Saturday, August 5, 2017

Je suis encore en France.

I am in France again. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been here at La Bonne Etoile (The Good Star). It feels like home to me now, my 7th year here. After our dinner of salad fresh from a nearby garden in the village, quiche and cantaloupe sweeter than anything I’ve had in Georgia (no GMO foods are allowed in France!), Kippy, Jerome and I remained at the table on the patio until midnight, talking art and books and people and Monique, the chicken. More about Monique later. 

Jerome mentioned my blog; he had been reading my posts from Florence recently and asked how I do it—how do I orchestrate these trips? It made me realize that maybe some of you reading my blog may not understand how I wind up in these places. I told him it was just like my first trip to his place here in Fontaine Fourches.

About 8 years ago I received a call from a Kippy Hammond. this sweet southern vivacious voice asked me if I wanted to teach in France, as if we had known each other for years. I didn’t know who she was. I had never taught out of the country; I was terrified at the thought. So I’m sure I put her off in a polite way. But somehow she wound up in my living room months later. She and her mother. Turns out Kippy had been a member of the Southeastern Pastel Society as I have been for many years. She insisted we met somewhere along the way; I had no memory, despite the fact that Kippy can never be considered forgettable. 

Somehow Kippy persuaded me that I could do this. She and Jerome have a home in Fontaine Fourches, about an hour and a half southeast of Paris. Everything would be taken care of by her. All I had to do was get there. So we made plans for me to fly to France that next summer and teach. I just had to get on the internet, use my mailing list and any other form of advertising and let people know about it. Anybody interested in taking my class would just need to contact her, and she’d handle all the registrations and paperwork.

As the students and I dwindled in to Charles de Gaulle airport that summer, we were met by Jerome or Kippy or a shuttle and driven the hour and a half through the French countryside to Fontaine-Fourches, a village of about 500. The workshop was delightful. We had many full days painting in the studio, we were wined and dined, taken to picturesque markets in nearby villages, a 12th century walled village, Paris…we were satiated with things French. When all was over, we were driven back to Charles DeGaulle for our return trips home, and I had a nice little check in my hand.

So I did it again the next year and the next and the next. During the workshops, I wrote in my blog every night from my cozy little French antique-filled room. My students increased in numbers because of the blog. and so did my check.

My workshops in Florence were similarly handled. I received a phone call many years ago from Debra Zamperla, who wanted to know if I had any plans to teach in Ann Arbor, MI. No, I told her, I had nothing scheduled. But if she could find a large room and 10 students, I’d get there. She pulled it off; I have since been up there 3 times to teach for Debra. It worked out so well for Debra that she decided to bring other instructors to Ann Arbor. That worked so well for her, she decided to try it in Italy. Her husband, Ivano, born in Pisa, Italy, knew his way around. And they handle their workshops the same way Kippy and Jerome do: they secure the lodging and studio, meals, and plan excursions, pick up students and instructor from the airport and return us when it’s time to go home. Piece of cake.

Just thought I’d clarify how these workshops work, in case anybody out there is wondering as well.
I arrived in Paris this afternoon. I’m wiped out. Gonna’ hit the sack now. Monique the chicken will have to wait.

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