Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Tempus Fugit

It has been over two months since my last post and that one was some time since the one before. I am finding myself doing what I used to secretly accuse bloggers of and that is no longer posting or simply stopping altogether. 
As you will have read, I have moved and it has been so traumatic and ongoing that I have no time for  myself and what used to make me tick. 
My relationship with the last house degraded and in the end it was a nightmare with me packing and sorting in the middle of legalities, doing everything alone, seeing my craft room and refuge being boxed up for goodness knows how long. I felt that my emotional backup had gone and I felt disraught and sad, something I am not victim of, being a really happy person most of the time.

I will not get into the number of trips, driving over 500 kms each time and sometimes there and back in one day. Our first trip to actually see the house, sign the lease and deposit stuff took us over 10 hours in the truck then six hours back. Each time it took me over a day to recover then we had to start over with only me packing the truck and trailer with what I could fit in. I am lucky in having some great friends who helped but in the end I had to lose quite a few things I loved and all my garden has stayed put or ended up in other gardens after years of caring for my plants.

I am posting some photos of the house before the mess came in to give you an idea of what I am dealing with. The house is in the Dordogne region which is very mild and even quite hot in summer, I hadn't actually realised just how much! I had never been to this region before if you can believe that. People ask how I ended up here and I reply ' well it seemed like a good place to be'. I have said the same thing in the past when I moved to Brazil, then China, when I got married in India, when I moved to the south of France, I just went for it each time, why not!

The first photos are off the garden, something that was very important to me and the dogs. The garden was bigger before but had been shortened four years ago when the owners died. The children tell me that their used to be a herd of gazelles in the upper garden and a wild pig in the middle. At the upper end there is a huge caged in section that held other exotic animals at one point.

The fountain that used to work, under the metal plate there is a twenty foot water well! 

The mysterious statue, very similar to a miniature one I had for Ramsay house.

There are a few small building here and there, all overgrown. This one would make a great little summer house as it has windows and french doors on the side.

This is where the wild pigs used to live and then became a play area until nature took over and the low shrubs became huge trees and ivy crept all over it. I am going to cut down all the surrounding cypress trees and turn the end part into a green house with raised vegetable plots beyond it. I think that once cleared and painted and lights hanging from the roof it can be a lovely spot.

This was a gorgeous old bench, it is now falling apart but with some care it can be lovely again.

 Above is the corridor leading to my bedroom lined in shelves which I am going to paint this summer. Below is the library with more shelves but sadly still not enough for all my books.

The next three photos are of the living room with built in cupboards and a huge fireplace although the photo doesn't show the scale of it all. 
The floors in most of the house are of stone.

A neighbour lent the garden furniture the first day so we could sit and sign all the papers.

This is one of the bedrooms, there are 6 in all although I have made the main one my workspace and another into a dressing room.
All the fireplaces in the house are gorgeous.

This wing of the house was added in the 70's and they found a huge cabinet to set into the wall. You can get an idea of scale by looking at the height of the door.

The kitchen has a large country style sink in the same marble/stone as the floors and bathrooms. The windows give onto an inner courtyard that I have filled with plants.

There are gorgeous sturdy stairs going up three floors. I don't count the top floor which has a bedroom and two other large rooms as it has to be modernised in the autumn.

On my list of things I couldn't live without was a fireplace, a garden, a good kitchen and a bath! The bathroom is great but the bath is quite intimidating to get into.

This was the main bedroom which had a repaint and is now my workroom. The light is great and it overlooks the garden. There are acutally 3 bathrooms, a shower room and 3 washrooms.

A fairly large washroom is off to one side with amazing 1930's washbasin and bidet and lots of cupboards to put all my paints and products for crafting.

This wonderul ancient chateau is nearby down a long alley of trees, it also has a 4 km2 botanical park which can be accessed for free and has lovely picnic area, dogs are allowed.

The house is now disturbingly full of boxes and bags and furniture and is not quite ready to be photographed but as soon as I get things sorted out I will let you in and show you around. Today I cannot move as I have thrown out my back and can only walk bent over and of course it's Bastille Day and doctors are not on duty! 

