Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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The Artistry of France

I am heading back to France this summer to take part in my second workshop with Dayle Doroshow at La Cascade in Durfort, France. While I’m away, please enjoy this re-post about the artistry in France that I encountered during my visit in 2009.

One of the many aspects that I love about France (and most of Europe for that matter) is the artistry that permeates the environment. From the doors and windows to the gardens and the food, nearly everything exudes an artistic quality that, in my opinion, is sorely lacking in the United States. The arts are held in high esteem in France and it shows. What struck me on this trip was noting that many business titles include the word “artisan” in the description; from the patisseries to the boulangeries to painters and plumbers, everyone is an artisan.

Artisan (n): A person manually skilled in making a particular product; craftsman.

I wonder what our society would be like if we all considered ourselves artisans.

Cemeteries

I love old cemeteries. I love to walk through them, gaze at the ornate headstones, and imagine the people who have passed. What were their lives like? What did they look like? Would they be annoyed that I’m standing here staring at them?  As a kid, I trembled at the thought of walking across people’s graves. I always made sure to walk AROUND the grave, never across it. This probably stems from watching too many black and white horror movies on the Sir Graves Ghastly show (warning: audio starts when you click this link.) However, this behavior is still with me today and if I have to walk across someone’s grave, I always say “excuse me” first.

The cemeteries in southern France are all above ground. Families have small crypts to inter loved ones. Many crypts have several markers indicating which family member is buried in the crypt. The markers might be attached to the exterior of the crypt or they may be placed on the ground surrounding the crypt.

The local cemetery in Durfort was no exception. A couple of us even went back during the week to make molds of the designs on some of the headstones. Here are a couple of iron crosses from the cemetery in Durfort.

IronCrossMary

IronCrossJesus

Windows, Doors, and Knockers

I mentioned earlier being drawn to the beautiful doors and windows in France. Many doors also feature wonderful door knockers that really are welcoming. Door knockers have been around for ages and were most evident in the Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance periods. Door knockers typically fall into one of three classes: the ring, the hammer, and the human figure or animal heads. Door knockers from the Medieval period were the most carefully designed and those from the Renaissance period were the most ornate.  To read more about the history of door knockers, visit here.

Here are a couple versions of the popular hand door knocker which we saw on many doors in southern France.

Handdoorknocker1

Handdoorknocker2

And the doors; oh my. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many beautiful doors.  This gentleman’s head was on a wrought iron door in Soreze. I wonder who he is and what he is thinking.

FaceDoorRevel

The doors below were along one street in Toulouse.

ToulouseDoor

Full shot of the door above, including the stunning arch over the double doors.

DblBlueDoor

DblHeadDoor

And of course there are the windows. Here is another pair of windows in Soreze that drew my attention.

SorezeWindows

And a side street also in Soreze.

SorezeStreet

Architecture

There is also wonderful artistry in the architecture of the old churches, castles, chateaus and yes, even the gardens:

AlbiGarden

The garden above was in Albi behind the Musee Toulouse-Lautrec. It reminds me of the gardens at Chateau de Versailles.

I’ll leave you with this picture of the arched entryway at Cathedrale Sainte-Cecile in Albi.  We’ll continue our architectural tour in the next post.

StCecile


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The Daily Head: Veggie Edition

We had lovely weather over the weekend and it got me thinking about our vegetable garden. What delicious goodies do I want to plant this year?

Early spring planting is one of my favorite times for veggies. The ground is warming, the air crisp in the morning, and Mother Nature is waking and welcoming all her children to return.

With that as my source of inspiration, I decided to sculpt two veggie inspired heads:

Sweet Peas! There is nothing like growing sweet peas, picking them off the vine, and eating them right in the garden. (I think the third pea is a little alarmed by the prospect of being eaten right off the vine.)

Another favorite spring veggie:

Red leaf lettuce! Last year we planted red leaf lettuce, Bibb lettuce, and Swiss chard. Ms. Leaf also provided additional inspiration for a new focal disk. I haven’t quite worked out the design for the new disk though I’m getting closer to it. All will be revealed….eventually.

We have another vegetable in our garden that may be the source of another head later this week. This particular veggie is a perennial. We look forward to seeing it burst forth each year. Sweet, tender, and excellent raw or cooked. Any guesses?

My schedule is busy the next couple of days, so I may not have a new head to post until the end of the week. Until then, eat your veggies!

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Summer’s Bounty

With the heat of the past few weeks, our veggie garden is producing lots of yummy goodies.

First up, the ever popular grape tomatoes:

This is a rather standard variety. It isn’t too bad. Our favorites are an heirloom orange-skinned grape tomato. I don’t remember the name but I recognize it when I see it. Unfortunately, because it is an heirloom plant, it can be hard to find at the local nurseries. It is sweet and delish!

In the spring we had another favorite: asparagus! The last couple seasons we’ve had to deal with asparagus beetles. Nasty little buggers that like to nibble the tips and stalk of asparagus. I know, they don’t eat much. But when there are multiples of them…yuck. By now, the asparagus is past its prime. Which means we have an asparagus forest in our garden now.

