Carrières de Lumières: Underground Art

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The beautiful village of Les Baux-de-Provence is a sparkling jewel yet small. One must visit and explore, inhale and touch with inquisitive hand, eyes and an open mind. With such exploration, her riches are exposed.

During my friend’s visit, Rita, we headed to Provence for a few days. Besides strolling about Saint Remy we each had a #1 must see and Carrières de Lumières was hers. My #1 will be revealed on a future post but this exhibit quickly had me under its spell. 

Step into the cave and be transported deep into the 16th century. Let yourself go and be awakened to the visions of BOSCH, BRUEGHEL and ARCIMBOLDO. This is total immersion from the ceiling of the cave down to the very ground you walk on. Walk about freely, stop and look closely or sit yourself down on one of the stone benches available on the caves outer walls. 

20171026_130057.jpg There isn’t a cultural event, landmark, museum or other National Treasure, where I have not encountered groups of school children on a field trip. They are accompanied by a their teachers, are well mannered, respectful and it is such a delight to witness their awakening and appreciation. 

20171026_131035.jpg Perhaps this photo can give you a small idea of just how vast the cave is. Unfortunately, you are seeing only one small area. The projections seem to dance across the ceiling, walls and even the floor of the cave. 100 projectors syncronised precisely with the sound system provide a seemless experience. I had little idea of what I would encounter but trusted that Rita knew we would both love it. As ususal, she was right and I was stunned. The show itself is not long in duration. Yet after wandering around through several showings, I found myself mesmerized and frozen on one of the benches. If I have the good fortune to return to a future show, I hope I shall be better prepared camera wise. What you will see here is from my little smartphone camera as my trusty old point and shoot had run out of batteries. Furthermore, I am unaccustomed to trying to capture stills of a moving target in near absolute darkness. I do hope it gives you of an idea of what a magnificent exhibit it is and perhaps schedule some time to view one of the coming shows. Alas, this particular show ended on 7 January, 2018. The next show began in March and the featured artist, PICASSO.

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If you should plan to visit Provence, this is one of the many delights that await you.  

Bisous,

Léa

Exposition: Jean Savy

Artist: Jean Savy
Artist: Jean Savy

The artist Jean Savy has his roots in the Breton region of France. As for many of us born near the sea, it continues to call to him and to influence his work. From his imaginative totems which he has sculpted from treasures harvested from local beaches, to the under water experience that spoke to me from a number of his paintings, Jean has succeeded in capturing those illusive moments experienced beneath the waves. Snorkelling and swimming along the ocean floor have long been passions of my own. Friday night, I was transported back to this underwater world. Suddenly, albeit briefly, the powerful wind and chilling temperatures ceased to exist,

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA  A self-taught artist who has lived in Paris (16 years) before moving to the south, he has exhibited widely from Paris to Albi. Jean is devoted to his art and each day is spent creating or gathering the tools he requires. In 1983 he set out to explore the genre of figurative art. Pleased with his early efforts, he continued. Jean’s technique, like his journey is very personal. Jean has not had any artistic education but has chosen to learn from experience. Auto didactics are at times, dismissed or marginalized. However, Savy joins the ranks of SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAothers such as Viollet-le-Duc (French architect and theorist), Frank Lloyd Wright, Noël Coward, Gustave Eiffel, Karl Marx and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to name a few.

Jean prefers to work alone. “I fill the white canvas by creating a form of relief and structure in white and afterwards I start playing with colours, colouring pigments and liquids of every sort – even water- on canvas.” Is it a game of chance? No. “I always make something that resembles me. You always project your sub consciousness on the canvas; it is a projection of it. I experience painting as a game of expression and of pleasure.”

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAOn a particularly miserable evening after a trying day, I was transported back into the tranquil embrace of the sea and felt a sense of renewal.

If you are interested in purchasing some of his work, Jean Savy can be reached at izidor.jean@gmail.com. Additionally, please be sure to click on the photos!

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Léa

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Le Moulin à Papier: Part III

Continued from Part II

Sieve
Sieve

The Dutch pile has been filled with the previously smashed paste inside the millstone grinder.

Dutch pile produces a very thick past that must be diluted in a tank. The resulting product will be 1 – 3 percent paste concentrate and 97 – 99 percent paste solution. A sieve is used to separate the fibres. A sieve is used to separate the fibres from the water. Each sieve is crafted by professionals and are imported from England. The tightened brass wires keep them parallel to each other with thick embossed seams.  The sieve consists of a thin plain metal canvas to create a vellum paper. The paper-maker attaches a wire to the canvas. The wire’s pattern gives the pieces of information on the paper’s size and who created it ( eagle, bell…). The removable frame cover fits the sieve and gives the paper shape and thickness. There are frames to form special papers, envelopes and other shapes.  The marks are called watermarks.

