Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Last night in Florence.

It’s my last day in Florence. I fly out tomorrow at 7:30 a.m.

I’m hoping my climbing pink roses are still in bloom; they were budding furiously when I left home and promised to be spectacular after my spring pruning. I planted tender baby heirloom tomato plants, grown from seeds Anna gave me for Mother’s Day; I wonder if they’ve survived my neglect. My cat, Molly, might give me the silent treatment for a while. I have a stack of bills waiting to be attended to. And my 11 year old grandson, Victor, comes to stay with me next week while he’s in science camp in Atlanta. It’s time to go home.

I also want to catch up on the news in the USA. I have an artist friend, Robin Hix, who lost everything in the Texas floods this week: her home and art studio. A lifetime of work gone. If anybody cares to contribute something to help her begin again, however small a contribution, it would be a significant help to Robin.  There's a link on her web site to contribute. Please do:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Monday, Tuesday...only one day left for me.

Yesterday morning Roza left to visit her sister in Poland before heading home to the US. The rest of us walked to the oltrarno, the other side of the Arno River, where the medieval streets are a maze of artisans' workshops. Here we discovered a quieter Florence, away from the throngs of tourists and gelato shops. We fantasized about our own little studios (mine would have to be un an upper floor-- I would need a garden of some sort) overlooking the narrow streets, meeting artist friends in the evenings for wine.

We spent time in Luigi's workshop. Luigi is the restorer I had the opportunity to visit with Debra and Ivano when I first arrived in Florence 2 weeks ago (was it only 2 weeks ago??? It seems like a lifetime). He repairs centuries old sculpture, frames and furniture. He showed us photos of some of the work he has done through the years and demonstrated his carving and gold leafing process for us (all in Italian with our guide translating). Luigi's restorations are in museums throughout Italy. His craft is a dying one; younger people are not interested or can't afford to support themselves by it.

We visited the studio of Giuliano Ricchi, who creates Florentine-style metal works from his wax carvings. His beautiful pill boxes, business card holders, photo frames and intricately detailed jewelry are sold by Dior, Nina Ricci, Neiman Marcus and Santa Maria Novella's exclusive stores. He has a little room where he sells these things waaaay below the exclusive stores' retail prices.
(Ditta Carlo Cecchi di Giuliano Ricchi, Piazza Santo Spirito, 12, 50125 Firenze)

We then visited L'Ippogrifo: stampe d'arte, a beautiful studio and retail space with racks of Gianni Raffaelli's highly detailed etchings. He took us to the back room where he explained (all in Italian with our guide translating) and demonstrated the process of etching, showing us the copper plates, the wax, acid, inking and printing process.
(L'Ippogrifo, Via Santo Spirito 5/rm 50125 Firenze,

Then on to Ali Firenze, a leathercraft and bead embroidery workshop, to observe the artist (sorry, didn't catch her name) in her studio, surrounded by heaps of dyed leather, semi-finished ladies' bags, belts and beaded jewelry. She explained (all in Italian with our guide translating) how purses are constructed using cardboard templates.
(Ali Firenze, Via Toscanella 9/r, 50125 Firenze,

On our last stop of the day Laura Thompson and Frank Rekrut, painter and sculptor, opened their studio to us. Laura and Frank are a husband and wife team from Canada and the US, who have lived here for 5 years. From the open windowed studio overlooking terra cotta tiled roofs, we sipped prosecco and probed their minds about the feasibility of living as an artist in Florence: cost of living? Taxes? Relations with the locals? The ability to make a living? Hmmm...all very doable.

Check out this web site for more artisans who welcome visitors:

Tuesday afternoon--I'm listening to the rain beating on the roof and the sirens out in the street, a common sound here in this busy city. I'm sitting in my room in the empty villa. Debra and Ivano have just delivered the last of the ladies to the airport. It is going to be a quiet dinner tonight.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Sunday-free day

Sunday was our free day. Our last day together before people start heading home. Katie and Kim went to a High Mass at the Duomo, the rest of us went to the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, the oldest public building in Florence. The museum is a fortified palace built in the 1200's. In the 1500's it was used as a prison where executions took place until they were abolished in 1786. In 1859 it was converted to a national museum displaying Italy's largest collection of Gothic and Renaissance sculptures.

Afterwards, while we were sipping our cappuccino at an outdoor cafe, we noticed Katie and Kim strolling by. We waved them down from across the street and then we all spent the rest of our long day leisurely stepping in and out of shops in the leather district, picking up souvenirs. Along our way we ran into Alexandra, our brilliant tour guide from earlier in the week, leading a herd of college students from San Diego. Later we passed Beata and her cousin and family, and still later Rosa passed us by. How funny to bump into so many people you know in Florence!

We ended our day crossing the Ponte Vecchio again to have dinner at the trattoria around the corner from our villa, where we were served a glass of Prosecco (Italian champagne) upon arrival. Another fun but bittersweet evening; it's one of our last. Lots of toasts to each other, to a wonderful 10 days, to camaraderie, to art, to Debra and Ivano, to Italy, to art, to meeting again next year, to art, to Italy, to art...


Saturday morning a private bus took us to Siena, about an hour southwest, to meet our tour guide, Stella. We also met up with an artist friend of mine, Lisa, who used to live in Atlanta but now in Scottsdale, AZ, and who just happened to be in Italy while we were there. Lisa joined us for the day as Stella led us in the rain through Siena--to the Piazza del Campo, where the Palio, their traditional medieval horse race takes place; through the fantastic 12th century Romanesque-Gothic Siena Cathedral, the Duomo, where we viewed ornate inlaid marble mosaic floors, sculptures and paintings by Donatello, Bernini and Michelangelo, illuminated choir books and frescoes.
We had lunch in a restaurant on the piazza, and Ivano and Rosa entertained us with a duet, "Oh Solo Mio."


Saturday, May 23, 2015

My class is over. Everyone worked hard and created beautiful work. Here we are: Beata, Cheryl, Jane, Jen, Katie, Kim, Michelle, Roza and me working through lunch.

And here's Harison, Debra's and Ivano's son, who made friends with the sculptors at the art studio, Debra, who worked tirelessly, and finally Ivano, who worked just as hard as the rest of us.  

It's not all over yet. Tomorrow we play before everyone leaves for home; we catch a bus to Sienna.