Asparagus Forest

Love the ferns. We’ll cut these down later this summer. For now they’re pretty to watch as they sway in the breeze.

I also tried some new items in the garden this year: Swiss Chard and eggplant.

Swiss Chard is great. You can steam it, saute it. It makes a great substitute for spinach. And it lasts much longer in the garden than spinach (a cool weather green.)

This is the rainbow variety. I bought it in a six-cell pack, popped it in the garden, and have been enjoying it for several weeks. We also had red leaf lettuce and bibb lettuce. Those are cool weather plants which have since been consumed (and/or shared with friends.)

The eggplants are my experiment. I’m not sure when I started eating eggplant. Its only been the last year or two. When I saw the starter plant at the farm stand, I decided to give it a try. Eggplant is a warm weather plant. Some varieties can take up to 90 days to mature!

The recent heatwave has caused a profusion of eggplant to burst forth from our garden.

Young eggplant

Hiding eggplant

Because of the weight of the eggplants, I had to stake each plant, otherwise the entire plant was starting to face plant in the dirt. Sadly, one of the eggplant branches snapped and started peeling away from the main plant. That meant I had to remove a rather large eggplant and cut off the branch. The eggplant wasn’t ready for prime time. Its skin was quite soft; definitely underripe.

However, I was amused to see its ‘face’ when I turned it over. I dubbed it One-Eye before dumping it in the compost bin.

One Eye Eggplant

Though we have a fence around our veggie garden to keep out the deer, it hasn’t stopped a chipmunk or two from making themselves at home inside the garden. Along with the plants above, I also planted cauliflower and broccoli. The cauliflower never saw the light of summer as either Dale or Chip (or both) made short order of the cauliflower plant. One of the baby plants was literally ripped out of the veggie bed. The rest were chewed and stripped of their leaves.

Then D & C went after the broccoli, annihilating three of those plants too. They saved three others for us, except for several side leaves on the broccoli plants. And the other day, the little invaders were generous enough to only eat two large tomatoes and save two for us. Glad their mum told them about sharing the garden’s summer bounty.


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The Artistry of France

One of the many aspects that I love about France (and most of Europe for that matter) is the artistry that permeates the environment. From the doors and windows to the gardens and the food, nearly everything exudes an artistic quality that, in my opinion, is sorely lacking in the United States. The arts are held in high esteem in France and it shows. What struck me on this trip was noting that many business titles include the word “artisan” in the description; from the patisseries to the boulangeries to painters and plumbers, everyone is an artisan.

Artisan (n): A person manually skilled in making a particular product; craftsman.

I wonder what our society would be like if we all considered ourselves artisans.

Cemeteries

I love old cemeteries. I love to walk through them, gaze at the ornate headstones, and imagine the people who have passed. What were their lives like? What did they look like? Would they be annoyed that I’m standing here staring at them?  As a kid, I trembled at the thought of walking across people’s graves. I always made sure to walk AROUND the grave, never across it. This probably stems from watching too many black and white horror movies on the Sir Graves Ghastly show (warning: audio starts when you click this link.) However, this behavior is still with me today and if I have to walk across someone’s grave, I always say “excuse me” first.

The cemeteries in southern France are all above ground. Families have small crypts to inter loved ones. Many crypts have several markers indicating which family member is buried in the crypt. The markers might be attached to the exterior of the crypt or they may be placed on the ground surrounding the crypt.

The local cemetery in Durfort was no exception. A couple of us even went back during the week to make molds of the designs on some of the headstones. Here are a couple of iron crosses from the cemetery in Durfort.

IronCrossMary

IronCrossJesus

Windows, Doors, and Knockers

I mentioned earlier being drawn to the beautiful doors and windows in France. Many doors also feature wonderful door knockers that really are welcoming. Door knockers have been around for ages and were most evident in the Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance periods. Door knockers typically fall into one of three classes: the ring, the hammer, and the human figure or animal heads. Door knockers from the Medieval period were the most carefully designed and those from the Renaissance period were the most ornate.  To read more about the history of door knockers, visit here.

Here are a couple versions of the popular hand door knocker which we saw on many doors in southern France.

Handdoorknocker1

Handdoorknocker2

And the doors; oh my. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many beautiful doors.  This gentleman’s head was on a wrought iron door in Soreze. I wonder who he is and what he is thinking.

FaceDoorRevel

The doors below were along one street in Toulouse.

ToulouseDoor

Full shot of the door above, including the stunning arch over the double doors.

DblBlueDoor

DblHeadDoor

And of course there are the windows. Here is another pair of windows in Soreze that drew my attention.

SorezeWindows

And a side street also in Soreze.

SorezeStreet

Architecture

There is also wonderful artistry in the architecture of the old churches, castles, chateaus and yes, even the gardens:

AlbiGarden

The garden above was in Albi behind the Musee Toulouse-Lautrec. It reminds me of the gardens at Chateau de Versailles.

I’ll leave you with this picture of the arched entryway at Cathedrale Sainte-Cecile in Albi.  We’ll continue our architectural tour in the next post.

StCecile