Archive for October, 2012

Writing Workshop

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Last night I attended the first session of a seven-week writing workshop at the Shakespeare and Company bookshop. It is run by a British girl named Anna who has clearly managed to develop a strong position for herself as a writer in Paris. Very impressive to see.

The workshop was attended by 15 anglophones who were there for various reasons – some had taken previous workshops, others just wanted to extend their writing experience, and some had never written before. It was a really friendly group of people who were easy to get along with and weren’t shy about sharing their writing.

The classes are held in the upstairs reading room of the bookshop and we are surrounded by walls of book spines – very inspirational. It was a lovely setting to sit and write in as Anna gave us writing tasks to complete and we then shared our work with each other. The pressure situation of having to write within a short period of time meant that everyone was in the same boat and having to share our work wasn’t such a big deal. The tasks made us think outside our normal writing habits and we all came away surprised by what we had written. My pieces did still sound like a blog article to me but I am hoping that over the next few weeks I will be able to explore some other writing styles that I didn’t realise I had in me.

Hello Etsy <--- Said With Dutch Accent

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Last night I returned home from a four day trip to the Netherlands. My travels were dual-purposed:

  1. To attend the Hello Etsy 2012 conference
  2. It was a good excuse to visit my family.

I always feel very at home in the Netherlands – perhaps it is because all of a sudden I am surrounded by people who are tall, blonde and rosy-cheeked like me instead of the short, skinny Frenchies I hang out with these days. I can’t speak Dutch although from growing up listening to my Grandparents speak to one another I seem to have an ear for the language. I can’t tell you exactly what is being said but I can follow very basic conversations. The human brain is an amazing thing.

Maybe it is these red shutters, but I feel at home in Holland

Anyway, I spent most of my time with my family in Gouda (it’s pronounced Gggccchhhh-ow-der not G-oo-da), visiting the city, driving to the apparently mountainous ‘dunes’ (they was slightly raised patches of ground) near the coast, and eating gevulde koek. On Sunday we went to Delft where I didn’t buy any blue and white porcelain but I did watch people sail boats around and around a course in a small area in a canal. My cousin, Judit was one of the organisers of the event and she tried to explain to me the complexities of the event. It certainly looked technically difficult and I definitely couldn’t have done it. Crazy Dutch.

Delft canal

You can’t get more Dutch than this – canal, boats, houses, Vermeer clouds.

On Saturday I woke up very early and caught three trains to Eindhoven for the Hello Etsy 2012 conference – a day of talks by small creative business owners run by the good folk from Etsy. It was linked with Dutch Design Week and there were many interesting events happening in Eindhoven. None of my family could understand WHY it was in Eindhoven, but that’s where it was so that’s where I went.

Hello Etsy

Hi there.

The conference was attended by lots of fellow crafters who sell their products on the Etsy website. There were about 200 of us and we listened to various speakers including Janine Vangool from Uppercase Magazine; Satish Kumar, a former monk who now travels the globe encouraging peace and environmental responsibility (he also walked from India to America via Moscow, London and Paris (yes, walked) carrying boxes of tea to give to the heads of government to encourage them to drink a cup of tea and have a bit of a think before starting nuclear war); and Piet Hein Eek, a Dutch designer whose atelier the conference was being held in.

Piet Hein Eek workshop

The AMAZING workshop at Piet Hein Eek

While all of the speakers had something interesting to say, I gained the most insight from Janine as she spoke about the processes and changes she has gone through throughout her life in order to get to her current position as a magazine and book publisher. It was reassuring to hear that it isn’t an overnight occurrence and that she has changed jobs and directions many times throughout her career to be where she is now. It made me realise that over the past two years I have been telling people about this book I am writing about Paris (yet honestly haven’t really started yet) and am trying to attempt various other projects instead. But the idea of having my words printed in a beautifully bound book with nice typesetting and photographs makes every inch of me tingle with excitement.

Janine provided the advice of doing what you love and the fact that you can’t succeed or fail unless you try. This is a significant pitfall in my current way of doing things – I don’t try. I sit around hoping that some magical fairy will make something happen for me on my behalf instead of getting out there and making things happen. This has to change.

She also said that there is always room for quality which I think was a lovely thing. You can tell from Uppercase that she has a great eye for quality and that the work she produces is made from the heart. This is something I aspire to do.

An overall feeling I gained from all of the speakers was that they were simply following whatever their heart and soul was telling them. Instead of producing products with a specific market in mind, they would make something that they liked, loved, wanted and the market would find a place for it.

