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Q+A: RENÉ SHOEMAKER + HOPE HILTON DISCUSS FRANCE, BEING AN ARTIST, INSPIRATION, CHANGE, THE dÉRIVE, COMMUNITY, THE SITUATIONISTS, + MORE

 
walt Whitman
 
 

I've been wanting to ask these questions of René for some time, and I was so very happy when our schedules allowed the time to make this happen. A little background: I knew René's work years before I knew René personally, and I quietly watched her work grow and evolve from the sidelines. As an artist and curator, a big part of what I do is pay attention to how creatives and thinkers are responding to the world. Watching the work happen is a beautiful thing to behold, and I draw from this collection when I put exhibitions together or pair artists up to collaborate. It's like being a composer, a poet, and a philosopher all at once! When I finally met René we were fast friends, and I always have her work in mind when I'm in the world and thinking about what the world needs - more slowing down, more curiosity, more dream following, more wandering, and more, well, hope. René offers this. Enjoy our Q+A! xoHope

Hope Hilton: I've always wondered - at what point did you know you were an artist?

René Shoemaker: At a very young age I was always creating and seeking inspiration. One of my earliest creations - way before I was 5 years old - was a horse that I pieced together from the cloth of my Mom’s sewing discards. I cut out the pieces and sewed them onto another piece of cloth (some might call that ‘applique’).

 

HH: When did you decide to pursue your art full time?

RS: Oh, man, this has been inside of me for a long, long time. I had a “master plan” to retire from The University of Georgia absolutely the MOMENT that I could - not because I didn't like my job as Library Director/ Librarian / Gallery Director (I did like it, tremendously) - but so I could practice my art full time. I had been making art all along, always, but became more serious about it in 1998 when I returned from a summer working in Cortona, Italy. I was in a job there surrounded by artists and art-making people (not to mention the gorgeous Italian hillside architecture and use of the land!) and was completely inspired. Once I began making art more intently, I also discovered how time-consuming the business of art is. Retirement allowed me this time.

HH: Ahhh, retirement... you are doing it right, in my opinion. Now that you have this freedom, you can go anywhere, do anything. I love that you've settled in France and cannot wait to visit! How has being an artist there differed from being an artist in the States? What is something that's easier to get accomplished in the States and vice versa?

RS: I have the feeling that the French have a different attitude toward artists here. It’s not different as much as it is in the States. Here it's just another job description, a part of life! I also discovered that being an artist, and having an exhibition scheduled and about to open so soon after my arrival, was a wonderful introduction to my new community. Who I was and what Harvey and I were doing there was open to the public. In our new place we seemed to be integrated into the community a lot quicker than if it were otherwise.

It’s easier to work here in France because there are less distractions. At home I have a schedule, I have friends, I have social obligations. Here, I have my studio, I have my house, I have Harvey, and the landscape that calls to me every day. Everything, everyday, is an inspiration.

HANDS DOWN it’s easier to find the art supplies I need in Athens, Georgia. I will never, ever, ever again take for granted the fabulous service that The Loft and KA Artist Shop offer to the artists and creatives of the region. I would not be where I am today without the support - and the supplies - from KA and The Loft.

Feeling spaces became something I noticed then,

and it has continued.

- René Shoemaker

 

HH: I think I take internet-ordering for granted, too, in terms of art supplies. And, yes, we have this amazing community here in Athens that supports artists through all levels of their work. I wanna talk about your new work, the work I respond to the most. Much of your new work is an investigation and commitment to a specific community, and because architecture has been a big part of your work (and life!) in the past, did this just happen naturally, or did you know that you wanted to encounter a whole city?

RS: I know I want to conquer the world, and what better way to do it than city by city? I’m not sure where my connection to place comes from... Well, now that I write that, I can imagine that it comes from exploring and the sense of place I created by living in the woods in a handmade house. Traveling in France, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands gave me a sense that there are other ways of doing things, often the everyday things that we take for granted. (i.e.: architecture and living spaces and the differences abroad versus home). Christopher Alexander’s book “A Pattern Language” had a big impact on me and my viewpoint.

I also moved at age 17 from everything I knew (not so early in life, but a transformative experience for me) and this provoked new sensations, a kind of "feeling" of spaces. I was searching for the meaning of life then, and also tuning in to the details - loving the sound of the tires on the pavement as I traveled down the road - usually in a friend’s car or by hitchhiking. Later on, in my own car (an International Harvester pickup truck!), it was me and my Great Dane, Eric, having marvelous explorations. Feeling spaces became something I noticed then, and it has continued.

After having wandered for over 10 years, and landing in Athens... You know, it's a very small town - only 10 square blocks in the downtown area - but it feels good. The spaces are intriguing, the juxtaposition of new and old architecture inspirational. I love looking at the old Otasco building (now the Holmes-Hunter) as I cross Broad Street to North Campus at the University. Harvey and I had a small business downtown and I spent 30+ years on North Campus, so downtown Athens was like a home... I had an art studio there, and I felt very happy to be there.

