Getting My Hands Dirty

Like many expats, finding myself in a strange land with none of the same resources and friends has inspired me to try new things. I recently tried my hand at ceramics at Les Bidoux, an art studio near Riberac, something I hadn’t done since I was child of around 10.

I had no idea that it would be so rewarding. Just getting my hands in the cool, earthy clay was a very pleasing experience. Slapping the hell out of it wasn’t half bad either, a move required to get the air bubbles out. (Marvelously therapeutic! But I won’t tell you who or what I thought about in that process.)

Jessie Mooy is the artist that runs the studio. I count myself truly fortunate to have her in my neighborhood…well, near enough. She’s not only very knowledgeable and helpful, she’s also an inspiring artist and turned out to be a kindred spirit. When I was considering taking the course with her, it was once I saw her website and artwork that I became truly excited. Her pieces are amazing!

I spent a month of Tuesday mornings with Jessie and two other women in the studio, driving about an hour each way. It was totally worth it. We all got on well and enjoyed one another’s company and artistic process. Dutch, English and some French was spoken…mostly English, though. Jessie always treated us to a tea break in her garden too which was nice…especially as the weather was just turning warmer.

mugnpot 2 better I think I really wanted to make sculpture right off the bat, but the teacher suggested that there were some basic techniques I needed to learn first. So the first thing I made was the little blue cup by pushing my thumb into a ball of clay and then using a manual wheel to shape it. outside one1 (Medium)

Afterwards, I learned to coil which resulted in the mug pictured here with an unintentionally-but nonetheless-ergonomic handle just right for my hand. It is a small thrill to drink my morning tea out of something I made myself!

For my third piece, I jumped right into sculpture; that resulted in my little fairy and snail statue which now sits on my front steps. Are they perfect? No. Does it matter? No. The fact is, I had fun. And I even want to do it again.

My husband and I joke now about my 100 mug, but of course, I got a lot more out of the lessons than a mug. I got to meet some lovely fellow-students, got to feel in control of something at a time when my life was feeling completely unrecognizable, learned a bit of technique and more importantly, discovered I wasn’t all that bad at it.

Grapes of Wrath?

Van Gogh and I have something in common. I wish it were talent, but alas, it is our fascination with grapevines!

Every time my husband and I drive somewhere, I have the benefit of the passenger seat where I am free to look out at the beautiful scenery here. The vineyards are exceptionally interesting at this time of year, naked as they are. Their twisted and contorted shapes are absolutely captivating. 20160305_155737 20160305_155610

Not too long ago, I took a walk through a vineyard with my camera. I saw all kinds of fairy-like shapes among the vines…cute little pixies poking out their bottoms, tormented ogres with wound-up faces, animal shapes, and even religious motifs. There are so many wonderful spirits in the vineyards!

gr1Yesterday, driving to Cafe de la Gare in Gourville where my husband was going to be teaching an art lesson, we came upon a strange sight. In fact, I made my husband pull the car over, I was so gr2astounded. An entire plot of grapevines had been beheaded! It was quite an eerie site.

I took some pictures of the strange vision. It actually made me quite sad; all those spirits decapitated! (I guess that’s the price of having a good imagination.)

20160305_153728I have since learned that this is something that forces all the energy of the plant into growing grapes instead of foliage. Makes sense. But what a massacre! Maybe that’s why the vines so often resemble Christ on the cross. They sacrifice themselves every year and give us wine in return.



Beautiful Brantôme

Bran 1Winter in France, especially rural France, can be a very dreary and lonely experience. A person can go for weeks without interaction! Everyone is shuttered up in their homes, making it appear as though no one lives anywhere. There isn’t much to do, I’m afraid, so one makes do.


Now that Spring has sprung, and with the warmer, sunnier weather, the old gray shutters are opening again and life is once more peering out of those gray, wintry hermit caves. Speaking of caves, this weekend, my husband and I drove just over an hour to visit the very picturesque town of Brantôme in the Dordogne region of France. It was a completely spontaneous excursion, and though Stuart has been there before, we didn’t know what we’d find…if anything…as it was Sunday when most things in France are closed.

I can’t tell you how excited I was to discover that shops were open…on a Sunday! And the little village was teeming with people. It was wonderful. We walked along the river and in the park, enjoying the perfectly cool, but sunny weather.

champers chat

I think we both felt like patients let out of the ward! The first thing we did was have a couple of ice cream cones. Then we perused the handful of shops that were open.

I mentioned caves before because Brantôme is an area rich with grottes. We didn’t partake of any tours, but I did enjoy feeling the delicious change in temperature walking just in front of some of the caves against which the town is built. I absolutely love that cool, earthy air!fountain

Since we had missed the lunch hour and the restaurants were only serving drinks (French Lesson: If you don’t eat at culturally appointed “mealtimes”, you are generally out of luck), we ended up eating at a little tea house. Our sandwiches were delicious, but neither of us could resist following up with an additional ice cream cone. (Hey! It was a day to celebrate!)

It did us both a world of good…the ice cream and the jaunt!

(Photos by Stuart Davies or Dielle Ciesco 2016)