Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Adventures with Wendy and Margot

snowman drawn by Quinn

Here in France we're still shivering. In Australia things are a bit different. Our printmaking clients and now friends, Margot and Wendy from Melbourne, like to come to France in January, leaving the hot Australian summer behind and heading right smack into the middle of European winter. They stayed with us the first year we were open, doing printmaking for a week in the studio, and they have come every other year since. This week brought them back to us again.

They certainly got what they bargained for, arriving in France on the day of the huge snowstorm.

photo by Wendy

Walking around the snowy village is very picturesque.

photo by Margot

Mid-week the weather warmed up significantly and the snow began to melt quickly.


There were blue sky moments, when one could take a genuine sunbath and really warm up. There were also moments of rain.

Throughout the week, Rick kept the home fires burning.

Margot's preferred occupation was reading next to the chimney.

Early in the week, Rick took Margot and Wendy down to the Loire Valley to have a look around. The goal was to gaze out over the river. Amboise has a lovely view.

Standing in front of Leonardo da Vinci's house in Amboise. Photo by Margot

View over the Loire River from the château at Amboise. Photo by Margot.

looking out the window at the château at Amboise. Photo by Wendy.

After these few more recreational days, Wendy got to work in the studio. She had it in mind to create a series of small plates inspired by the snowy landscape. She has a wonderful little notebook which she carries with her constantly, sketching ideas, thoughts, germs of projects. She uses her camera as a sketch book as well, just as I do, capturing fragments, reference material for images to come.

I really enjoy having printmaking friends in the studio. I love to see how other artists develop ideas and create their images. It was an extremely pleasant week for me.

Photo by Margot

Margot acted as consultant and sounding board for Wendy's ideas and images. Each one was thought through. They are a highly successful team!

Ideas began coming quickly. The only question was how many of them Wendy would have time to realize before the week was up. The snow became the overriding theme for Wendy's plates, but other sub-themes emerged, such as a very sparky little dog in a coat.

I really liked the rhythm Wendy got into. The plate size she chose was just 6 X 9 cm (about 2.5 X 3.5"). She would do her drawing in her sketch book, then transfer it to her plate, etch the plate and then take a proof. She would make any necessary adjustments at that point before going on to her next image. She was able to create 8 little gems before the week was out. 

At the end we printed up all the plates in a marathon session. Rick was obliged to go off to Paris for a day so he trained Margot as his apprentice and the three of us cranked out almost 40 prints in the space of a few hours.

Wendy inked up the plates.

Margot managed the paper.

One of Wendy's images required a great deal of patience to prepare. She had cut out small strips of thin metal which she arranged on one of the plates before it was printed to create an emboss.

Margot, like Rick, is meticulous and exacting, which is what is required to create a clean and well registered image.

The press is cranked.

And here's what rolled off: 

First a snowy hillside with trees on the horizon. One version with blind embossed areas in the snow, one version without.

Next, a snowy little village under a night-time sky.

Here's where the little dog begins to appear - a woman holding an umbrella walks by some shops in Paris. They are each making little tracks in the snow. It was hard to photograph these images in a way to really show their charm, which was in the tiny details. Can you see the falling snow? The sausages hanging in the butcher shop window?

Here's another woman walking through the Tuileries with a dog very much like the one above. Obviously these images are printed in one color, but I swear I see the little dog's coat as red plaid.

The pièce de résistance was this last set of four plates, developed separately, then put together to become an enchanting view out a window onto a snowy Paris street scene. Do you find the dog again? Each one works individually but it was entirely magically when we carefully arranged them together and ran them through the press for the first time. This was the original idea, of course, but no one really knew how well it would look until the very end. 

What a successful week!

Margot and Wendy left this morning for the next part of their French adventure. This time they are staying for 11 weeks on the continent! It was such a pleasure to have them here, they're very easy to have around. There's some talk of them returning before they to go back home. Wouldn't that be nice?


  1. Beautiful! I particularly like the final set-of-four.
    And I wouldn't mind some of your snow!

  2. Waoou ! such a wonderful work ! congratulations to all of these artists. Looking forward to meet Wendy and Margot