 

HH: And now MY studio is on the exact floor where yours was, years later! I loved the day you told me about that. I looked at the space differently, I envisioned it as when you inhabited it. Not a lot has changed but someone put carpet in the halls and painted the stairs... it's a different space now. But the same place. What prompted you to explore places to begin with and how has this idea changed for you?

RS: For my first solo exhibition at Clayton Street Gallery in Athens in 2001, I offered two proposals - one of exploring the town of Athens and one an exploration of my house (handbuilt, octagon-shaped, in the woods). The Director chose the house proposal and we named it “Ethereal Spaces.” We also decided to pursue the other proposal the following year, and “From Here to There” was born from my explorations of Downtown Athens and the University of Georgia. Then and there, my career was born.

Also, I don't want to forget that when I first moved to the Florida Keys in 1969, way before University, I took a drawing class from a local artist. He took us around to the various locations in the Keys, and what I remember the most - what had the biggest impression on me -  were the old weather-beaten structures on Pigeon Key. There I discovered the beauty of lines that are not straight. I learned how to draw perspective from that artist, and I also learned how to veer away from true perspective with confidence.

 

HH: I love that, when teachers share with you all of the levels of things, and everything involved, and how to just approach it with enough lack of fear to evolve it into a confident mark or gesture. How cool that you were exploring the Keys as part of a class! Now that explorations of place are revered in the art world, especially in prominent museums and galleries, your work is part of a large canon of artists that focus on community, history, and exploring.  One of my favorite movements in art history were the Situationists (in France in the mid 20th century!), and one of their best projects, in my opinion, was setting the intention to wander. They called it a dérive: to wander without knowing why or where you'll end up. How do you feel about connecting to this great idea of the past to now?

RS: I‘m happy to hear that explorations of place are now revered in the art world -- can we schedule a show of my work at a major New York City museum now? :) I love your connection of my sense of exploration to the Situationists’ quest for an “unplanned journey”. There are so many things that point to the fact that I must have lived in France in a former life, as in my name: Re =again né = born... there is no French blood in my family to invite a French name be given to me, yet here I am. Wandering... being alive...

To wander! This is the perfect way to exist. No maps, no guidebooks, only discoveries.

And the past? The Situationists were not so long ago. The past is connected to the present. Always.

A wonderful consequence of the work that I do - exploring a place through its spaces - are the stories I receive in return. This was an unexpected result of putting my art out into the world. My visual stories encourage others to explore, and see, and remember, their own discoveries of a place.

 

HH: In my opinion, the stories and connections are the best thing to come out of creating and sharing art. Why do you think we are craving work like this again, work that connects us? 

RS: Are we? In this life of disconnectedness (especially in the States), I believe there is a strong urge to connect. Families are changing. Nondescript strip malls have taken over America. The concept of “belonging” constantly changes. People wander. Others ask questions. I, myself, was disconnected and rootless for over 10 years, from my late teens to late 20’s. I haven’t consciously made that connection before (of my work related to place and my disconnectedness in the past), but maybe this question will lead to the answer for me?

I believe in the beauty and simplicity of line and color. This quiet beauty is what I am trying to share with the world.

HH: And sharing that with the world helps us rest, connect, recognize, wonder... And I want to understand, because you headed to France at such a tumultuous time politically (newly elected president here and there, immigration politics and terrorism, etc.), what are the conversations like about the States there, if there are any? How do you see us represented or generalized across the pond?

RS: I’m living in a very rural area, and am not completely fluent in the language, so I’m not sure I can say much about the mood of this country towards America. These days I don’t read the news, nor do I watch TV... Although people do shake their head in disbelief if the name of our current president comes up. Otherwise, I find that the USA is still well respected, and that there is still a memory that the United States helped France immensely in WWII. 

 

HH: That's really good to hear in so many ways, as I've received emails from friends across the globe offering help and support. I like focusing on the local, on my small town and my amazingly diverse state, and doing my best. I also haven't been the best at keeping up with the news. Perhaps this is showing up in our art? I have noticed changes in your work since you were in France! Being in new spaces often brings along a shift that's usually quite strong, and often quite brave. So you're in this new place, and it's yours so you can settle in, and just... do your work. It sounds like a dream! I've watched your work shift in the exploration in and around other new spaces - from working in pencil and pastel at your Penland Residency to working HUGE at the Columbus Museum… and I'm not the only one who is noticing! This question is from your dear reader Maureen:

Maureen: My question is about the use of threads sewn onto your work. What inspired you to add that touch?

RS: Moving to France gave me the freedom to release myself from any boxes I had placed myself in, even before the move actually happened. There was something about the fact - in my head - that the people here were not familiar with my work, and that I could be free to try any method, medium, idea - there were no expectations of who I was and what my work had been in the past. The only person who had any idea of my previous work was M Wilfried Celerien, the Adjoint au Mairie of Felletin, whom I had made the original proposal for my current exhibition to - and I am happy to say he was delighted to see my new direction(s).

