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Welcome to Musings – The Loom Room Blog

21 August, 2016

Have loom – will travel….

Filed under: Life,Nature,Weaving — Tags: , , , , , , — admin @ 1:33 pm

Isn’t it funny how certain things make a house feel like a home?

For me, as a weaver, it has to be a loom!  The French house in Gascony now has a working loom in it, and the wonderful and familiar smell of wool yarn means that France is now home!!

At the moment, I am in another temporary studio – #3, I think!  The salon, which will eventually be our rather lovely lounge (with mezzanine library!!) is home to a new-to-me Louet Spring loom.

Salon Studio 4 Salon Studio 3

You can see a little of the yarn stash I have managed to take over to France against the walls, but there is still a mountain of boxes to shift.  We had to buy a transit van to help move my books and yarns across the English Channel and have to be careful not to overload the poor thing too much!!  There are quite a few more trips to plan!!

It was great to put the loom together and to try it out, even if the first warp on was a 7.5m exhibition warp for the Nature In The Making exhibition which Agnes and I are doing in the Netherlands in November!  This is not normally to be recommended – usually I would suggest several short warps with different techniques to find out all the quirks and idiosyncracies of the loom before putting on an important warp.  But still, how many of us actually follow our own guidelines all the time???!!!

Happily, it was a relatively hassle-free introduction.  I’ll write more about it on another blog, but suffice it to say that the loom and I are working well together!

This trip to France also included plenty of physical interaction with the fabric of the building!!  Firstly, we cleaned out all the remnants of old furniture and tiles that had been left in the grange which will be my workshop, and swept it all through, leaving a blank canvas for the work to start in September.

Blog studio renovations 4 Blog studio renovations 3 Blog studio renovations 2 Blog studio renovations 1

It is another TARDIS.  It doesn’t look very large from the outside but the inside is deceptively large.

Then we removed partition walls in a bathroom to allow for two bathrooms – I’m a wicked sledge-hammer wielder – and took off all the floor and wall tiles.  We have also saved all the doors to be re-used.

Then I started weaving, and Graham continued with taking out all the old kitchen, leaving us with a single camping stove, a barbecue and a fridge.  The kitchen was somewhat over-engineered, with re-inforced steel concrete plinths for the worksurfaces, and brick walls, but we shall be able to re-use the cupboard doors and the drawer unit as everything is made with proper materials rather than chipboard rubbish!!

I am very excited, despite the ramifications of the vote in the UK to leave the EU which has impacted on our renovations fund somewhat drastically, meaning that we have to cut back on some of the things that we were hoping to do.  Basically it means that we will have to do several things in different stages instead of having all the work done at once.  Such is life.  It is amazing to us that we are actually in a position to live this dream, so if it takes longer to fulfil everything we planned, so be it….

The time spent in France this summer has been unbelievable, with amazing nocturnal natural fireworks on two occasions (electrical storms!), the fabulous array of summer night markets in villages and towns all around this part of France with their local produce and great music and dancing, the socialising with new friends and neighbours – we have landed in a really wonderful area for welcome, warmth and friendship!! – and the beautiful sunshine and views from our house over the changing fields mean that early mornings and late evenings are especially magical times for watching the landscape transform.

We have also been fascinated by the red squirrel nesting in the space between shutters and window in the attic, taking advantage of the woodpecker holes that appeared in the spring.  She had several babies and, although she has now vacated her nest, taking her babies with her (I think she didn’t like the demolition work happening a floor below her!), she is in the vicinity and we have been waking up to the lovely scene of red squirrels chasing each other round and round the trunks of trees outside the front windows.  Other wildlife has been sightings of two pairs of stunning Golden Orioles who flew in to take advantage of the bounty of our mulberry tree (tasty raspberry-like berries which we eat straight from the tree!).  The birds had the top fruit, we had the bottom fruit – a good balance!!  Bats are in abundance in the area, woodpeckers too, and plenty of other birdlife.

One amusing incident was when we had our first UK visitors.  When we first took over La Tuilerie, we found an old fold-up wooden chair which had been painted and repainted over the years and we decided to use it in our bathroom.  Whenever we were expecting visitors, whether Orange France, or friends, we put the chair at the bottom of the driveway, positioned so that it could be seen from both directions.  A couple of days before our visitors were expected, we saw a beautiful, but dead, pine marten to the left of our driveway on the edge of the road.  Its markings were just stunning – like the snow leopard and silver tabby crossed – although its little teeth were as sharp as needles and would certainly have inflicted a nasty bite!  We didn’t know whether to remove or leave it, and in the end decided it would be best to leave it.  Our visitors arrived, using the chair as signal locator and we had a lovely time!  After lunch, they had to leave and I went down to bring in the chair.  It had disappeared!!  Zut alors!  And so had the pine marten.  Had the local council come along, picked up the pine marten and taken our chair thinking that it too was for disposal?

We decided to pay a visit to the déchetterie – the local recycling centre – to see if they knew where the chair was.  I went indoors, sat down, and worked out how to tell the ouvrier what had happened.  You can imagine the scene – my French is not fluent, by any stretch of the imagination.  I practised the sentences for a while – probably at least 20 minutes – rehearsing over and over and changing the order of the sentences, trying to find the simplest way to explain the situation.  When I felt I probably had it as good as I was going to, we went to the déchetterie – only to find it had just closed!!  Happily we were able to speak to the lady in charge and I managed to make myself understood.

