Made in Tuscany

Theme 1: Aerials Theme 2: Fissures Theme 3: Block and circle Theme 4: Tuscan junk Theme 5: Pomegranate Theme 6:Florentine block Theme 7: At Edisons

Tuscan Journal /1

6 to 19 July 2001

Here follows some background on my holiday in Tuscany.

I had a rocky start. I'd booked with a budget airline, but didn't realize (like so many of their first-time flyers) that they flew out from Charleroi airport, not Zaventem (Brussels National Airport). So when I got to Zaventem, in good time for my flight (I thought), I found that there was no way that I'd make my flight after all - Charleroi was just too far away. So I had to make an alternative arrangement - flying from Zaventem early the next morning, touching down in Milan (4 - 5 hours from Pisa). Instead of a leisurely start to my vacation, it was a bit stressful, but I eventually joined up with the rest of the group for a week's painting holiday.

Il Collegio is owned by an English couple, David and Leonie, from Cornwall. Leonie used to be a Painting lecturer, but is now retired (still painting as always, though). She took the main responsibility for the catering. David is a sculptor, but he also lecturers at an art school (guest lecturer). He drove the bus (15-seater), got the provisions and supervised the art sessions.

The house, with adjacent chapel/studio, and the castle (doctor's house) is situated at the top of the village (Vallico Sotto). It has a lovely garden, where we regularly had our meals. (Notice the other Irene in the group!)

The village is about 500m above sea level, the middle of three villages in a mountainous part of Tuscany (near Lucca, which is east of Pisa). Above us was Vallico Sopra and down the pass was Fabrique, a larger village with more facilities.

In our village the locals (mainly older people, with a few young families) were used to foreigners visiting for a week or two. They were very friendly, and just got on with their lives and amused us with the quaint ways.

Our group had ages ranging from 37 to 77. The 5 of us sharing the castle (doctor's house) were the younger set and were well-suited, I think. I enjoyed sharing a room with Kathy, 43, from Leeds.

On our first morning, David did an introductory workshop, encouraging us to experiment, but to opt for doing a series of works. I'd taken some fibre tip pens with me, and chose to use them as my first medium. My first subject: TV aerials. I found them really amusing and inspiring. I also used fissures in a stone slab and the outside of someone's house to inspire other works.

One day, going down the pass, I noticed a shed along the side of the road, filled with junk. I took a photograph as we passed, and decided it was worth a special trip, to take more photos, for future projects.