The wisteria has come and gone. Now our yellow rose is in bloom. They overlapped for just two days.
We were very happy to have our friends Arnault and Bénédicte come stay with us for a couple of days. The schools are on spring break, so they have some time and included the Maison Conti in their vacation plans. They came with their three boys who they call The Three Monsters. Of course, they are nothing of the sort.
Bénédicte is the oldest daughter of our friends Françoise and Bernard. We met the whole family when James spent an exchange year abroad with AFS, living in Brest during his junior year of high school in 1998. Since then, we have counted them among our very best friends. There are three daughters in the family, who have produced between them five sons. The whole extended family is dear to our hearts.
Arnault is a nuclear engineer and spent a few days with us when we still lived in California. He has suppliers in Oregon and made the detour to visit us on one of his business trips. We have such a fond memory of sitting with him at a cafe overlooking San Francisco Bay. He was so delighted to be there and kept saying he had to pinch himself to know he was really awake. It was one of those perfect weekends, when you see your hometown newly through the enthusiastic eyes of a visitor.
The family lives in Nantes. We have visited them there several times. They were spending a couple of days in the Loire Valley visiting châteaux. We ate breakfast and dinners together. While they were gone all day, we worked in the studio.
As a broad generalization, French children are very well-mannered. I will never forget a sign we once saw in the window of a restaurant in the Dordogne - No Children. Dogs Welcome. The owner, who was German, told us that dogs are much better behaved than children. She did mention, however, that of all nationalities she found French children to be the most restrained and polite.
Bénédicte is a teacher and works with disadvantaged children. She tells us that families are changing in France and some of the discipline which was built into the rhythm of family life is beginning to break down.
It certainly has not broken down in their family. It was really a pleasure to have the boys here. Their parents expect them to act politely and remain calm, not easy at their ages. They are a very interesting group. Each one unique.
photo by Arnault
Tanguy is eleven. He is remarkably brilliant. They have let him skip ahead one grade but hesitate to advance him further, even though he is still ahead of his classmates. He has an amazing memory for dates and is good at every subject. He has been reading adult literature from an early age.
photo by Arnault
Cedric, who is nine, may be more of an athlete than his brother. He is also the clown of the family. He is very big hearted and friendly. He was fascinated that I served the butter at breakfast in a little covered dish. He asked me if it was hard to arrange like that. He looked at my display of dishes in the kitchen and told me "bon présentation" (nicely arranged). I found it delightful!
photo by Arnault
Etienne, six, is a character. I think of him as the artist, since when we last visited the family in Nantes, he showed me his beautiful drawings. He is a real charmer. His father told us this story. He asked Etienne to do something and was ignored. He asked him why he hadn't followed the order given and Etienne replied that his mother always gave him three chances.
photo by Arnault
If you haven't heard of the game Mölkky, (and frankly who has?) you're in for a treat here. Arnault discovered this game, invented in Finland, and introduced us to it by making us a Mölkky set. It's a throwing game and lots of fun. Arnault made our game from a single wood pole bought at the garden center. The set consists of 12 small pins, cut on the top at a 45ª angle and numbered. The puck is a short length of the same material left without the angle cut and rounded a little at the ends.
The rules are simple. A bit like bowling, you stand up the pins in a big bunch, placing the highest numbered ones on the inside (to protect them).
Two equal teams are created. It can be played one against one, two against two or more against more. Each individual on the team gets the chance to launch the puck at the stack of pins from a distance of about 10-12 ft away.
The object of the game is for a team to reach a score of exactly 50 points. After launching the puck, if one of the pins falls down, the team receives the number of points written on the pin. If someone knocks more than one down, they receive one point for each pin that falls. This makes it more advantageous to try to aim accurately.
The pins are dispersed as they are hit and are stood up wherever they fall, so the pins become further and further apart as the game progresses. If the puck fails to knock any pins down (and this is common) three consecutive times, the game is forfeited to the other team. If a team makes more than fifty points, their score returns to twenty-five, so one must be careful what one aims at.
Arnault's team, which included Rick, won the day. I never once hit a pin. The puck is very light and I didn't get the feel for how to aim it. I intend to practice, however, so I'm not so easily skunked next time.
I got quite a lot of printmaking accomplished this week. There are a couple of theories about editioning prints which I have heard put forward. Traditionally, an edition is printed all in one go. Some people, however, print small batches as needed. I have handled my editioning both ways, but when it comes to a print that is colored a la poupée, you can't really have an edition of prints which are more or less the same in color and coverage without getting into the rhythm of printing them all together at the same time. The paper has to be the same type, same size, moistened the same so that the ink is taken uniformly. I have a number of plates I need to edition and I have begun to try to catch up with that.
Cafe Girl is fairly efficient to ink once I get the edition rolling. Each spot of color is put on with a q-tip and wiped separately so it does take time. The plate is small however, so in the course of a few hours I was able to get an edition of 20 printed.
Village by the River is a different story. It takes at least 20 minutes to put the color on, as the plate is large and there are lots of details. I will need several dedicated days to accomplish an edition.
I did run the inked plate through the press a second time to get a more pastel effect. I like them both, so I'm trying to decide which way to run it. In either case it is fairly complicated to make an edition making all the prints similar.
Happy May to all! I hope your days are full of colors and flowers.