Hello Etsy conference

Lots of interested listeners

The most popular speaker of the day was Satish Kumar – a cute, little, 70-something Indian ex-monk who made the hearts of the 90 per cent female crowd go gooey. He is a very impressive man with a strong will, amazing intelligence and a determined agenda to spread the idea of peace. He was also very human and approachable, not preaching to us but presenting the facts and encouraging us to follow our dreams and to focus on making the world a better place. One of the things he said that stuck with me was that everything in life has a place, including fear and doubt. It is just a matter of keeping these things in their place and not allowing them to control us. Very true.

I came away from the conference not having ‘networked’ as much as I set out to do but with a better understanding of creative business. It is a long journey and requires a lot of effort and work, all of which I believe I am capable and willing to do. I just need to get my butt into gear and do it.

Hello Etsy bag

Why, hi!

Crafty Cakes

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Usually my reviews of cafés and restaurants are a post-experience reflection. This time I write to you direct from the source – mid-mange, mid-bois – at Café Craft in the 10eme. I was having a moment of ‘oh-woe-is-me, what am I doing with my life?’ so I decided to take it outside and head to another new café in a street nearby. Café Craft opened two or so months ago and is designed as a space for artists, craftspeople and general freelancers to come and work while drinking coffee and eating cake. That sounds like me!

The space has a clean design and set up almost like an office with a long table running down the centre of the room. The black and white interior makes it an non-distracting space to work in but the coloured pencils and pens sitting in the middle of the table are catching my eye.

But enough about the tables, let’s talk about the coffee! Or more importantly, the extremely rich, chocolatey, chunky brownie that I am currently devouring with extreme pleasure. It is hitting every sugar craving spot in my body and making me realise that when brownies like this exist, life can’t be so bad. Huge thumbs up to whoever concocted this beauty – not everyone in Paris can do a brownie but whoever baked this is a genius.

Cafe Craft

Chocolate, coffee and coloured pencils

I will definitely be returning here for another work-related coffee and chocolate hit. I’d like to do something a bit more ‘creative’ – I wonder how they’d feel about me bringing paints and my lino-prints and making a mess of their nice table tops. Maybe not. I have discovered one issue – two men have arrived and are having a loud-ish discussion in this previously quiet room and my preference for writing in complete silence isn’t possible. But it does mean I can eavesdrop on people – my next favourite activity after eating chocolate brownies.

Café Craft
24, rue des Vinaigriers
75010

Burlesque à Paris

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

I have been wanting to go to a Burlesque show for sometime, not really knowing what I was getting myself in for. So when my friend Jen said she wanted to go to the Paris Burlesque Festival I said, “Mais oui!!”

Located at the Bellevilloise, a multi-level club in the 12th arrondissement, there were various activities, shows and areas to explore the wonders of the Burlesque world. The festival also had a Halloween theme so there was impressive facepaint and fake blood everywhere. Upstairs there was a bar area with stalls selling feathers and themed t-shirts, a particularly buxom lady with an impressive feathered headdress casting tantric spells over any man who dared volunteer, and a tiny boxing-ring stage featuring various acts including a mexican-hat-wearing Mariachi band and a WWW-style competition between two scantily clad ladies.

Paris Burlesque festival

Great hats.

Jen and I had bought tickets to see the main show for the evening – a selection of burlesque performers from all over the world dancing, teasing and entertaining us with feathers, leather, and not a lot else. It was fantastic! The power and confidence these women oozed on stage was sensational. They flaunted their bodies, teased the audience with flashed of skin and did it all in a way that was entertaining and sexy and in no way seedy. It was very inspirational and made me realise my ridiculous misconceptions of what constitutes a sexy female body – curves can be good!

Each of the acts had different themes and techniques – some told a story while others focused more on movement and dance. One of the stand out moments was a performer who made her own costumes and came on stage wearing a corseted dress that by pulling on certain strings and ties turned into a snake, then revealed detachable tentacles and eventually completely disassembled to leave her in some lacy underwear. Very impressive.

Paris Burlesque festival

Amazing costume

It was a great night and it has made me want to go and see more burlesque performances in the future. A friend of mine is a burlesque dancer in Perth – seeing this festival gave me a whole new appreciation for what she is doing. Go Ruby DeLure!

Scam-Tastic

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

With the date of my departure from my apartment quickly approaching (it isn’t technically until the end of January but Christmas has a tendency to make time go into warp speed) I have started the hunt for new living quarters. Yesterday the weather was grey and drizzling so I stayed inside and risked my life by looking for a sublet on Craig’s List.