Thank you, Maureen, for always asking such thoughtful questions! I have been considering adding stitching to my silk paintings for quite a while but was unsure of how I would approach it, and how I could make it “different” from other artists’ work. My framed silks always have an element of stitching, as I hand stitch the silk to the mat board - but often these stitches become invisible to the eye.

When I arrived in France and was faced with a deadline to create and complete a body of art for an exhibition in a short period of time, my resources were (very) limited and I was free to experiment with new materials. I located embroidery threads with the right colors at the local recycle store. There are two layered silk paintings in the Felletin exhibit, and as I didn’t have an embroidery hoop, I had no way of keeping the fabric taut while I worked on it. I stitched through the mat board to add texture to the flowers in one design, and to highlight the wooden shutters and metal door slats on the other. It seems crazy, because it was only a few stitches, but I really could go on for hours discussing the reasons behind my actions!

And as a side note - I have always had an element of working large with my art. From my senior BFA exhibit when I had weavings, embroideries, and monoprints at a 6’x6’ size, to motion drawings I created at Penland that were 4’ x 6’, to a silk painting installation at the Ramsey Center at UGA that was 4’ x 12’ (x3). I feel comfortable working large, so working small here was also a new experiment.

The Short answer? 

I wanted to add texture and color to a simple design in a subdued way.

 

HH: So, are you afraid of anything?

RS: Rien. If I am afraid of something, I try hard to identify in and overcome it. Consciously.

 

HH: Any advice for young artists?

RS: Work hard. Never give up. Look inside and don’t forget who you are. Trust your instincts.

Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 9.48.26 PM.png

HH: And what's next for you?

RS: Taking over the world. Exploring new media and pushing the boundaries of the work that I do. A museum exhibition in Mississippi in 2019. An art show in Bordeaux, France in 2017. I am always searching for opportunities, and I look forward to exhibiting again in Athens!

 

HH: What is your life’s force?

RS: 1. Perseverance furthers.   2. A sense of constant amazement at what I experience, and the fact that I am constantly amazed by the NEGATIVE SPACE shape of the sky against a building’s roofline.

HH: Any questions for us?

RS: I love feedback and stories. I’d love people to respond to this interview by writing about their experiences with my art. This helps me more than they can ever know.

 

HH: It really is such a huge part of it all, that conversation and that community. Thank you so much for sharing with us. Dear readers, please feel invited to share below any stories or inspirations. Let René and I know where you wander, or what currently inspires you.

 

 

RS: Thank you, Hope Hilton!

 

- René Shoemaker

July 17, 2017

La Creuse, France

 

 

 

OPENING NIGHT!!!

(& What Goes Into Making An Exhibition)

The day finally arrived to celebrate and share with the public all of the new work that I created for La Mémoire Et Le Lieu: Exposition De Peintures Sur Soie De René Shoemaker | Memory And Place: Exhibition Of Silk Paintings By René Shoemaker. Please enjoy having a look!

Here I am with Harvey feeling the glow of sharing my work with my new community here in Felletin

Here I am with Harvey feeling the glow of sharing my work with my new community here in Felletin

The exhibition is up, it is awake, tourists and new friends and neighbors mingle and visit, and I'm even featured in the local newspaper! What an incredible experience. I honestly don't know how it could have been better. 

A lot was made of the relationship between dyeing, weaving, and textile design and my work during the opening. I find this especially intriguing due to the fact that Felletin is the center of textile weaving and custom dyeing (see my last post for more). What an inspiring place to live and work! And for my new community to discover these connections feels like such a gift, like I'm exactly where I need to be. And as promised, here are photos from the Vernissage* on June 21, 2017. Click on any image to see larger:

OPENING NIGHT IMAGES BY THE INCREDIBLE YVELINE LE GRAND:

* the word Vernissage is of a curious origin and it fascinated me, so I thought I'd share the definition: noun: vernissage; plural noun: vernissages - a private viewing of paintings before public exhibition.

An art opening in France was called a vernissage because it was the first viewing of a new body of work, and often the varnish (painted on top of completed oil paintings to protect them) was still wet. 'Vernis' means 'varnish' in French.

 

THE PROCESS OF MAKING AN EXHIBITION

There is so much that goes into an exhibition. This one in particular was perfect for the imagination, as I could not use the walls. Not only that, but the art needed to be moveable for meetings, weddings, parties... Tons of brainstorming ensued, and I landed on the perfect solution. With my husband Harvey's help, we created beautiful wooden screens to showcase my work. It was exactly right!

There is so much more... from choosing the pieces to paint from my daily explorations of Felletin to hunkering down in the studio for days on end, to arranging for the framing in French (NOT my native language!), to collaborating with my friend Eleanora Machado, who was a genius in designing the promotional materials like postcards and signage while on a flight to Brazil (her home country) from the US, to sending out press releases, to putting all of the framed work together to understand the story it wants me to tell... I'm sure I've forgotten others...

