back home in three weeks, so it is incumbent upon us to give these wines the taste test and report on our experience.


The week ended in a big way with the village Éclade de moules in the Place outside Annette's. Mussels are arranged on large planks of moist wood, covered with seaweed and grape vines which are then set ablaze. They cook quickly, popping the shells open, and are served straight from the coals on the plank. Annette sets up rows and rows of chairs at long tables under a huge tent and people come from miles around to eat the mussels with French bread slathered with butter. That's almost all there is to the meal, except for a piece of cantaloupe with parma ham to start and an apple tart with cheese to end. 

We had invited our good friends Jonathan and Renata to join us. Bertrand, a neighbor from the first place we lived in France happened to call us that morning so we invited him too. 

I don't think I've mentioned either Renata or Jonathan in twelve weeks, which is odd, since we count them among our dearest local friends. There is a reason, however; we see them so very rarely these days. For this I only have myself to blame. I introduced them and it was the most successful match-making I have ever accomplished. Renata happens to live an hour away, so Jonathan, who has a house just a few doors down from Anne and Christine, is hardly ever in town anymore. 

We met Renata when we bought our first house near Alençon. She's Czech and was friends with the woman who sold us the moulin. Renata was like a little bonus that came with the transaction. She became our guide, our friend, our helper, really our angel when we knew very little French and were orienting ourselves in a new country. She took us to Prague a few years ago and acted as our personal tour guide. She is always cheerful and patient. We've felt so lucky to have met her!

We met Jonathan when he appeared at our door as we moving into Maison Conti. He offered to help us with the construction that was necessary to create our Bed and Breakfast. He is generous and talented. Without him I don't think we could have managed at all. He was essentially our roommate for the entire first year we were here. He was our Montmirail angel, so naturally I thought of conveniently arranging a meeting between the two of them. Suffice it to say that sparks flew, puffy pink clouds manifested all around and we simply stood back and watched. That was a couple of years ago and they still seem positively radiant together.

Bertrand, Renata, Jonathan and Rick in front of the unlit mussel pyres

The tent in the Place du Château, outside Annette's

Firing up

Plank of mussels--we had two like this to divide between 6 people!

Live music blasted into the night. Renata seemed to know the words to every song. Besides the eating, there was dancing, singing and general revelry. 


Cafe in Barcelona, this week's color etching experiment


  1. OMGosh.....this post has it all...friends, art, good photos, food and LOVE!
    I love your blog ;-)

    Janet xox

  2. What an interesting post, covering so many yet so interesting topics. Thank you for sharing. Now I'm going to visit Andrea's pages.

  3. What a great surprise as I scrolled down through your blog! Thanks, Nancy. I love the frame you chose for the print!

    Take Care,

  4. Tout est intéressant comme d'habitude mais la photo avec la tente devant le château m'a rappelé une très jolie chanson française déjà ancienne "le petit bal perdu". C'est assez nostalgique mais très entraînant. Depuis une vidéo amusante a été réalisée.

  5. Your photos of Quinn are simply gorgeous! The happy childhood personified.