Sheets drying on the ropes
Sheets drying on the ropes

With the paste diluted, the fibres are mixed with a stick then the sieve is quickly plunged into the tank. As the water begins to drain off the sheet of paper is formed. The sheet is laid on a piece of woollen felt. One hundred sheets is called a ‘porse’. The more the past is diluted the thinner the page will be. Increase the paste for thickness.

When the sheets are piled without the felt it creates cardboard.

Drying: The sheets are lifted with a wooden stick and hung on ropes. The thicker the sheet of paper the longer the drying time. The other factor is the weather. It can vary from a few hours in the summer to several days in the winter. The sheets are lifted with a stick and brushed onto plain warm boards or on brick walls warmed by the fire in Japan. In

Drying garments, pages and other creative projects
Drying garments, pages and other creative projects

Brousses inspiration is taken from the Japanese method. The paper is laid on a synthetic material and then compressed and hung on the dryer. When the drying is complete, the pages are unstuck. The paper is flatter and smoother. If a coarse-grained paper is desired the sheet is layed on a coarser grained felt.

Once the paper has dried it has the consistency of blotting paper and must be waterproofed. The gluing is a process of applying a coating of gelatine. However, the process has changed and currently the gelatine is added to the paper-paste.

Smoothing: Pages require smoothing once they come out of the dryer. They are not smooth or flat. Today they are compressed within a few hours on the hydraulic compressor.

Coloured paper: A coloured paper is made from cotton cloths. White paper is made with lightened cellulose. Brown pages are created from plants or animal dung.

One of the dresses worn at the Paper Lovers Night!
One of the dresses worn at the Paper Lovers Night!

Large sheets: The special sheets, 3.4 meters long by 2.2 meters wide were specially crafted here at Brousses. Six to eight people are required to handle the special sieve. There is also a special tank that is assembled for when it is required.

The dresses were created by the visual artist, Catherine Cappeau, and worn every 14th August for a special musical event, Paper Lovers’ Night or in French Nuit des Papyvores.

Bisous,

Léa

All in a stunning setting! Make a day of it.
All in a stunning setting! Make a day of it.

Le Moulin à Papier: Part II

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Paper was invented in the 2nd century B.C. by the Chinese. In 400 A.D. the Japanese and the Koreans were utilizing blackberry bushes by taking the shoots, steaming them and peeling them and left to soak in water until very soft and pliable. This is then boiled off in a mixture of ashes and water then laid out on smooth surfaces and beaten with sticks until a paste is obtained. This paste is diluted and then prepared to become a sheet of paper.

The monopoly to create paper was maintained by Asia for nine hundred years!

It was until 751 A.D. when Chinese prisoners in the battle of Tales gave up the secret to the world of Islam. As the knowledge to create paper spread in the Arabic world it also spread to the Western world where the paste was created from flax and hemp utilising rags or plants.

The vital component of paper paste is cellulose which is found in every plant.

Since the mid nineteenth century, cellulose has been extracted from its plant/wood source by the use of chemical treatments. This method dissolves the plants flesh and what remains is the cellulose.

In nature, the cellulose is brown. By treating the past with chlorine, a white paper was achieved. A lesser quality paper is achieved by retaining some of the plant’s flesh and the texture is the type of newspaper.

Paper without chemicals is possible. A man named Tripot took out a patent to create paper from horse dung in 1841 after noting that animals such as deer, cattle and antelopes did not digest cellulose. A factory in Paris turned out paper made from dung.  The mill here in Brousses has been making their handcrafted papers from elephant dung supplied by the African Reserve located in Sigean and the dung of horses.

Millstone
Millstone beneath a paper gown

Up until the mid 1800’s, paper paste had only been made from hemp, cotton and flax rags. (ropes, cloth…).However, in the present at Brousses mill paper is made mostly of rags (cotton). Plates of cellulose are purchased from a provider in the Ariège region. This is necessary as currently, fabrics no longer contain either flax or hemp. The factory receives tons of flax and hemp plants every week which they extract the cellulose with chemicals, whiten and make paper or compact paste. This cellulose can be used just like a rag.

The colour of the paper will depend on the colour of the rag product. Blue paper is frequently made from blue jeans (cotton) and black from black cloth. Brousses mill never uses colouring agents.

Rags into paper: Rags: old clothing or other materials are stripped of buttons, zippers and even the seams are cut. Then the rags are cut into strips and sorted by colour and wear.

Then the rags are soaked in tanks

After a 2 – 6 week soak (fermentation) and impurities have been “burned” removed, the rags are set to become paste. Then they are cut into very small pieces and lain on large plates.

Mallet Pile: Invented in Italy toward the end of the 13th century and the beginning of mechanization. A bucket wheel drives an axis which drives the mallets in three tanks. Eight to ten kilos of rags are thrown into the first tank. Over a period of 20 hours the rags are smashed repeatedly by hammers which are covered with sharp nails. The rags are then transferred to a second tank where hammers with flat-headed nails refine the fibres that SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAremain. In the third tank leather covered hammers refine the paste even further. While this machine accomplishes its task quite well, it is very noisy and time consuming.

