Recently I visited La Maison du Pastel. I was toting handmade paper and ink and a journal or two that I had bought on the other side of the Marais and had trudged miles to find it tucked away on the rue Rambuteau and I guess it all showed because as I walked in, the lady behind the counter looked at me and said quietly, “Le Graal.” She wasn’t wrong. I don’t even work in pastels and this room was the holy grail.
These pastels have been made since 1722 and has been in the Marais district of France since 1766. In 1878, M. Henri Roché took over the concern and it is in his family still. Currently they have 1540 tints and counting of pastels that are world famous for their intense colour and quality. (They were the pastel of choice for Degas.)
I bought a small box of half sticks. They were (understandably) expensive and as I say, pastel is not my medium of choice but how could I walk away without something, some touchstone and connection to hundreds of years of artisans committed to creating the finest tools for creating. A spell. A part of the grail.
To visit La [read more]
These are some recent illustrated journal pages from last Fall’s trip through Burgundy in France. Santé ! (Click on photo for larger image.)
And below is a flipthrough with commentary about how I made some of the [read more]
Here are recent pages, including churches and notes from Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff, as well as French churches in Perpignan, the Priory at Serrabone, Elne Cathedral.
To see more sketchbook journal pages of churches, go to:
For more information on some of these lovely Romanesque churches, try:
These sketches are from my illustrated journal is a recent trip to the Burgundy region of France. There are many hundreds of Romanesque churches, built between the 10th and 12th centuries. Before then, the area had been occupied and ruled over by Romans. Then they were gone but their architecture and design influence remained and were powerful influences in the creation of these churches. It was a time of crusades and pilgrimages, both of which brought travelers into tiny villages needing accommodation, food, and other practical provisions: these churches attracted these pilgrims and profited from their donations, as did the towns around them.
Hilaire Belloc, writing about his pilgrimage from France to Rome wrote of such places that: “In such shrines Mass is to be said but rarely, sometimes but once a year in a special commemoration. The rest of the time they stand empty, and some of the older or simpler, one might take for ruins. They mark everywhere some strong emotion of supplication, thanks, or reverence, and they anchor these wild places to their own past, making up in memories what they lack in multitudinous life.”
Click on an image to see a larger [read more]
Skomer is an island off the coast of Wales which serves as a wildlife refuge with millions of pairs of breeding birds. An overnight stay is often cold, wet, and indescribably satisfying.
To read more posts about my visits to Skomer, go to:
I have walked past this church so many times but until recently never noticed how lovely some of its old headstones are in its surrounding cemetery. I have now, and here are a few of them.
On the island of Skomer, off the coast of Wales, is the largest population of Manx Shearwaters in the world. Under cover of the middle of the night, they fly in from the sea where they have been feeding. Hundreds of thousands of birds go hell for leather into the safety of their underground burrows. In the morning, the paths of Skomer are littered with the occasional bodies, or what is left of them, of the unlucky ones who didn’t make it but instead fell prey to the Greater Black Back Gulls who feed on them. All that is left is a pair of wings on a path and they fascinate me. They are the most striking memento mori – reminders that we must die – that I have ever seen (and I’m a gal who likes a good memento mori). So a typical morning on Skomer is: get up, have some coffee, hike, hike, hike, and oh, hey, remember that we must die: thanks guys, got it. And strangely, these visceral tokens of life and how quickly and randomly it is snuffed out are so lovely and unlikely.
From my post on Skomer:
The next morning, paths around the island are [read more]
“The sea pronounces something, over and over, in a hoarse whisper; I cannot quite make it out. But God knows I have tried.” – Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk
I wish I could subtitle this: “It Can’t Always be Paris,” because as a rule, my love of travel takes me to cities, ones that I’ve fantasized about my whole life. To museums, churches, cafes, and copious amounts of people watching, opera going, and pastry eating. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just that, more and more I find myself drawn to places off the beaten track, looking for something you can’t find at the end of a subway ride. More and more I go in search of a different kind of church, a different type of watching.
Last week marked my third stay on Skomer, an island off the coast of southwest Wales. It is a place of pronounced beauty and mystery, wild in locale – it can be reached only by boat – and demeanour, if an island can be said to have such a thing. While humans have lived on Skomer for thousands of years – remnants of an Iron Age community are still strewn about the island, [read more]