Thursday, 17 December 2009

Snow in Paris!

   It's a bit of a swarm of things left to do over here. Tomorrow I've got a plane for Canada, and it's the first time I'll be going back in the three years since we first moved here.  And today, Paris is crazy with snow.
   Happily, my mummers are all set to march off to the four corners of the world.  I'm so glad all the printing is done... getting the ink to stick to thick card paper was trickier than I'd expected and by the end of it, my wrists were killing me from pressing down down down.

  The idea for the card came from a trip to Romania two Christmases ago. Romania must be one of my favourite places of all. We (my husband and I) spent the whole trip wandering from one little mountain village to another in the northern parts of the country and never made it down to Bucharest. As long as we stayed in the villages, it was a fairyland of hoarfrost and old wooden churches, with about as many horses as cars passing us by on the roads.

(click to enlarge -- though actually ,the ruined citadel is not from a village but in the city of Suceava)

   As there were not many buses, and the trains seemed only to run at night, we ended up hitch-hiking a little. It was cold walking outside all day. We were lucky enough to be picked up by two guys on their way to the very same village we were trying to get to. One of them spoke very good French and soon we were chatting away. In town he introduced us to his family, and had another man get the keys to their local church to show it to us. Unfortunately we don't speak Romanian, but from what we gathered from the man showing the church, it was built secretly at night during Soviet rule (as building churches was forbidden at this time) and was funded entirely through donations from the local community. He moved things around and showed us the names of donors carved into places hidden from view to avoid trouble. Apparently, the people of this town, Ieud, are very proud of having strongly resisted Soviet control. 

   The main reason we had been hoping to visit this particular village was to visit the very old wooden church there, which we did the next day, but the modern church is also gorgeous.
   We stayed on with the family of the man who gave us a lift into town. They were some of the kindest people ever... we spoke to them through translation from the brother of the woman whose house we stayed in; he was just back from working in England. We ate cabbage rolls and drank plum liquor and went visiting to the extended family and then to bed next to the tile-covered stove. Before it was light the brother crept into the house to wake us so we could come and see the Christmas pig get killed. Some of the young children of the family came to watch, and were sliding about on icy patches in the ground, happy as can be.
    The whole rest of the day was spent making sausages and things. We left at dusk on a bus to catch another night train. Before we left they gave us bags full of beautiful breads... a round braided loaf like a wreath, a loaf with spirals of poppy seeds through it (which was very like one that my grandmother used to make for our breakfast every Christmas, so I was very happy), and a plain one.
    And I am off topic, even if I did try to keep it short, but they are good memories!
   Anyway, in Romania around Christmas and New Years, there are lots of mummers out. And you find them even in the unlikeliest places in villages and cities alike.

Even while spending a long night waiting in a freezing train station, you might see some!

   Sometimes they play music and wear wild costumes. Sometimes they have cows or horses pulling a wagon with a small Christmas tree on it. Other times they are carollers in traditional costume. If you are interested in reading more you could look here or here or here or you could look at these videos, which seem to be part of a professionally made film. If you look at the related You Tube videos you can find lots more videos that have been made on the street or from people looking out of their apartments down at mummers on city streets. Some of these really capture the moment well. I mention all of these things only as very basic starting points, of course. Romania has loads of different traditions according to region, and if anyone reading this has any good information, I'd be very interested! Our time in Romania was thrilling and magical and I've been glad of the chance to reminisce a little while making my cards.
   I'll leave off with a photo of the side of a painted church and my best wishes for the holiday season.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The Eye of the Storm

Finally a bit of calm while everyone's out.  So here are some lovely autumn colours which we were lucky enough to see in Japan, since the season is a bit later there.  One of the things I miss most about Canada is having real seasons.  This is always hardest in the autumn, since the leaves in France just don't change the same way the ones back home do, especially in Paris where they just crumple up and die and that's the end of it.  Plus there's no Halloween... but that's another matter. 
 Anyway, this past week I've been busy drawing in preparation for a new etching I've just started work on.   I started an etching class a few months ago.  It runs through the city hall of Paris, and is between 9 and 12 hours of class per week. It's meant to be a three-year course, but I may only make it through the first year, since I'm not sure how long we'll be staying here.  I really love the class so far -- I have an amazing prof and plus it takes me to Belleville, which is one of the more interesting parts of the city.  

   Since I don't want to show something which is only half done, I'll instead share the first etching I finished in the class. I should note that the deer in the picture are heavily influenced by an illustration I saw in a book of illuminated manuscripts. It was a bit of an experiment and I don't normally like to base my drawings etc. on other people's work; that was a first for me. So, I can't really take credit here.

    The thing about etching is that the copperplate itself is so alluring.  I tried to take a good photo of the plate itself, but that was no easy feat.  Here's my best effort (which didn't turn out so well actually -- if you click on it to enlarge it, it looks better).  This was taken on my mother-in-law's gorgeous tabletop:And continuing in that direction, the other project I've been working on in the past couple of days is a lino cut for making cards for the holidays.  

Tomorrow I plan to pick up some paper and also some printing ink, so an image of the prints from this lino cut will be coming soon.  Until then, red leaves for these grey days.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Home again home again...

     Yesterday morning I woke up in Tokyo, by evening it was Moscow, and we went to bed back in Paris. The world is a crazy place, indeed. 
     We went back to Japan, my husband and I, to go to a wedding in a town beside the fishing village where we used to live. It was so lovely to see the sea and again have the tree-covered mountains closing us in on all other sides. Too gorgeous all the little houses of wood with their tile roofs, and all the rivers running to everyplace. In the summer the rivers are full of the scatterings side-to-side of tiny fresh water crabs. I used to find crabs everywhere -- sitting in the branches of the trees behind the house, peeking up at me from the gutters, once a scuttling sound from behind the fridge revealed a frightened crab that had somehow made its way into the kitchen. Small details. I had to fight hard not to cry on the train, to think I'd left such a beautiful place, and to think of the nights when I'd wanted to leave it.
     Easy enough to always want to move on and on. Easy enough to forget all the details and the separate days.