Please select any image below to enlarge and read more about the story of the installation process:

ALL WORK NOT YET SOLD IS BEING ADDED TO MY ONLINE SHOP! ADD TO YOUR COLLECTION!

I'M IN THE NEWSPAPER! IN FRENCH!

Aubusson --> Life in your city                                                                                              

Exhibition: René Shoemaker, an American artist, has fallen in love with Felletin & the Creuse, by Robert Guinot

Her painting connects memory and place

The expressions of René Shoemaker are not destined for tourist souvenirs. This American artist who paints on silk delivers a personal perception of Felletin, one that falls between poetry and naivety, with great accuracy of line and colors.

 

René Shoemaker, exhibiting for the first time in the Creuse, in the department where she has, with her husband, decided to live six months each year. The couple has acquired the good habit of lingering here during the good seasons of Felletin, where they now have many friends.  Last winter they bought a house, not in Felletin, but in a village of the commune of St. Maixant.

Since Tuesday, Rene Shoemaker proposes “Place and Memory,” at the City Hall in Felletin. The opening reception on Wednesday, allowed her to bring together other Americans, and of course English, who have adopted, as she has, the south of La Creuse.  (1)

The town of Felletin seen by an American

“In Felletin, I feel good and I return very often. But it is at St. Maixant that we have found the house of our dreams. Today, we are sharing time between La Creuse and the USA but we don’t exclude the possibility of finding a life here permanently. We visited the Creuse for the first time some years ago, on our way somewhere else; we immediately fell in love with the place. It is super.”

Rene Shoemaker was a librarian at the University of Georgia, USA. She began devoting more and more time to her painting. From the University of Georgia, she has a complete academic artistic training.

For a long time now, she found her own expression in a particular technique; she works essentially on silk. In Felletin, in the Marriage Hall, she displays her paintings on silk and also some silkscreen designs. She likes drawing, and she fills her sketchbooks with drawings as she walks around the town of Felletin. Her designs start from a point of reality and then let the imagination sail to capture the images of the real world; images that have a meaning, a depth, and here, a memory. A house, an architectural detail or a neighborhood can inspire her. It passes from the rapid sketch to a painting that tends towards non-representation. René Shoemaker Is trained in weaving, and is conscious of the fact that she is, in Aubusson and Felletin, living in the country of the basse lisse (low warp weaving loom), an area which has a tradition of weavers and dyers (2).

A unique, accurate and sensitive view

René Shoemaker has certainly been not only sensitive to the l’eglise du Moutier, but also to the roofs of the town. She has lingered in the rue des Fossés, and the rue de Beaumont (where the house of her friends has inspired her). She has been transformed the old service station…

Her representations sometimes approach abstraction, other times naivety.  All are formed by a characteristic trait affirmed by the assured strength of the drawing and by a limited chromatic range. She shares a unique view full of accuracy and sensitivity.

 

 

 

footnotes (1) + (2) are in translation ... coming soon

La mémoire et le lieu: Exposition de peintures sur soie de René Shoemaker

Memory and Place: Exhibition of Silk Paintings by René Shoemaker

My solo exhibition in Felletin, France, is nearing its installation completion... and then opening to the public! I'm beyond excited! As I write this, all of the finishing touches are happening. My husband Harvey has joined in on the fun, and is currently finishing the construction of some portable walls. It truly does take a village, and I'm so grateful for Harvey, my friend Eileen who has helped make it all happen, my new friend Eric (who also happens to be the grandson of the couple who opened Le Grand Café, which shows up often in my artwork. Small world! See the latest piece at the show and a detail below), and friends near and far who have offered their well wishes, expertise, and overall enthusiasm. 

The announcement (thanks, Eleanora!)

The announcement (thanks, Eleanora!)

The announcement in situ

+ + +

FRAMING ARTWORK IN FRANCE

I wanted to work with someone local to frame my new works, rather than schlep a bunch of framed pieces from the States, and I found a perfect collaborator in Thierry Roger. How incredible it is to work with someone so well even though we don't speak the same language! He prepares the mat board for me, which I then sew my silks onto. I return the finished works and he frames them beautifully. He also dyes wool for tapestry artisans, and is the last traditional dyer of yarn in Aubusson, so we are clearly a match made in heaven in our love of color.

detail of a new work featuring Le Grand Café, opened by Eric's grandparents

detail of the sewn mat board (click to enlarge)

+ + +

Here I offer you a sneak peek of what's to come on Wednesday:

+ + +

COMING UP

In the next several weeks I look forward to sharing exhibition images, a story about Les Michelines, an incredible silkscreen studio and atelier that I collaborated with (hi, Mélanie!), as well as a conversation between myself and curator/artist Hope Hilton on how my work has evolved in the last year, with a special focus on my move to France and working in a new studio. If you have any questions that you'd like to see answered, send them along or comment below and we will happily include them.