I'm not sure that this is a very interesting post but I felt bad about leaving you all with no news. I do hope that this is the last time I will move house until I go into the pine box but in life you never know. I have lived in over 30 homes in 30 years. Today I feel that I have found peace despite being sad about my miniature world taking back stage over real life. 

Wishing you all as much joy as the present situation allows.

Hugs xoxoxo

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Textile archeology

Before I begin this post I would like to send my wishes to all of you who are stuck here and there, I hope, making the best of things, miniaturising or house organising or gardening. It is important to turn events and situation like this to our favour and see it as a forced holiday.

As I have said in my previous posts I am in the middle of moving, the story is getting old I fear ! After a failed attempt last year which luckilly I didn't accept as the house that was is stuck in limbo and I would have been stuck with it. My new move is to a lovely region further South in France, in a small town with a train station and all the usual stores but without 'buildings' and industry.
Ten minutes walk along a country lane I have a supermarket, a DIY store and a garden center, what more can anyone want. Two minutes away there is a bank, a post office, a baker and a twice weekly fruit and veg market. 
It is quite a large house but smaller than my present one, it has 6 bedrooms, a Library and dining room, an internal courtyard and a garden. 
Because of the confinement I have not been able to go see in person so I have agreed simply on photos taken most kindly by my lovely estate agent. This is the first time the family has put it up for rent so it has retained all it's charm.This is a rental as years ago I decided not to buy but rent and not have that pressure. 
Many cannot understand this I know. 

Now down to archeology! The other day, fed up with packing and sorting I looked at an old screen that stood in a corner and decided to begin to restore it. It belonged to my father in law and was in his Napoleonic bedroom next to his huge mahogany and bronze bed complete with red and gold hangings. It was not a nice room and when he passed we only took the screen, leaving the furniture to my partners brother. My father in law was called the Baron Migineac de Villedieu, a rather grand family name for a quite ordinary man. That said he knew all the famous French writers and painters as the family spent every summer in St Tropez in the 50's and 60's when it was a seaside town and not a snobbish resort.

What I thought was going to take me an hour took all day ! It was in a terrible state. I wanted to take off the lovely antique 'Empire' toile de Jouy and put it back once the screen was consolidated.
I didn't take a before photo of the full screen but here is one half done.
At one point my ex took a staple gun to the back of the screen with some shantung silk and made a horrible job of it before giving it to me after we separated. We are still the best of friends.

The 'toile' is lovely, all hand blocked, dating from the early 19th century.
I will have to find some way of cleaning it as I'm not sure that it will stand up to washing.

Here I cut the screen in two as there were fabric hinges and layer upon layer of fabric.

As I began to look deeper this was the story! 

A terrible repair. Screens are hollow so fragile and easily damaged.

Here are traces of an old backing fabric from the same period as the toile de Jouy.

Here was a huge surprise, Under the toile was this antique wallpaper from the Zuber wallpaper company. Zuber began in 1797 and are still going today and are considered the Rolls Royce of wall papers, certainly not within my reach financially. Only the top part survived. It had been glued onto fine linen. 

Strangely there were two identical layers of the paper, perfectly placed on top of each other. 

A detail of the paper. 

Here are the references of the design, I have contacted Zuber and asked them for details of the pattern and date to get an idea of when it was put on the screen.

This is what I managed to save and I will frame it as I have quite a few scraps of antique wallpaper that will make a lovely visual patchwork on one of my walls of which there are many.

Here are some of the edge trimmings, there was also  a fifth one, very pretty, probably the original one.

I think I took out about 300.000.000 staples and 100.000 nails ! Very therapeutic. 
Here is my amazing de stapeler, it's an Oyster opener! 

I am ending on a teaser, showing photos of a house that I have never seen ! It has wood panelling and stone floors and lots of fireplaces. The owners are having the house painted at the moment and I am moving in mid June. I will take some photos when I do move in as there are many other rooms. Living in a town with a station means that friends can come and stay so very happy am I! 

Wishing you health and peace wherever you are and thank you for reading.

