In and Out

I am enjoying winter this year. The polar vortex we had in Europe last year has chosen another continent this time. Days speed past and frankly, when it’s sunny and warm, it almost seems as if spring is just around the corner. I do spend most of my time working on projects in the atelier. It’s the only time of year that I can count on days at a time with no interruptions or demands.

We did take a couple of days in Paris to celebrate the grandchildren’s birthdays which are just over a week apart. Emily took us to lunch on the canal which is a short walk from their house. The view from our table was onto this colorful wall.

Back at home I began a new wall hanging/quilt made with strips of gorgeous silk crepe. I had eco-dyed quite a few pieces this fall with willow, maple, berries and several other plants I gathered on a walk around our local lake.

I’ve gotten as far as sewing the pieces together. I ordered some batting and silk sashiko thread, so I have weeks of work still left to do before it will be complete.

When the sun shines, I try to have some paper ready to make cyanotypes. Despite a few snowy days last week, we still have a Christmas Rose blooming on the terrace, and snowdrops have arrived in the upper garden.

I left this image to develop in the sun for three times longer than I do in the summer. It gave me the typical bright blue cyanotype background.

Another project that has been sitting in my drawer since last fall, is a group of signatures for a book with eco-dyed boiled pages. These were all made in September. I had intended them to be completed during the time my friend Gail Rieke was giving her workshop here. Somehow that did not occur. I don’t exactly know why, but I feel somewhat intimidated by book binding and I always put off a project like this for a long while. I knew that I wanted to make a coptic stitch binding, which doesn’t require a spine. The pages are simply sewn together. I’ve never done this type of binding before, but this week I pulled all the pages out and decided the time had come.

It’s really not so hard. You simply need to make a cover, put in holes for the stitching and put holes into all the pages. I made a template to be sure that the holes were in the same location on every page and used an awl to punch them in. Rick got involved, as he is very good with projects like this. He is much more precise in his measurements and I am happy to have his help and patience.

Through a YouTube video, I learned how to make the coptic stitch that holds the book together. Rick took over and finished the binding for me. I was pleased with the results. I have a few other pages waiting for the same treatment.

The other escape from the atelier during the week was into La Ferté-Bernard. I captured a sunny image of the most popular restaurant in town, the Marais, which is open every day of the year. La Ferté is our local “big town” where we do our weekly grocery shopping. It features prominently in Daphne du Maurier’s novel The Scapegoat. If you’re not familiar with her, I recommend her to you. She is the author of Rebecca, and The Birds, both made into movies by Alfred Hitchcock. She was British but had a family connection to this part of France. She wrote another interesting book called The Glass Blowers which is set during the French Revolution and features our own little village of Montmirail.

The LAST DAYS of fall

fall,autumn,stone bridge,french countryside

Many months have passed since my last blog post. Our season at the Maison Conti was very busy and kept me distracted from life outside the village, but our rhythm has finally slowed down. As the last colorful leaves fall from the trees, I am thinking of friends, family and like-minded fellow travelers.

This week the sky was crystal blue and the sun still warm. We decided to walk around our local lake and enjoy what surely must be the final days of autumn.

We lived for several years near our “big” town of La Ferté-Bernard before discovering a wonderful resource just on the outskirts, a man-made lake. It provides swimming, boating and lovely walking paths. I have many photos of our grandchildren building sand castles and waterways on the shore over the last last five years. It is a favorite destination when the family visits us.

There is a path that traces the entire circumference–over bridges, past the beach, through the trees and beside the rapidly flowing river that feeds the lake. This time of year it is particularly beautiful, and also much less busy.

Besides enjoying  a perfect day, I collected some willow and maple leaves to use in my newest passion, eco-dyeing. These and others that I found have made some very fine impressions.

We think of our friends and family suffering through smokey days in California and post these photos in hopes of offering at least some visual relief.

I am working on a new website, which includes this blog. I intend to post some personal stories, some artistic experiments and lots of photos of our life here in rural France. I hope you will consider subscribing. It’s our way of keeping in touch with you, who we miss so much.