French Art Gallery Poster

Tylek & Tyleck Poster:a French Art Gallery Exhibition.

I have been to Paris quite a few times. I even have a favorite hotel, inexpensive (for Paris) and within walking distance of almost everything. It’s in an old house but wonder of wonders, it has an elevator. Very small and shakey, like riding in a wooden cigar box, but when your room is on the 5th floor and you’ve walked to the Louvre, Notre Dame AND the Eiffel Tower, much appreciated. Some of the rooms look out over a church and you can hear the bells. There is also a small coffee shop/bakery nearby where I invariably order pain au chocolat and sit, watching folks from the neighborhood pass. It’s not touristy and the pastry, made with bitter chocolate in the center, is not too sweet. What a way to begin the day!

I speak a modicum of French, evidently with a decent accent because whenever I get up the nerve to say something, a befuddling pour of words is thrown back at me. My French breaks down quickly, but nevermind, the bit I have mastered has saved me some of the experiences of non-speaking friends. One was denied coffee at the base of the Eiffel tower; it was rainy and chilly but the vendor pretended not to understand her request.

Once my husband went alone into the catacombs while I was visiting the Cluny museum, Medieval art not being his thing. Unable to read a single word, he walked and walked down the corridors of bones, meeting only two people, a non-English speaking father and a son. After a while he began to wonder if he was supposed to go back. When he finally found an exit, it dumped him onto an tiny alley. Bam. The door closed behind him — no retracing of footsteps — and he couldn’t ask directions. Luckily he found a main street and from there the Metro. I’d like to note that the Paris Metro is terrific. Just the Art Deco entrances alone are enough to make me a fan.

So, the poster. It was tacked on the front desk at my hotel. The exhibit was over the day I was to leave, so I polished my best French and asked if I could have it. Yes! I love the fairy tale feeling and the bold colors. Somehow I managed to get it home without much damage and now it festoons a door in my house.

A couple words about the artists. They are Czech, attended the National School of Fine Arts in Brno, and are married. I found this link – in French – if you want to know more. (Don’t ask me to translate!)

West African Bronze Skewers

Bronze skewers, some of animals, some of people. Hubby got these at a garage sale while I was out of town. When I asked him about them, he couldn’t remember much except that they came from Africa. There are 24, 12 animal heads, 12 people. I decided to display them in a windowsill planter, sticking them into styrofoam covered with little pebbles. I have been so involved with writing, I’d quite forgotten how much I love to do little projects like this.

I began doing creative tidbits as a little girl. Mother insisted that we make our Christmas presents. One year it was placemats, which my sister and I fringed by pulling out threads — horribly boring and the threads tangled so easily. We decorated the mats with paint by stamping designs onto the fabric with various utensils; I remember using a potato masher. Another year we spent hours pushing cloves into oranges which were hung on velvet ribbon for pomades in closets. Then there were the cork earrings; tiny pins threaded onto a bead, then a sequin and pushed into cork balls. Oh, so glamorous. I know one of the Aunts actually wore hers!

Projects changed as I grew. Since I’ve been an adult I have stripped a fireplace mantel and faux painted the surround, stenciled many a border, sewed a prom dress and curtains for various houses and apartments, assembled 45 gingerbread houses, designed and made ballet tutus, tiled a bathroom, crocheted a lampshade, planned and stitched a landscape quilt, and embroidered a throw. I used to knit but I don’t wallpaper. Mother was the ace at that; she once wallpapered our bathroom and managed to eke out enough paper to also do the linen closet. She was also a master cake decorator for children’s birthday parties; no roses or frou-frou, instead clowns, circus tents, merry-go-rounds.

Over the years there have been some disasters. Mother washed and shrank my newly sewn skirt to doll-size. There was a purple bedroom. And just today, right after I took the picture below, I knocked over my new masterpiece. Jingle, jingle — the stones poured out onto the floor, wet glue and all. After a good laugh, Hubby helped me wash the stones, the floor and table. So I have my next project all lined up…

Russian Print

Some families love to go out to eat. Some love to ski or cheer their favorite team or go to the movies. Mine loved to travel. Every year there would be a discussion: Should we build a swimming pool or go on a trip? There would be a vote. My sisters and I (young and short-sighted) voted for the pool, my parents for a trip. 3 to 2. Pool! Wait…parents’ votes count double. Trip!

There were many family trips. I’ve already written about moments in Germany, and Sweden.  We also traveled all over the U.S. The painting this week is from a trip my mother took to Russia. If was after Daddy had died and none of us girls were free, so she went alone. In December! If there was ever a place I wouldn’t want to visit in December, it’s Russia. But there was a good tour, so Mother bought what she called a “puffy coat” and off she went.

One of the interesting stories from that trip was her realization at the New Year’s Dinner that the tourists were getting the best food. This was before the fall of the wall and evidently things could be a little desparate. I know Mother and the others on the tour felt guilty and left large tips.

The other good story was that Mother stayed behind to take a picture inside a church – she became a fanatic photographer after Daddy died, although her photos were utterly different – and when she went out the door, the vast square was empty, her tour group vanished. As she said, “I didn’t speak a work of Russian and had no idea of the name of the hotel.” Turned out the tour had gone out another door.

This picture is from that trip; I believe it is a signed print. It looks to me like an imagined Russia, one of the Firebird or Snow Queen fairy tales. Or even of a Chekhov story. The signature of the artist not legible. H Siu? Then again, the label on the back is in Cyrillic alphabet, so perhaps the signature is also. I took it home when we closed down Mother’s house, in honor of her adventurous spirit and because it is beautiful.