Merci! -René

 

Doorknobs, Tools + Latches

As I look around me, in this new old French house with its two timeworn barns, I find remnants of the people who lived here before me. The masons who shaped stones and built houses, sometimes traveling for days by foot to other locales to market their skills. The farmers who lived with and tended to their animals. The workers-of- the-land who created tools by hand, when necessity required their creation. 

Shoemaker-France-Ring1-72a.jpg
Shoemaker-France-Latch2-72.jpg

The stories of these items are whispered in my ear, and visit me while I sleep.

There is so much history here, and I am living it.

And here is another one of the other great experiences of the days spent here: le coucher du soleil (the laying down on the sun). Isn't it extraordinary?

MORE GOOD NEWS:

My exhibit in Felletin, has been confirmed! The opening reception will be held on June 21, from 6-8 p.m., and the exhibit will be on display for three months, through August 18, 2017.
 

Place Courtaud, Felletin

Place Courtaud, Felletin

Exposition de peintures sur soie d'endroit et de mémoire
                                    Paintings on Silk of Place and Memory
                                            by René Shoemaker

Mairie de Felletin
12, place Charles de Gaulle
23500 Felletin
France

IN ATHENS, GA & ONLINE:

Rooftops. Paris, 14th.

Rooftops. Paris, 14th.

BMA @ Home, displays and offers my paintings on silk so that you may discover them while I am having this adventure in France. You can see the paintings, like the one above, at: 

BMA Designs
1662 South Lumpkin St.
Athens, Ga 30606 USA
+1.706.353.0770
www.bmadesigns.com

JE SUIS ARRIVÉ

Living in France 

When am I allowed to say I live in France? Is it when we bought the house? (No). Is it when we arrived in April to move in? (No). Is it one week, one month, one year after we arrived? (Maybe).

L-R clockwise: coffee at the hearth on our first night here, a composition of flowers against a fresh white wall, our new home before the grass was cut, a break for coffee in the yard

As I rode my bike from my village to the next yesterday, zooming down the hill, on my way to draw the church and castle there, I had the feeling: “I belong here”. I sat up a little taller, looked more fully at the fields surrounding me, breathed in the fresh, cool air and I smiled. Je suis arrivé.

Coming home from a long ride on my bicycle

I have studied French for over 20 years - off and on - but never received the degree I sought as I found that studying the language consumed all of my time (no time left over for art!). It was very difficult for me (all those rules and exceptions to the rules - egads!). Now that I am here, though, I can tell that those years of reading French literature and fables, of taking the Conversation and Composition class a zillion times, paired with previous trips to France… the language is beginning to come together in my head. It is still difficult to speak - and comprehend when people speak to me - but I can tell there is a chink in the door, I can see a path towards understanding, and I know that with every day it becomes just a little easier as just a little more of the words I hear make their way into my brain.

As an artist, what is exciting me the most about my physical world is that there are no right angles here! Everything is handmade, worn with age, settled with years, and roads are created by feet, not by plum lines. The stone houses are created by the patterns of the stones; the interiors of the houses are molded by hand; the door knobs and furniture have been loved by hands for years.

L-R clockwise: the stones that make up our home, a nook for the most fantastic coffee break, a gift from a neighbor - goose eggs along with a chicken egg

Oh, and the landscape… Let me tell you about this beautiful landscape I have landed in. There are ubiquitous rolling hills. There are large skies. When the sun shines, everything is beautiful and green. These nights are filled with skies populated with dense stars, even more stars than our place in the U.S.! When the clouds prevail, it is beautiful in a cool, moist way. The greens get greener, the cows by the road more defined. The roads are narrow and curving here. It is also a fabulous area for bicycling - so much to see with enough of a workout to be a challenge.

Most of the houses are stone structures, as is ours. In Georgia, we live in isolation, in a wooden house, tucked into the forested countryside. Here we are in a hamlet, surrounded by friendly people who stop in to check on us, and give us our daily dose of French. We eat French baguettes. We drink French wine. We marvel every day at our good luck. We are here. Nous sommes ici.

The view! The view!

Click to enlarge and see the dolmen, likely from the Neolithic period

Sunset view from the house

We have the most incredible hearth

The back of the house. So much to discover! Such light!

I love the landscape here!

PS - A note about the election that just happened here… I wish that I had been able to vote, and am so very fortunate to live in a country where love prevailed!

PPS - In Athens, GA, USA, new work is up at BMA @ Home, just in time for Mother's Day! Click here to purchase!

 

MY NEW HOUSE IN FRANCE / MA NOUVELLE MAISON EN FRANCE

Let me tell you about my new house in France. I'm on my way there now!                                                                 + But I have been on my way there for over 30 years...

Quote by Gregory Kramer collaged on top of a new work on silk

I want you to know that anything is possible. My husband Harvey and I planted a very small seed of this dream many, many years ago, and it has finally bloomed. France has always spoken to both of us. We love the light, the language, the culture, the rolling hills of the countryside and the bustle of the cities. I especially am drawn to the deep love of art as a part of life. Not only am I going to France for six months to live and make work in a modest, old, mysterious home in a small, sleepy hamlet, but I also have an exhibition nearby that I have been madly preparing for. My dreams are coming true!

