Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Back in Paris

We spent the weekend in Paris visiting Quinn and Emily. The large cherry tree which sits right in front of their door had shed most of its leaves while they were away. It is a tree that brings pleasure all throughout the year. It also supports Quinn's swing.

Before we left home, Quinn called and asked us to bring the trains. The Brio set, which used to be James' when he was little, usually lives at Nana and Bobo's house, but sometimes when we go to visit we bring it along as a treat. Quinn can spend hours driving the train around the track and telling stories about where the train is going and who is all aboard. He makes a "shooshoo" sound as he drives his cars around.

One of the only things which can distract him from this occupation is certain music. There are a few CDs that when played absolutely demand dancing. He loves to sing as well and will gladly launch into Alouette, Frere Jacque or The Wheels of the Bus without much prompting. Emily got a book that has nothing but songs and chants and their associated hand gestures such as The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes and I'm a Little Teapot. We all enjoyed practicing old favorites and learning new ones.

Quinn also wanted to show us his drumming skills.

While in Paris we went to Chinatown in Belleville, which was an incredible treat for us as we simply can't find good Chinese food in our neck of the woods.

While we were in Paris visiting one grandchild, another one was being born in California. Rick's son Chandra and his wife Kylie welcomed Mila into their family. She is their second child and our third grandchild. They are a very beautiful family, as this photo expresses perfectly.

As promised I have made a print of the cabbage photo etching and am posting it here. It is printed in just one color. I think it turned out very well and I am pleased to be able to produce these photo etchings again after a two year hiatus.

I spent a certain amount of time getting my Etsy shop ready for the Christmas season, printing up some cards and adding several new things to my inventory.

We had an adventure at one of the famous Puces (flea market) in Paris while we were there. St. Ouen is huge and rambling, taking up blocks and blocks with stands of mostly junk. You need to have a lot of time and patience to find anything too extraordinary, but it is fun to wander around. Since these places are so well known and patronized, it's fairly difficult to find a bargain.

When we arrived it was gray and cold. We cruised some of the streets and enjoyed the colorful neighborhood sights and sounds.

I don't remember the sky becoming this blue, but when I snapped the bones of this old building, the clouds must have lifted for the moment.

Emily knew of a couple of shops inside a passageway off the main flea market. We made our way there to get out of the crowds and cold. There were two shops side-by-side with some really very beautiful antique items for sale. We bought this collection of very old paper ephemera from one little shop that had huge bins of old posters, postcards, stamps and advertisements.

The shop next door is literally about the width of a small trailer but about a city block long. On one side, the whole length of the shop is antique clothing and hats and on the other are notions, buttons, ribbon, lace and mouthwatering bric a brac. I had to keep my purchases down to just a few meters of trim, because the prices were not bargain basement. Some of the items in the shop are 50-100 years old or more.

I came back home inspired to begin my holiday preparations. I have a long list of projects to begin. Emily asked if I could make an advent calendar for Quinn and I was happy to deliver my finished product to them when we visited. I was pleased with the results, especially since I'm not particularly a brilliant seamstress. I searched the internet for ideas, but in the end made up my own version. I happened to have 24 little items on hand to put in the pockets. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

We're in the Studio, Quinn's in New York

It's been a glorious week of blue skies, magnificent sunrises and quiet days. I never loved winter when I lived in California, but here it has become one of my favorite seasons of the year. I have so much time to dream and play in my studio, which is about all I did this whole week.

Meanwhile, Quinn the world traveler (he has visited 9 countries already in his almost 3 years) is in New York City while his father plays in an off-Broadway production of Fragments, by Samuel Beckett and directed by Peter Brook. Read a review from the New York Times here.

The theater and hotel are near Central Park, so Quinn is spending lots of time out-of-doors in the glory of a late New England autumn.

Jos has days free to explore the park with Quinn. Emily has been helping teach a workshop at the theater.

Quinn had heard about the famous dinosaur bones in the Natural History Museum and he was really anticipating this visit. He asked me before he left if he was going to be allowed to feed the dinosaurs. I told him the problem was that they have no tummies.

Emily and James have always loved their uncle Andy, who lives in Rochester. He is the youngest brother of their late father, who died when they were about Quinn's age. Andy has many of the qualities their father had, so it is no wonder that he and his wife Marsha have always been dear to them. When they came to see the show, Quinn took to Andy and Marsha right away as well.

