JOURNAL

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!

 

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!

Why I Love France, Part I

My Parisian friend Etienne asked me a few years ago, “Why France?” What is it you like about France, that you come here so often and want to spend even more time here? What is it about France—especially Paris—that interests you? Why is it so important for you to exhibit your artwork here in France?

I thought it was a good question. I reflected on my answer for about 24 hours, then went back to Etienne and replied:

“The aesthetics in France speak to the aesthetics of my soul.”

He then said he understood.

And for you, dear friend, rather than share more words about what this place means to me, I will share photos that I hope will convey—more profoundly than words—why I want to spend more time in this beautiful place.

Merci beacoup, et à bientôt!

-René

What matters is that I am here.

It doesn't matter if I almost missed my train because I was blissfully writing postcards in the waiting room of Gare Austerlitz-

     What matters is that I am here.

It doesn't matter if I take a wrong turn when I am walking somewhere and get fabulously lost-

     What matters is that I am here.

It doesn't matter if I ask for "le billet" (the ticket) 
rather than "l'addition" (the bill) at the end of a meal -


     What matters is that I am here.

It doesn't matter if I sleep too long on day 2 but not long enough on day 3-

     What matters is that I am here.

It doesn't matter if I ask for "de l'eau" (some water) rather than "d'eau" (a [glass of]  water)-

     What matters is that I am here.

I am over feeling embarrassed or insecure in this foreign country because I don't  know the language well and am sometimes unsure of the customs-

     What matters is that I am here.

I've always wanted to avoid looking like a tourist, I've wanted to fit in, and not be noticed by the people who live there, but I just don't think that's possible anymore-

     What matters is that I am here.

France calls me, and I respond. I go to her. 

     And all that matters is that I am here. 

 

Working with my "team" in Paris

Christine+Laure-FirstDay-2014  

November 7, 2014. I AM SO HAPPY TO BE IN PARIS!! Met my "team" tonight - Christina Chirouze Montenegro & Laure Jubert. We looked over my art, decided how to hang it, and discussed our philosophies on art and life.

Christina & Laure loved their t-shirts I brought for them. I can tell that these two talented women are going to make great things happen!

Rene+ChristinaShoppingForFrames

November 8, 2014. Out shopping for picture frames, and having a coffee (of course!) at café Loustic in the Marais - where Laure works during the day. Event documented below -  with the inimitable Christina Chirouze Montenegro!

I'm exploring France and calling it research - how awesome is that?  What artwork will come from my current experiences? In just a few days we'll be celebrating the opening of my first exhibit in Paris!

 

 

 

Un Cafe, s'il vous plait

A Quiet Visit to a Café

Shoemaker-Kate+BenCafeotheque-Paris Today, a year after my last visit, I quietly returned to La Caféothèque de Paris. I didn't let anyone know I was coming. I wanted to see this magical place again by myself: explore the rooms, study the walls, feel the space, and find out whether the coffee really is as good as I remembered.

It is.

The espresso I had today was full of body and smooth as silk. No acid, no bitterness; just pure, gentle coffee flavor. It really is the best coffee I have ever had.

The space is also as wonderful as I remembered. It has four connected rooms for enjoying your beverage, each with its own personality. Today I sat in the "Green Room," a setting with rustic wooden tables and plants - including coffee - growing everywhere. The cafe was pleasantly busy; there was a buzz of soft conversation from some of the patrons, while others read or spent time with their work before them.

As I sipped my espresso, I watched the activity on the city streets through the large windows overlooking the Seine and Île Saint-Louis. I watched the cycles, the motos, the little Fiats and Peugeots go by, as well as the pedestrians: the office workers, students, and tourists. The streets were alive, and all who passed by looked as though they were enjoying the day as much as I was.

***
I'm exploring France and calling it research. What artwork will come from my current experiences?  In just another week we'll be celebrating the opening of my first exhibit in Paris!

 

LaCafeotheque-StealthVisit3-MC

Doors & Windows

You may know that my first love, even before coffee and the café experience, was Doors & Windows. I've always been intrigued by the patterns of windows on buildings, by the patterns of the window panes, by the relationship of the door to the rest of the façade, and by the decoration on the door itself. Heaven! Here are a few of the patterns I've seen since we landed in France: image-1

image-3

image-5

image-12

image-16

image-19

image

I love the way this last set of doors is on a slanted street, and the way that teeny door on the left makes me want to open it and see what's inside!

 

Do You Love to Travel?

Cafe Cassette, Paris, France  

Travel is a gift - do you feel the same way?

To explore a new place; even if it's in familiar territory.

To sit in the sun on a street you've never been to before.

To notice that the trees you are seeing on the horizon are totally unlike the ones you pass on your way to work every day.

To smell unrecognized spices wafting from a restaurant on a crowded city street.

To recognize the hum of conversation all around you, but maybe not all the words.

To sit at a quiet café on the corner of Rue Cassette & Rue de Rennes

                                                                                                            in Paris, France.

  ******

My cafe' prints and I are traveling to France soon for their exhibit starting November 10, 2014 at La Caféothèque in Paris. A selection of the prints are currently on exhibit at The Grit, in Athens, Georgia through October 5 for you to enjoy now.

Roujan Hillside-Languedoc Roussillon, France

image Shown here is another view of Roujan, which I introduced to you earlier with the paintings of the Roujan Medieval Quarter, and in another street scene (with the Volkswagen). This view is from the bottom of the hill while standing between the soccer field and the wine cooperative; the school is in the forefront, and at the top of the hill is the town bell tower made of wrought iron.

One evening, as we explored the perimeter of St. Laurent Churich in the twilight, the priest offered us a personal tour of the building, along with stories of the history and architecture. On the feast day of the patron saint, St. Lawrence, the sunlight shines in a small window, illuminating the rose window at the back of the church.

[Art now on exhibit of my French experience at Aurum Studios in downtown Athens, GA for the month of February (last week!). ‘Widening the Horizon’ with Suzanne Gernandt, textile artist extraordinaire, of Waynesville and Asheville, NC.]

Illustration: Roujan Hillside, Roujan, Languedoc-Roussillon, France. 2014. Hand-painted silk twill. By René D. Shoemaker

Leaving Paris, Heading East

When we left Paris, we began driving southeast in the car we had outfitted with a mattress and cooking supplies. I was so happy to be on the road again after the month in the city - breathing fresh air, seeing space, blue skies and fields. Spent the night at Troyes, in the Aube Department. That night we had sheep bahhing us to sleep. We definitely were not in the city anymore! OnTheRoadAgain

Rue Campagne-Première - Paris - 14th

imageSome of the best parts of the trip were when we did something that was absolutely normal, yet somehow different, because of the fact that we were in a different country with a different language and different customs.

And now, here I am, back in the States, sharing these images of my experience with you. There are only two days until the art reception at Aurum Studios, where you’ll be able to see all this paintings for yourself. But only two more days allows only two more images that I can share with you until that time. How can I choose just two?

This painting was inspired by the laundromat on the street where we stayed. I enjoyed doing the laundry there and soaking up the atmosphere. The neighborhood was great. I would go back in a heartbeat.

[New art exhibit up now at Aurum Studios in downtown Athens, GA for the month of February. I am sharing the space with the fabulous textile artist Suzanne Gernandt, weaver extraordinaire, of Waynesville and Asheville, NC. Reception: Thursday, Feb 6th, 6-8 pm, 2014 - this week!]

Illustration: Rue Campagne-Première . Paris . 14th . France. Hand-painted silk crepe de chine. 2014. by René D. Shoemaker