I want to share with you a little bit about this journey, because I'm not a "second home" kind of person. I raised my family in a homemade home in the woods outside of Athens, Georgia. Harvey and I were fortunate to buy property before the real estate boom in Athens, and we lived extremely modestly as we raised our children. Who needs a television when nature is right outside every window? I am fortunate to not have my values based on material culture as much as the culture that living life as our best selves gives us. A life full of love and leaky roofs and deer-scavenged gardens and the language of the forest. So, how did I buy a home in France? It sounds very complicated to some, but it's really about patience, commitment, and perseverance. Our little house in the woods in the US afforded us the saving of pennies, and the land we own is vast. We were able to recently sell a small parcel, using an incredible real estate agent (and an even more incredible artist!) named Sean Dunn, and we happily and fortunately sold part of our land to a young family with similar interests as we held when we started our homestead. 

So, back to the question... how to buy a house in France? You look and look for years. You travel all around the countryside. You find a small place that feels like you belong. You go back and you visit and you make friends. You find a house that feels right, that's ready to live in but not completely renovated. I like it when homes are real, strong, and full of stories. It's not covered in coats of paint, there is nothing fancy about it. We paid cash for our home, that's how unbelievably affordable it was. It's perfect. 

Today -- right now, in fact -- I am on a plane to live in France. Our son Sam and our lovely dog will hold down the homestead outside of Athens. I will set up my studio in the old barn that is part of the property, connected to the home. I like to think about everything that came there before me, and I wonder how it will influence my work. I look forward to sharing this journey with you. 

This is our opportunity to shine. It is our opportunity to immerse ourselves in a place that we love. It is our opportunity to live the adventure we dreamt up so many years ago. Thanks so much for joining us!

A painting about a dream... read more about this new work and what inspired in on instagram, where I'll be posting regularly. 

Today. Leaving our home in Georgia (with Sam) for our new home in France! (Click to view larger) L-R: René, Sam, Harvey

The full moon waving us away

On the plane to France, 20:30, 12 April 2017

The best studio intern ever! Henry is the babe of my amazing studio assistant Jess. Check out her studio HERE! And more Henry is here :)

The best studio intern ever! Henry is the babe of my amazing studio assistant Jess. Check out her studio HERE! And more Henry is here :)

How did February get to be so busy?

Do you feel as busy as I do? Not only is it the month of love, but apparently it is the month of art, too! Here is a list of the upcoming events I am participating (or teaching!) and I wanted to be sure you had the chance to add them to your calendar:
 

 

Love in All It’s Many Forms
KA Artist Shop

February 14 - March 31, 2017
Reception: Thursday, March 16th, 2017 7-9pm
127 N Jackson St. Athens, GA 30601 / Phone: 706-850-1224

 

 

Love On the Side
Creature Comforts Brewing Company

February 14 - Feb 25, 2017
Reception: Wednesday, February 15th, 2017 5-8 pm
271 W Hancock Ave. Athens, Ga 30601 / Phone: 706-410-1043

 

 

Solo Exhibition
Heirloom Cafe & Fresh Market

March through April, 2017
Reception: TBA
815 N. Chase St. Athens, Ga 30601 / Phone: 706-354-7901

 

 

Let There Be Art 2017
Invitational Art Show & Sale at Columbus Museum of Art

April 6-13, 2017
Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, GA 31906

 

 

Solo Exhibition
Ville de Felletin, France

June 21 - August 19, 2017
Reception: TBA
12 place Charles-de-Gaulle 23500 Felletin, France / Phone: 05 55 66 51 11
 

 

Workshop - Silk Painting
KA Artist Shop

Saturday, March 11, 2017 1-5 PM, KA Artist Shop
127 N Jackson St. Athens, GA 30601 / Phone: 706-850-1224

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO + TO SIGN UP!

Businesses That Inspire Me #2: American Giant

Sometimes I am so delighted by a business transaction that I feel compelled to share how good the experience - and the company - are. In this moment of admiration, I realize how much I can learn from a well-run, ethical company about how I should transact business with my customers. 

I first read about the apparel company American Giant on another blog post, and right away I knew this was a company I wanted to watch. The clothing looked comfortable and stylish, but it was the story that really grabbed my attention: American Made and Built to Last. I requested a catalog - because I love paper catalogs and getting things in the mail - and when it arrived I was even more pleased. The catalog was sumptuous, printed on nice heavyweight paper, with good color and layout, and great photography. The message was clear -  "We started American Giant with a simple goal: MAKE EXCEPTIONAL CLOTHES IN THE USA, AND OFFER THEM AT A FAIR PRICE."      

Wow - I like it! The attention to detail, the quality of the merchandise, and the way American Giant told their story all had me reaching for the “buy now” button. I ordered their newly released pant (“designed to fit and flatter every body type”) and essential hoodie, because for me - that is the perfect casual outfit!