Quinn is enjoying the sights and sounds of the city. He especially likes the taxis. He got his own miniature version. When taken to Times Square he did pronounce it as boring, however.

In the park is a children's museum where there are lots of activities. I loved this picture of Quinn making a little sculpture.

So wonderful!

Emily and Quinn fly home tomorrow and we will spend next weekend with them. Jos stays on until the end of next week.


I had an energetic week in the studio, beginning with reorganizing and cleaning the space itself. It took me two full days to break down the boutique (which I do every winter), rearrange my furniture, scrub everything from top to botton, shuttle books up and down stairs to make room for even more books and in general set the stage for a productive winter season next to the cozy fireplace.

I experimented with a lot more chine collé, this being only one of many we printed. It is a fun process that deserves a lot more exploration.

I have hundreds of family photos and I always enjoy making little portraits of ancestors, which I also indulged myself in this week. Not one of these folks is still alive today.

I continued on my nature journal as well, though finding nature inside rather than out.

Here is a drawing some of the shells I collected during summer outings.

Towards the end of the week we decided to drag our photo etching box out of retirement in our garden shed and try once again to make it work. Rick made this box to expose photo-sensitive plates a couple of years ago and at first it seemed to work very well. We really enjoyed the process, even having a class one summer. All of a sudden it seemed to go all wrong and we couldn't get our plates to develop correctly. We didn't change our process but the images were not turning out with any contrast. The plates are fairly expensive, about 10€ a piece, so after spending a tidy sum trying to get a good result and failing, we retired our box altogether. We assumed that we had a bad batch of plates, that they had already been exposed to light, but our provider would not confirm a problem on their side, so we just shelved the whole process. I did buy a couple more several months ago since they were on sale and I've had them in my drawer since. Georges, who uses a much more expensive and professional process than this one (you can see it here) inspired us to try again. Here's the process step-by-step:

You begin with a photo and create a black and white positive on transparent film.

This will be exposed onto a photo-sensitive plate with this box, which shines a UV light onto the plate through the transparency.

The plate is posed on a backing board, the transparency is placed on top and a piece of glass is placed over this and squeezed in place with clamps to hold the plate and transparent image together snugly.

The UV light must be turned on before the plate is placed inside and needs to sufficiently warm up.

The plate is placed in the box and left to expose for three minutes. This is more or less like exposing a solar plate, but faster.

The transparency is removed and a half tone screen is placed over the plate in its place and again exposed to the light, this time for a minute and a half. This adds the half tone dots which allows for better printing of dark areas, like in a newspaper before the digital revolution.

The plate is developed in clear warm water. This is a completely non-toxic technique. We can already see here that this is working! The plate is a good one...much to my pleasure and disbelief.

The plate is dried with a hair dryer so that water streaks from the development process can be eliminated. This is actually the trickiest part of the whole thing.

The plate is put back in the box for a few minutes further harden the emulsion for printing. The edges are then beveled to prevent cutting the paper or press blankets.

Here's the finished plate. We haven't printed it at all yet, as it has to rest for a while but we can more or less tell that it has all developed rather well. Hopefully I can show you printed results next week.

Another week come and gone. Holiday thoughts are starting to bubble up.

Enjoy your last days of November.

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Week in 32 Pictures

 dawn over Montmirail

we served 10 breakfasts this week

 blue bike outside the church

 sunny studio window

a  page from my nature journal

 the cathedral in La Ferté-Bernard

 the passageway that leads to the boulangerie in La Ferté-Bernard

 beet greens

 Mr. Crapaud

 window of the garden shed

 abandoned cabbage

 the last nasturtiums

 stocking up at the farmer's market

chine collé project step 1: paint the koschi paper with permanent ink

 chine collé project step 2: dampen the koschi paper carefully

chine collé project step 3: pose the inked plate and paper on the press bed

 chine collé project step 4: place dampened and spray-glued koschi on plate, glue up, towards paper

 chine collé project step 5: run through press

 mutabilis rose in front terrace garden on a sunny morning

 table set for Rick's birthday dinner

 a tiny snail emerges from the flower arrangement

 dogs were invited to church this week

 the local priest and his assistants get ready to say a blessing over all the dogs

 walking down our country road

farmer's gate

 seasonal colors

 a neighbor working in his garden

 local farm, ancient buildings

 empty nest

 little red pony in his green field

 Montmirail seen from across the valley
while I'm walking uphill, she's coasting down