Dutch pile: Invented in 1670 in Holland the Dutch pile or Crushing cylinder. They were initially driven by bucket wheels then later switched to turbine. Tanks were filled with 50 kilos of unfermented rags and 1,000 litres of water. The wooden cylinder attached with metal strips kneads the rags rubbing them agains other strips of metal or “platen” which are in the bottom of the tank. Due to a clamping screw, the cylinder can be lowered onto the platen. The result is that the paper-maker is capable of crushing the fibres while refining the paste numerous times utilizing the same machine. This machine is still working in numerous paper mills today.

Millstone grinder: This is driven by electrical power. The granite millstones weigh 3.3 tons each. The heaviest lays on the bottom of the tank weigh 4 tons each. It takes the millstone grinder one and a half hours to crush 300 kilos of moistened fibers, which was to recycle old papers.

Dutch pile and millstone grinder: Paste circulates inside the Dutch pile and covers the cylinder. The paste is ready. The plug is removed and allows the paste to flow down into a lower tank then onto the paper machine where water is added to the paste. The Dutch pile has been filled with the previously smashed paste inside the millstone grinder.

Dutch pile produces a very thick past that must be diluted in a tank. The resulting product will be 1 – 3 percent paste concentrate and 97 – 99 percent paste solution. A sieve is used to separate the fibres. A sieve is used to separate the fibres from the water. Each sieve is crafted by professionals and are imported from England. The tightened brass wires keep them parallel to each other with thick embossed seams.  The sieve consists of a thin plain metal canvas to create a vellum paper. The paper-maker attaches a wire to the canvas. The wire’s pattern gives the pieces of information on the paper’s size and who created it ( eagle, bell…). The removable frame cover fits the sieve and gives the paper shape and thickness. There are frames to form special papers, envelopes and other shapes.  The marks are called watermarks.

With the paste diluted, the fibres are mixed with a stick then the sieve is quickly plunged into the tank. As the water begins to drain off the sheet of paper is formed. The sheet is laid on a piece of woollen felt. One hundred sheets is called a ‘porse’. The more the past is diluted the thinner the page will be. Increase the paste for thickness.

When the sheets are piled without the felt it creates cardboard.

Drying: The sheets are lifted with a wooden stick and hung on ropes. The thicker the sheet the longer the drying time. The other factor is the weather. It can vary from a few hours in the summer to several days in the winter.

 

Bisous,

 

Léa

Paper garments
Paper garments
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Ecole Primaire: End of year extravaganza!

Ecole Primaire / Primary Schools: End of year extravaganza!

The French primary school covers the ages of six – eleven. This covers the equivalent of England’s school years of 3 – 6 and US grades 1 – 5. Subjects are divided into three main groups: 1. French, history, civic studies and geography 2. Science, math and technology 3. Physical education and sports, music and arts and crafts.

French law mandates Twenty-four hours of instruction per week. While some flexibility is given to the teacher as to which subjects to spend    time on each week. A national curriculum, which was established in 2008, provides additional class time and individualized assistance for students at risk of falling behind.

The Ministry of Education states that the official direction of a French elementary education is: “to ensure acquisition of the basic tools of knowledge: oral and written expression, reading and arithmetic. Its objective is to stimulate the development of the child’s intelligence, artistic sensibility, manual and physical skills and sporting abilities. It provides grounding in the plastic and musical arts, and, in conjunction with the family, undertakes the child’s moral and civil education.” The parents will observe that a great emphasis is placed on the basic skills: reading, writing and arithmetic.

Is there an opportunity for the child to learn a second language, if so, would that be English? The teacher will choose the language that he/she wants to expose to her students. As a result, the child may learn the basics of Spanish one year and English the next. Also, the standard of language instruction will vary depending on the teacher’s skills in that area. Should your primary language be other than French, it is advised you not rely on the teacher to substitute teaching the child’s native tongue. On numerous occasions it has been found that English-speaking children educated in French primary schools quickly become fluent and articulate in French and not progress in the native tongue without support from the parents. Among the list of supplies each student is required to obtain each year is a notebook that will be used not only by the child but also by the teacher and parents. It provides another link or way to communicate. The parents are expected to check the notebook for messages and sign to show that they have received any relevant information. Requests for meetings with the teacher or school principal would appear in the notebook. For more information you may want to visit: http://www.education.gouv.fr

The photos here represent the end of the school year festivities in a small village. It does happen to be where I live. There are 60 children enrolled and six classes, six teachers and a number of assistants. In addition, there is a British woman who resides here and volunteers to assist teachers that choose to teach English. Each year, the entire village is invited to attend an event put on by the students. They will perform theatrical skits; recite poetry, sing, and dance. At the end of the festivities, the teachers are presented with floral bouquets. The schoolyard is filled to overflow each year and many are left to watch from the outside the school yard gates. Even villagers without children or grandchildren will come to support the students and teachers.

Bisous,

Léa