Memories of when I first decided to move to Paris and I attempted the apartment hunt flooded back. While I was young and innocent back then, I am now slightly more knowledgable about how to spot a SCAM. Basically ALL of the apartments advertised are put up by someone who will then steal your money and possibly your identity. But the inner hope that the reasonably priced apartment in the ideal location is true overpowers logic and I responded to a few advertisements. Here are some of the great responses I have received:

Greetings!
Thanks for your email.. The apartment is still available. I decided to rent the apartment because we are going to spend more time here in United Kingdom, about 3 years.. Let me start by introducing myself.I must confess that I am very new in this landlord business..However, My name is Thomas Killeen American Red Cross Lutheran Hospital Donor Center, and now he have been transfer to United Kingdom to work in a branch in United Kingdom.

What a great name! Thomas continues on to ask me what my pets’ names are and then in capital letters states:

TAKE NOTE: YOU CAN ONLY DRIVE BY AND SEE MY PLACE FROM THE OUTSIDE, BUT IF DRIVE BY THE HOME YOU MAY SEE A SIGN THERE, YOU HAVE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT IT BELONGS TO OUR PREVIOUS AGENT SO YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT AND DON’T HAVE TO CALL  THEM BECAUSE THEY TO NOT HAVE ACCESS TO THE HOME ANYMORE!

Sounds like a winner to me. This morning Darlene got back to me with this email:

My furnished apartment is much available for rent as you inquire ,  which I want you to know that I’m renting it out to you due to my re-location of job to here in Michigan ,USA. I’m a visible sign instructor/demonstrator, which I do work for church ministration voluntarily and in-dependably. I left the city with hope that I will be coming back soon but right now the work has taken me to stay for another 2yrs under contract agreement, that’s why I have made up my mind to put up my apartment for rent.

The problem is that while these are obviously fake, there are then some other responses that could go either way. I have decided that if they ask me for my pets’ names then it is definitely a scam. It is a very frustrating situation – my lack of paper work means I can’t get an apartment in the normal way and I have to find someone willing to rent me their place without proof that my Aunt’s dog’s sister-in-law earns more than one-tenth of the annual rent. I’m barely exaggerating. My friends have recently managed to rent a new apartment with a 50+ page dossier. I could maybe pull together two pages. This process makes me question whether or not I should stay in Paris or if maybe it would just be easier to move to another country. So anyone who has a great-uncle with a spare apartment in Paris, please let me know!

Visiting the Family

Friday, October 19th, 2012

I have been ‘out of range’ for the past week and a half as I went to watch my big bro’ graduate from his baking school in England. Having completed three-and-a-half degrees, he finally went to one of his graduations, previously having chosen not to pay to wear an unflattering gown and stupid hat. I think he chose best graduation to attend because:

  1. It was short
  2. There was an AWESOME lunch afterwards in a normally inaccessible abbey
  3. I could attend.

Ben had been studying on the School of Artisan Food on the Welbeck Estate. I had been looking forward to his graduation as it meant we could have a lunch in the beautiful old stately home that normally is closed to public access.

Welbeck Estate

Welbeck Estate

The lunch was a delicious selection of local produce most of which was made on the estate and we ate in a gorgeous wood-panelled room that I would consider to have been a ‘reception hall’. Very fancy. At least it was fancy until we all attempted to eat slices of beef while standing up and holding a plate, a champagne glass and knives and forks. Not enough hands. Everyone had food around their mouth at some point.

Resulting from Ben’s studies is his new bakery venture with fellow student, Martha. Anyone in the area of Sheffield should make their way to Forge Bakehouse on Abbeydale Road. Due to open early November, you can follow their progress here.

Forge Bakehouse

Mmmm… real bread…

Odd.

Friday, October 19th, 2012

I saw a policeman on a Velib city bike today. He was holding on to the side of a police car and being pulled along in the middle of peak hour traffic. Seulement à Paris…

Totally Wonderfully Awesome Prints for Sale!

Monday, October 8th, 2012

GREAT NEWS!

I spent my Friday and Saturday framing, hanging, photographing, photoshopping and uploading copies of my work to my Etsy Store! Now you can buy one of my pieces for yourself, your best friend, your wife or even your dog! There’s something for everyone! So come one, come all, and bring your Visa card. You’ll be making a fine investment AND helping the “Make Jess a Famous Artist” fund!