Once I placed my order, the communication from the company was clear and timely. I was even more pleased with the speed of delivery. I received a message informing me that “The Pant” was so popular (even though it had just been introduced) that its expected ship date would be the day my zip hoodie was to arrive, but it turned out that it actually arrived with the rest of my order, making me very happy.

And oh, how I love a good box! Everything was packed neatly in a box that was just the right size. When my order arrived (so quickly!, even with free shipping), I had the perfect ensemble for travel, work, and kicking around town - a black fitted pant and a beautiful, comfortable, well-fitting black hoodie! I have been looking for the perfect black hoodie for a long time, and now I have found it. Once I tried my new purchases on, I realized how comfortable this outfit was. I was sold. So, lessons learned from this transaction are those I want to apply to my own practice:

  • Offer a great product (well made, timeless, and high quality and attention to detail).
  • Offer exceptional customer service (pay attention to your customer, anticipate questions, and keep in touch through every step of the transaction).
  • Use high quality, attractive packaging, and ship in a timely manner. 
  • Make the customer happy with their newly acquired item.
  • Offer Free returns - “any item, any reason, any time”
  • Include the Statement of Purpose everywhere - loud and clear and in easy to understand language

Now I can carry these lessons into my art business as it grows and blossoms. Planning for success means paying attention to lessons all around me.

Another business that inspires me? Moo! Check out my review HERE

Thanks for being here! What businesses are inspiring you lately? I'd love to hear!

SPEAKING OF INSPIRATION: LOVE OF THE LOCAL

If you're in Athens, be sure to see this exquisite exhibition with artist and textile designer (& yet another business that inspires me) Sara Parker:

February 6th-24th @ UGA

Improvisation in Repeat is the result of a process of deconstruction and play. These pieces each execute a concept or set of guidelines which, while agreed on in advance, require reconsideration and improvisation at every stage of creation. The concepts on display range from a mathematical approach to color mixing, layering to create depth and density, and color blending via image masking and transparency.

MORE INSPIRATION: MY LOVE OF LIFE 

Just a handful of images to give you a glimpse into my world. I am so fortunate to make work that I love and to travel!

New Beginnings in the Studio

As work in my studio begins for the new year, I’d like to invite you in, show you what I’m working on, and invite your feedback. Let me know what you think about my designs for this new series, and what advice you have for me. (Select any image to enlarge)

I have an exciting new project: An art exhibit in France! The exhibit opens June 21st in Felletin, midway between the cities of Limoges and Clermont-Ferrand in central France, at the heart of the French tapestry production area. Felletin is located on the river Creuse, dating back to before medieval times. 

I have already visited this area several times (and fallen in love with it!), so I have a collection of photographs and sketches to work from. I love exploring its streets, traveling on foot or bicycle from the main square down the hill towards the river, where an old railroad station sits amid a budding arts district of studios, workshops, and restaurants. Fewer than 2,000 people live in Felletin, so it is a cozy if sprawling town. Meander up the hill from the square and you’ll find sheep and cattle grazing in beautiful open fields. In a section of town called Beaumont (“beautiful hill”) one hilltop offers spectacular views, while another hill’s narrow, winding streets feature small houses with doors and shutters in beautiful muted colors.

The town slowly reveals itself to me. I love the feeling of discovery as I peek into backyards and courtyards. Is that a goat living in the middle of the city? A horse in the front yard of that small chateau? What a beautiful garden hidden behind that sturdy stone wall! There are monumental buildings and modest ones, historic churches, homes belonging to workers, artisans, and bishops. I am excited to meet the people of Felletin through this new project and exhibit, and to learn their stories along the way. And I look forward to sharing them with you.

Thanks for coming along for the adventure!

MORE GOOD NEWS:

NEW WORKSHOP Saturday, March 11th @ KA Artist Shop

Hand painting on silk is an ancient art with a rich history from India, China, and Japan. The process of silk painting begins with stretching silk on a frame, sketching / transferring the design onto the silk, mixing dye colors, and painting. This is exactly what we will do in the class together. Silk painting is a fabulous technique that makes the silk come alive with color as you apply the dye to the silk.

Each workshop participant will create (and take home) a painting on a 22” square hemmed silk that can be worn as a scarf or displayed as a wall hanging.

All supplies will be provided & no experience necessary

Click HERE to sign up!

 

NOW ON VIEW

 

Gratitude, Thanksgivings, & Plans for the New Year

I love the New Year.

I love New Beginnings.

I love the anticipation of something marvelous just around the corner, and I love setting goals for the new year. 

In 2017, my goals include entering a number of juried shows, both here and abroad. I plan to contact art galleries with the intention of finding one to represent my art. I intend to make art all year long, while keeping a schedule and finding a work/life balance that allows me to do what I love and minimize stress. And I intend to become financially stable as an artist, selling enough art to keep buying supplies for my new work – and to fund travel, of course. 