Not that it did any good, mind you….  The council don’t take their rubbish there and she didn’t know where the council rubbish tip was but advised us to go to the Mairie – by then well after 5, so too late for the day.  I confess I chickened out of trying to explain it all again the next day, so somewhere in a council tip near Nérac, there is a lovely old decrepit blue folding chair – unless it has found a new owner, of course!!

It won’t be long before you’ll be able to see the renovations in progress.  With as much of the preparation work done as we could do, things are now ready for the artisans to come back from their August break and start work in late September, fingers crossed!

It’s lovely being able to share this adventure with you virtually, and it would be wonderful if you could come and experience this marvellous place in real life.  In the meantime, until next time,

Happy Weaving!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 December, 2015

The Power of Dreams

Filed under: Education,Life,Teaching,Travel,Weaving — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 8:25 pm

It’s amazing to think how a seemingly inconsequential choice can change the whole direction of one’s life, isn’t it?  And yet, so often that is exactly what happens.  And once that initial choice has been made, other decisions compound the effect until suddenly you find yourself looking at a whole new life.  And all it took was a birthday choice!

Nearly five years ago, my husband, Graham, turned 50.  He wanted to celebrate by going on a cookery course abroad.  Italy and France were on the shortlist, and he decided that he didn’t want to cook pasta.  That choice changed our lives!

The Gascony Cookery School is based in a small village on the edge of Tarn-et-Garonne and the Gers, down in the deep south-west of France.  It is set on a rocky outcrop in rolling hills with farmland all around it hosting kilometre on kilometre of sunflower fields in the summer.  Gramont boasts a chateau open to the public, a wonderful auberge (where cookery school students also get to work), and a honey museum.  In one of those quirks of fate, Graham, who should have been one of six students, was the only student.  (Something similar happened to me when I went to study jacquard at the Lisio Foundation in Florence – there should have been five or six of us, but there were only two!)  Over long leisurely meals with our hosts, Dave and Vikki, it transpired that they wanted to produce a honey beer, but didn’t know how.  Graham (my husband) has been brewing his own beer from the grain since I have known him (well over 30 years) and said he could help.  The more we talked, the more we realised our particular (and peculiar) mix of skills would fit in this village.  Graham with his brewing and music (he’s a good ‘cellist), and his wonderful ability to get on with everyone, and me with my weaving.  There was even an empty property for us to look round that would allow us to do all our activities.

We came home from that holiday buzzing with excitement and potentialities.  We went back to have another look in the summer.  The property was daunting – a lot of building work would be needed to make it functional but we had got the bit between our teeth and approached the sellers.

Not a lot happens speedily in the countryside of France, as many Francophiles will tell you.  That’s part of its appeal!  Because there was so much structural work to undertake before even starting work on making the property functional, we put forward a price which was not accepted.  We hoped that time would encourage the sellers to reconsider.  We went back to Gramont several times.  Then all went quiet from the sellers.

We went back this April, still set on the same property, but this time we decided to see what else was out there.  What other properties in the area would allow us to do our thing or give us a comparison to be able to negotiate a better price?  We viewed 15 properties in one week, and I have to say that the estate agents were all amazing!  Then it happened.  The very last house we looked at just took our breath away.  As we drove up the drive, I said to Graham ‘This is it!’  We felt exactly what we had felt when we first set eyes on Willowgate 23 years ago.  And as we walked round, it felt more and more like home without all the back-breaking work that would have been entailed in the property in Gramont and only 40 minutes away from Gramont.

La Tuilerie with studio

We hummed and hawed for a short while after we got home but that was just nerves.  We had really already made our decision, and in May our offer was accepted.  Just two days later, another offer was put in but the sellers of La Tuilerie honoured their word to us.  And now, finally, at the end of November 2015, we are the proud owners of a beautiful maison de maitre with attached barn for my weaving studio and teaching studio, a workshop for Graham’s micro-brewery, and a small shop to sell our wares!  We will be able to put guests up and offer the kind of immersive experience that we enjoyed at the cookery school, where I can teach weaving and intersperse it with trips to local markets, restaurants, local beauty spots and places of interest so that students and guests can enjoy the tastes and sights of Gascony.

And all because of a birthday decision!!

It will take a while to renovate the buildings to allow us to run the weaving courses and the B&B, but this is the start of a new life.  Graham is taking the plunge and leaving teaching which he has done for 30 years, to devote himself to looking after my guests and brewing his beer.  Of course it will be a challenge – not least the language side of things – and we are not taking it lightly, but there are so many people who are looking out for us and encouraging and helping us, both in the UK and in France, that with a lot of hard work and patience I think we will settle in to a new way of life and really be part of the local community in Nérac and Condom.

I do hope we will have the opportunity to host some of you, my past students, dear weaving friends and fellow explorers on life’s rich path.  I will post updates on FB and here and in my occasional newsletters, but in the meantime,

May All Your Dreams Come True!!  (Because they sometimes do!! :^))