Friday, April 10, 2020


If you walked around my village you could never imagine that there was anything out of the norm busying itself in cities around the world disrupting the world. I cross the road to feed the goats with the neighbours girls, all gorgeous well behaved treasures. They have a new boy goat who is trying to fit into a trio of females, I feel sorry for him , little mite ! They butt his head in turns, telling him that he is in a female world and not to try pulling a macho routine ! I could watch them all day.

That said I am a busy bee, still packing and sorting and repairing stuff ready to move 'one day'. The thought that I might NOT be able to move is so terrifying that it is catalogued in the very back of my mind.

Last year ( or the year before ) I bought this gorgeous angel at our local antique/Junk store because he was broken and I felt sorry for him, worrying that things would get worse. I paid a lot, about 150 euros but chalked it up to a birthday. It is rather large , 70 x 67 cms and about 8 cms deep and it is an original creation, not a plaster cast of an existing sculpture. The artist is unknown.
I laid it on a pile of blankets for ages until I could find a solution for his safety. I decided to make a box frame and insert him, tying the wood supports to the back and then fixing the broken bottom.

He was very dirty and dusty, especially the back and it took ages with a brush and vacuum to clean him up. I didn't want him to look new and all white and decided to keep the patina.
Luckilly the antique dealer kept most of the pieces so it was just a puzzle to be sorted out.

This is the back showing the process of creation. The artist made a wooden frame and covered it in plaster mixed with horse hair as a base then built up the layers by hand, leaving parts to dry then carve away, adding and carving as he went. It is a long and delicate process. 

Below you can see that I glued the plaster pieces using wood glue but first wetting the edges to prevent the old plaster from sucking up the water in the glue and breaking the bond. I strengthened the joins with pieces of linen and it all worked well.

The Angel Gabriel in his frame, painted F&B Downpipe black. The lower edge was a temporary fit as the edge was not yet repaired. I didn't take photos but I twisted wires around the back wooden supports and fed them through the back of the box frame and tied them down to keep the sculpture in place when upright. I also bolted two hanging loops through the layers of wood but given the weight it is unlikely that I will be able to hang it one day. 

I couldn't repair this edge as it was but aftr making a small plastic frame I poured synthetic plaster and when dry I carved it and dirtied it with soot from the chimney.

And voila Gabriel is looking strong again and able to help us with our worries.  
Gabriel is a revealer.

Gabriel, in the Abrahamic religions, is an archangel. He was first described in the Hebrew Bible and was subsequently adopted by other traditions. In the Hebrew Bible, Gabriel appears to the prophet Daniel to explain his visions. 
The archangel appears in such other ancient Jewish writings as the Book of Enoch.

I hope that you are all seeing this confinement as the holiday you never could imagine, talking with friends, sorting out the house, making and reading and watching movies and turning these few weeks into something positive.

I miss my Ramsay House, I miss my minis and my equipement and finishing my drawing room. 

Sending you all, from myself and Gabriel the choicest of affectionate thoughts. 

Love to all.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Picture this

I am writing this from behind a wall of boxes, wifi is still working and I am over two months away from moving house. One of the most tricky parts of this move is protecting and transporting my artwork. I have collected pictures for many years and rarely a month goes by without finding Something. This may sound grand as if I am some big collector but my finds are quite modest and very diverse. I also buy frames whenever I find them, sometimes with Something NOT nice in them and quite a few were found abandonned in the street. One night in Paris when walking the dogs I found a large stash of frames outside a small museum ! 

Below is my recent purchase and one of my most expensive ones I admit ! It is an original exibition poster from 1960 by Jean Carzou a famous French artist. Posters are still art and a good way of acquiring an artists work. I paid 140 euros for this one but the large heavy frame was found in the street by a friend who gave it to me recently. I love the colour, so vibrant.

This must be one of my favorite watercolours, a VERY difficult medium to paint in. It is by someone well known and I purchased it at SULIS gallery via the net. They always have very well priced art from known artists. I have purchased a few from them over the years but I admit to have almost stolen this one as since then their prices for comparable watercolours has risen. This reminds me of John Singer Sargeant but without the auction house price tag. I am still out on the mount colour as I find blue a difficult colour to assess.