Bad Bananas Zaum print

Bad Bananas

Paris in His Eyes Zaum print

Paris in His Eyes

Spontaneous Ice Cream Zaum print

Spontaneous Ice Cream

 

Nuit Blanche

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Last night was La Nuit Blanche in Paris, a night of performance, art and random wandering through the city until 4 o’clock the following morning. The organisers should have considered calling it La Nuit Grise as there was steady rain until about 11.30pm which literally put a bit of a dampener on everything. It wasn’t too bad – it could have been worse.

I didn’t get to this annual event last year as Tom and I had a plane to Portugal to catch early the following morning, so I was determined to experience the spectacle this year. It has a similar concept to La Fête de la Musique – there are exhibitions, performances and extended opening hours at various buildings throughout the city, starting from 7pm and finishing at around 4am on Sunday. It was mainly focused around the centre of the city and so I headed out with a fellow Australian resident, Chris, to discover what the night had in store for us.

It was a mixed-bag quality-wise which surprised me greatly. I always expect everything in Paris to be AMAZINGLY WONDERFUL and yet it seems that there are just as many budget and time restrictions here as there are in Perth. The best events of the evening were the simplest – we headed to St Eustache, a beautiful old church near Les Halles. There was a concert featuring various organists playing spooky and “DER NER NER!” style music in a darkened church. It was very atmospheric.

The headquarters of the French Boulangerie society was open and there were bakers busily preparing fresh bread and croissants to hand out to hungry (or just greedy like me) passersby. Everyone received a bag with three warm bakery treats. So good.

Nuit Blanche

Mmmm… delicious baked goods.

Another highlight was at Le Cité des Arts, another artists’ residency in Paris. You walked through a dark room with a single red lamp streaming light down a passage way. After a few seconds of entering you soon realised that the other people in the room that you first thought were just fellow visitors were in fact standing facing the walls making eery humming sounds. The result was a fantastic cacophony of sound reverberating around the room. It made you feel unsettled but also mystified at the same time. Such a simple concept yet it really struck you.

My favourite moment was in the courtyard of the National Archives – surrounded by the beautiful old building in the middle of the Marais, were four bubble machines. Thousands of bubbles were pumped into the air creating such a magical scene. There was soft music playing in the background and you felt like you were floating through space or just reliving life as a kid again. Everyone had huge smiles on their faces and were overwhelmed by the beauty of the bubbles. It was just wonderful.

Nuit Blanche

I wanted to sing and dance and pretend I was in a musical.

Probably the most disappointing event we saw was at Notre Dame. They projected a documentary onto the main front wall inside the cathedral, so while this could have been absolutely wonderful, it was long, it had sound that you could barely hear and it was a pretty ordinary documentary to start with. We didn’t stay to watch. Considering the huge potential that space has, some simple projections of images or shapes or colours or interesting lights would have been so much more effective. It was nice being inside Notre Dame in the pitch black, however it just highlighted even further how disappointing the documentary was.

Chris and I returned to the Récollets just after midnight, not really fulfilling the ‘stay out until the early morning’ concept. It was a good night but it didn’t quite live up to the high expectations that I had of La Nuit Blanche. Maybe it was the rain.

Hanging With the Birds

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

On Sunday after a failed attempt to get into Ten Belles for afternoon tea (too many blogs are talking about it at the moment), I headed with three friends around the corner to La Chambre aux Oiseaux – directly translated into The Bedroom of the Birds. This vintage-styled joint is spacious compared the average hipster café, but some big wooden furniture and very impressive flower wallpaper give the place a cozy grandmother feel.

We arrived just after lunch and I think it had been busy. The staff looked tired and didn’t appear to want to serve us. They were apologetic for their slow service but I had just run 16 kilometres and REALLY wanted cake. It wasn’t a good time to disappoint me.

La Chambre aux Oiseaux offers a selection of home made food and a good looking (and reasonably priced) breakfast that I think I will have to go back for. They had finished lunch service and were just offering cakes, although had finished most of their daily supply. While this is always disappointing for those who arrive late, it is a good sign that their product is fresh and home made.

I had a coffee and a piece of the beetroot cake which was described to me as “like carrot cake but with beetroot.” Made sense. And it was delicious – moist and full of crunchy walnuts and drizzled not-too-heavily with a vanilla icing. Very good.

Beetroot cake

Vintage Beetroot Cake

The coffee was tasty too, and unlike Ten Belles, the cup was nice to drink out of. It makes a big difference to your dining experience!

I’d like to go back and give this place another go as I feel we hit them at a bad moment and the café has a lot of potential. Plus I seriously loved their wallpaper.

La Chambre Aux Oiseaux
48 Rue Bichat 75010
Open: Wednesday to Sunday