Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Cleaning Inside and Out

These last weeks have swung between sun and rain, warm and cold. When the weather is fine, I feel like skipping and singing. Some days have been so glorious that we've flung doors and windows wide open. The temperatures soared up into the 70s (22ยบ Celsius). I was born in the spring, so perhaps that is why it makes me feel so ALIVE when it comes. It's the promise of it is buoyed by the anticipation, because in reality, other than very pregnant buds on the barren trees, rose and hydrangea sticks, not much is actually popping yet.

The Virginia Creeper has not yet awoken from its long sleep

 Wherefore art thou, spring?

The only exception to this barrenness is our Daphne plant, full of the most delicious smelling modest little flowers. This plant has spring spirit, blooming before anyone else and choosing fragrance over showiness. There are also those birds who are back in town and who wake us in the early morning with their singing outside the windows. The blackbirds may not be much to look at, but their powerful, melodious songs are brilliant. They too are in a kind of frenzy of anticipation as they poke through the bushes looking for just the right spot to build their nests. They arise before the first church bells, and twitter and chatter all through the day, and well into the the dusk.

A sunny window in the studio

Like them, we have been very busy and focused. Some of the many projects I have wanted to tackle are finally underway. Our hedge plants have just been delivered and planted. We chose photinia as they are hardy here throughout all weather conditions and grow very fast. On these warm days, they can grow a few inches a day, as their multiplying leaf clusters open up. Their foliage is green and red, rather showy. Of course, for now it doesn't look like much. With gardening one needs much more imagination and patience than I easily can muster. In a year or two, they will offer us complete privacy within our garden plot.

 You have to start somewhere.

Inside I have done a certain amount of reorganizing and refreshing. Switching rugs around, rearranging furniture, doing some deep cleaning, and most gratifying of all, repainting some trim. This will take me a very long time as there is so much of it in the house. I'm not sure I'll have it done before our season actually opens. When we moved here in 2007, we spent an entire year working on the place, adding bathrooms, redoing electricity and plumbing, reshaping some of the rooms to give each bedroom a private bathroom, which required building walls and adding doors to existing ones. In the process we repainted all the walls. That was one of my favorite activities, because the walls are plaster and to paint them, you simply mix a big bucket of chaux (limestone dust) with some water and throw in a little bit of natural powdered pigment. I still have jars of each of the available colors. You never know what you will get once you put the chaux on the walls. The color you see in your bucket has little relationship to what happens once it has dried on your wall. To put it on, you have a huge sponge, you wet down a small area and then you literally slap the chaux onto the damp wall with something about the size of a wallpaper brush. It's the sloppiest job in the world, which is just how I like it. It's hard not to get a beautiful color, as all the dyes are natural and the texture and modulation that are inherent in the material have their own charm. In the process, however, we left all the trim painted as the former owners left it, always meaning to get to that later. You know how that can go! So finally this week I was able to buy a can of paint (surprisingly difficult and outrageously expensive in this country for some reason) and beginning at the bottom floor I plan to slowly but surely cover up the old tired colors. One thing that has bothered me about the original trim is that the doors were painted one color and the baseboards another. When I'm done, it will be uniform.


I have also been rather busy in the atelier. I'm getting ready for several exhibitions and creating some new images. I have been experimenting with a new technique of deep biting old etching plates on which I have painted bold varnished shapes. The acid eats away at the plate until there are frayed edges, holes and valleys. The protected parts are partially bitten away too, making new shapes and unexpected forms. I then print them as relief prints, not wiping them at all. Afterwards I hand color them with pastels. I like their boldness and they hold together as a series. I was very happy to find a framing shop in Le Mans that could cut mats and glass and put together custom frames while we waited. Rick then was able to frame them all. I like the black frames and white mats very much. It seems to match the graphic-like quality of the images.

I am reading The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino, a wonderfully magical tale of a twelve year old in the 18th century who got mad at his parents one day, climbed a tree and refused to ever come down again. It is beautifully written and highly recommended. Here he is meeting his neighbor Viola with whom he becomes instantly smitten. She is a malicious little thing, using her hunting horn to call to adults to come capture him.

I also have begun my zine. The story of Quinn and his nightmares. Here is the cover and one of the first pages.


So much more to rush off and accomplish. We've at least put some pansies in our planter as we wait for the weather to improve. I long for various shades of lobelia tumbling down the sides. But that will have to wait for May!


  1. Hi Nancy.Just love your new prints.Yes ,why is it that paint is so expensive over here?

  2. sigh. I want to be there with you sooo much!

  3. Your zine is looking good Nancy. I love the view of Quinn from above. And I absolutely adore your staircase, with the false railing painted on the wall. I was a keen watcher of The West Wing, and ever since I saw the murals in the White House, I've found anything like that enchanting.