Oh, sure, Paris is good for a lot of things: art, food, history, culture, and style. In the Marais district of galleries, ateliers, boutiques, and studios, there are plenty of nooks filled with treasure for book and journal artists, tucked close together on or near the rue du Pont Louis Philippe, sometimes called the “rue du Papier”.
The cornerstone of this little piece of paper heaven is Calligrane. Its name blends the words”calligraphie” and ” filigrane” (French for watermark) and it describes this small gallery perfectly. For over 40 years, this family-run business has expanded the field of creative stationery and paper artistry, both in the creation of paper itself and in its innovative use, drawing on materials and inspiration from India, Mexico, Thailand, Germany, Japan, Italy, Nepal, Bhutan, and a host of other far-flung places. Run by second-generation paper maven Vanessa Barth and her husband, paper sculpture artist Maru, Calligrane prides itself on its quest for the new and its commitment to the classic, as well as to being a creative laboratory for paper artists.
Here is a small sample of their fibre papers. (Click on photo to enlarge and see detail.)
They also carry papers made of fruit [read more]
We recently spent two weeks in north-central France, in a town called Montargis, with Gab’s old friend Jean-Pierre. These are pages from my illustrated journal that I did while there.
We spent a week in Budapest. I figure I averaged a little over a page a day which doesn’t sound too great, except that is the eternal visual journal work dilemma: do you sit still and draw or move on and explore new things? Do you create an image of your authentic Hungarian meal, or do you eat it while it is still hot? I am getting better at putting in rough lines and filling them in while waiting forever in airports and train stations. The journey – all of the journeys – continue.
Off the west coast of Wales is an island called Skomer, one of the most strange and beautiful places I have ever seen. In the summer it is inhabited by hundreds of thousands of sea birds, many rabbits, and very few humans. A limited number of day visitors come and go by ferry; no more than 14 guests are allowed to stay overnight.
It is a place of crazy, senseless beauty but for me the most luxurious part of the visit is the silence, except it isn’t really silence: the cries of a million birds can be pretty raucous. It’s just that there are almost no human noises. Walk away from the hostel after the last ferry leaves taking the day visitors and you are quite alone. No cars, no telephones, internet, screens, television, restaurants, or gift shops. Time there is about cultivating and going into this silence that isn’t really silence.
You sit down on the grass over a cliff to watch a fulmar, that graceful, snowy cousin of the albatross, soar in circles as it catches a thermal. An hour goes by, and you rise feeling still and grounded and fed by something you didn’t know you were hungry for [read more]
On the last Saturday of every month, there is a street market in Uplands. Back in the day the Uplands was home to Dylan Thomas. Now it is where you can find local produce, handmade crafts, homemade brews, live music, and a fun, festive walk around.
This is the booth for Teifi Farmhouse Cheese. Their multi-award cheese is a Dutch style gouda type made from raw milk at a small dairy at Glynhynod Farm. They also distill their own fine gin.
Goozeberry Hill is a local crafts studio that produces charming stamped, vintage spoons and other cutlery.
Every time I see The Flower Hive, they have beautiful things that you just can’t find at your grocery store. Special, hand formed bouquets of organically grown flowers with a little wildness.
Lori at Lori Loves Bags uses tiny dried blossoms, moss, and other gossamer-like plants to make ethereal earrings and pendants. She also makes bracelets using vintage beads that are one-of-a-kind.
Dylans Bookstore is a longtime Swansea treasure run by Jeff Towns, Dylan Thomas scholar. In addition to its home base in Mumbles, it goes around in a van and offers Welsh titles, second-hand reading, antiquarian books, and miscellaneous treasure, such as a home decorating magazine from [read more]
Something I never get used to – in the best possible way – are the castles scattered around the Welsh countryside. As an American I am pretty much bowled over by anything from the 19th century; ruins from the 12th leave me slackjawed. The natives, not so much, and as far as I can tell only notice them when American friends are visiting.
Six miles from my apartment in Swansea is Oystermouth Castle, in the village of Mumbles. It dates from 1106 when it was built by the Earl of Warwick. Like most castles in Wales it was a stronghold for English, would-be rulers who oppressed the local population. They were bitterly hated and over the centuries the castle fell back and forth between the British interlopers and the Welsh rebels who regularly ousted them. It remained in private hands until 1927.
In 2010, the castle underwent extensive renovations. Included was a glass floor 30 feet above the ground, which provides a viewing platform for the windows of a chapel that was added in the 1320s, and is today called Alina’s Chapel. The stained glass has been gone for centuries but today, looking through the arched windows, you can [read more]
Whenever I travel, I always think: THIS time I am going to get so much done in my journal; dozens of pages, chapters. And…while it may happen one day, it sure hasn’t yet. Sure, I always manage to make a few really special pages* but I more often find that the way I really remember a trip is by using a technique I learned from Asheville, North Carolina, author and illustrated journal instructor Gwen Diehn. It is terrifically simple and effective.
When getting ready for a trip, take a break from packing, get out your journal or sketchbook, and draw a page-size box. Divide this into equal columns. I like mine to be about 1 ½ inch wide, but it sometimes depends on the size of the paper. It will look something like what it is – a mini-calendar that you can then fill in daily, no excuses. Label each day at the top of the column. Then, fill each column with anything that comes to mind in a small, thumbnail size.
When you get home, I promise you will be surprised at how much information and memories you crammed into this format. These are a sample of calendar-style pages that I’ve [read more]
Illustrated journal pages. Hidden away and up mysterious winding steps in Zurich is a park called Lindhof Hill. There people play petanque, a kind of lawn bowling and kids practicing their parkour moves. Men play chess with giant pieces on a board on the ground. It’s fun to watch because there are men in elegant suits and men in work overalls and students, all playing together and arguing over the others’ moves.
Amsterdam has never spoken to me, but last year Old Friend and Sometime Traveling Buddy Matthew said that Amsterdam was next and that was that.
And it was beautiful. There was something old fashioned but strange about it: the tall, thin houses, the canals used as streets, the way that everyone travels by bicycle. It is also a great city for walking, and we managed about six-miles-plus a day.
Of course the museums were some of the best in the world. The Rijkmuseum had been closed for many years and was newly reopened. It is the home of Rembrandts and Vermeers. Like many things, I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was about either artist until I saw them with my own eyes. Especially Vermeer. Both The Love Letter and The Milkmaid were mesmerizing. I could hardly move away from them and was happy to just stand for half an hour staring at one of them. Not that this was easy to do: most of the time the pictures were surrounded by people with cameras snapping. Which I understand, sort of, but it was dismaying was that NONE of them actually stopped to look at the painting. They just spotted it, [read more]