As much as I love looking ahead, I also love looking back: reflecting on the year that has ended and taking stock of what worked, what didn’t, and what happened in my family, my art, and my relationship to the world. Reflecting allows me to express gratitude for all that I have: my family, my friends, my health, and the ability to share my art with the world. I am grateful for my team, those who support me and help me pull together the many strands of the life and career I am trying to create. I am grateful to live in a beautiful house in a beautiful place, and to call the woods my home. And I am grateful and excited to have purchased a modest house in rural France that will become a satellite home and studio for Harvey and I. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - >

So, you may ask: 
 What HAVE I been doing all year? 

This, my dear reader, is my artistic year in review:

MUSEUM PERMANENT COLLECTION

1a+b. My art is now in the permanent collection of the Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA
       

EXHIBITS, AUCTIONS, FUNDRAISERS, & RECEPTIONS

Clockwise L-R                                                                                                                                                            2. The year-long exhibit of Discovering the Chattahoochee Valley: Silk Paintings by René Shoemaker continued through July 2017 at the Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA                                                                                         3. Columbus Museum Discovering the Chattahoochee Valley closing party
4. Unveiling party at a collector’s home celebrating her acquisition of work from the Columbus Museum exhibit
5. Exhibited prints on paper in New York City at Grand Central Terminal, NYC, and Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY
6. Invited to exhibit at the 10x10 Art for Education exhibit and fundraiser at the Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA       7. Exhibited in the Portrait exhibit at KA Artist Shop Gallery, Athens, GA
8. Invited to exhibit at The Cultural Landscape Foundation annual fundraiser in New Orleans, LA
9. Invited to exhibit at the All About Art fundraiser for the Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, GA

 

SALES, COMMISSIONS, & SPECIAL ORDERS

Clockwise L-R                                                                                                                                                         
10. Large Columbus silk paintings purchased by collector and patron                                                                          
11. Holiday cards commissioned by Columbus resident
12. Nano, a bird portrait commissioned by his human "grandmum"                                                                          
13. A Double Bass instrument portrait created for a Professor of Double Bass and his special family

 

RETAIL LOCATIONS

Clockwise L-R                                                                 
14. Columbus Museum gift shop, Columbus, GA
15. Aurum Studios, Athens, GA                                                 
16. Avid Bookstore, Athens, GA                                               
17. KA Artist Shop, Athens, GA
18. Jittery Joe’s Coffeeshop in 5 Points, Athens, GA
19. Jittery Joe’s Roasters, Athens, GA
20. Treehouse Kid & Craft Handmade Artist Market, Athens, GA                 
and always: reneshoemaker.com/shop

 

PUBLICATIONS

Clockwise L-R                                                                                                                                                           21. Compendium of Craft & Creativity included my artwork with an interview, Uppercase Publishers, Calgary, Canada
22a+b. Published art review of Scott Pope exhibit, Flagpole Magazine, Athens, GA; with the artist Scott Pope
23. Published blog posts all year, the most popular being about travel and adventures, i.e. Brooklyn Bound!Bonjour de France!, Why I Love France, Part II, and A Sense of Place: The Completions of a Museum Exhibition

 

TEACHING, ARTIST TALKS, AND PRESENTATIONS

Clockwise L-R
24. Featured artist at Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance for High Museum members, Atlanta, GA
25. Reading at Avid Bookshop from Compendium of Craft & Creativity, Athens, GA
26a. Professor Spooner, host of my visiting artist lecture at the University of Georgia’s College of Environment & Design: “Ways of Seeing”    
26b+c. Me lecturing and an image from the presentation
27. Taught Silk-Painting Workshops at the Columbus Museum, GA   
28. Taught quarterly Silk-Painting Workshops at the KA Artist Shop
29. Taught private Silk-Painting classes
30 (left). Taught Silk-Painting at the University of Georgia Lamar Dodd School of Art, Athens, GA            

GATHERING OPPORTUNITIES

31. Co-founded a new hand-sewing club                                                                                                             
32. Joined a new artist studio round-robin information exchanging club        

 

OTHER CREATIVE ENDEAVORS

33. Designed and hand-painted a silk dress, delivered to a patron in Paris
34. Created a beautiful hardcopy portfolio in French (with help from my friends) 

 

Opportunities for Which I Applied But Was Not Selected

35. Cité Internationale des Arts Residency in Paris, France

36. Lyndon House 41st Annual Juried Exhibit, Athens, GA

37. World of Threads Festival, Toronto, Canada

TRAVEL

Clockwise L-R   
38. New York City, NY
39. Asheville, NC
40. Paris, France
41. Felletin, Limousin, France

 

UPCOMING EXHIBITS

42. Scheduled exhibit in Felletin, France - Summer 2017                                                                                           43. Scheduled exhibit at a museum in Mississippi, USA - Summer 2019

 

It’s been a great year, but this was only the beginning! Stay tuned for more events and news. 

Wishing you a prosperous, creative, and healthy New Year,