This is just a bit of fun, two pages from an old child's comic book in a gilded wood frame usually reserved for Something more precious. Art is what you make it. 

Another oddly coloured picture, this is an original lithography from the 50's / 60's, one of my favorite periods as accessible financially ! The colour is more intense in real life, the frame is not great but I wanted to get it Under glass quickly. I think I paid 20 euros for this one and the frame was charity shop.

Another signed lithography from the same period. Again in greenish tones as I love red and pink in decoration and green goes so well against it. I had begun this time with the frame which is wonderful quality in gold leaf wood by a good framer, found behind a wardrobe at our local Junk shop.
I then sought an appropriate picture and found this one for about 30 euros on eBay. 
Lithographes from this period are very accessible.

Now these next two charcoal drawings are a mystery, I must have been on drugs when I bought them but I assume my purchase ! I found them at our local Junk shop, our dealer friend had just bought the contents of an artists house from the 19th century and these two quite large drawings were amongst all the rest. I paid 50 euros each of memory serves me. They are wonderful quality, the frames are not so wonderful but at least they are protected. 

I began collecting charcoal drawings and studio academic studies years ago in the hopes of making a whole wall of them side by side as one large group art installation. I of course never had the wall! In my present house the walls are such that any picture hanging has to be done with a drill and plug!

This next one, again in a questionable blue mount was 'rescued' from a crappy Junk shop near Aix en Provence some years ago. It was very badly framed and sat in a dark corner but it had 'something' so I paid 30 euros much to the astonishment of my friend. It turns out it is by a famous artist and the same engraving sells for many hundreds on auction sites. I found the frame in a charity shop.

I love etchings, they have an ethereal quality about them. I studied etching at college and found it very satisfying although very labor intensive. This one is a veiw of a window out of the window. It is signed and numbered and cost me 25 euros on eBay.

This is another charcoal academic study, it has the studio seal in the corner. I had seen this one en eBay many months ago and put it aside. I bought it for my xmas as part of my future installation of charcoal drawings. The way I usually frame these is by cutting thin mdf board , 3 to 5 mm, whatever is on hand, to the size then the same with glass. I have a great glass cutter that is so easy to use and useful. I then strengthen the edges of the board with 10x10 mm battens glued on plus one more ten cms lower from the top. I then sandwich the drawing and weighing it down I finish the edges with kraft framers tape. The kind you wet , not the kind that is like sticky tape as it doesn't seem to stick as well. I put two layers of tape to finish the edges. I will at one point put a hook system on the lower batten to hang them. It is quick and cheap and keeps the picture simple, not detracting from the image.

Another drawing from the same stash as the two darker ones above. I paid 10 euros.

This one was a birthday gift from me to me, 25 euros, eBay. Same framing system.

This next one is a bit of fun. I bought this paperback and loved the cover to I sacrificed the book to frame the cover in an old 50's frame. It will be part of a fun wall of odd things one day. 

Another one for the 'odd wall', this was the ad in the local paper for my brother's clock repair business. He was really talented but he gave up as people never came back to collect their clocks and pay ! He then took up goldsmithing and made celtic jewellery to order. I miss him.

Next is another odd picture, badly photographed sorry ! These tickets I kept since I was a child. The pink one was my entrance to a gaelic choir where I sang and the blue one was to a France vs Scotland rugby match when I was 16, I hitchhiked to the big town to see it with my cousin. I put them into an ornate Florentine frame which looks fab but is in fact plastic tourist Junk! 

And last but not not least, the proof that anything can be 'art' and it sometimes costs Nothing. I often dry leaves, the thing is I forget in which books I put them so from time to time some fall out. The frame was 50 cents, backed in a piece of red folder, it makes a 'statement' . 

There are of course hundreds more pictures and when I move and set up home I will photograph them in situ which is surely more interesting. I warn you it sometimes takes me years to hang a picture! 

I hope that you are all busy being busy and not thinking of what is going on. There is not much we can do except look after ourselved and care for those we love. 

Huggssssssss to all.