The Sixth Week

The exhibition La mécanique des dessous (Underwear Uncovered)
This exhibition presents all sorts of devices that women and men used, since the 14th century, to shape their silhouettes according to the fashion of the moment. To formulate it with other words, this is the history of the long metamorphosis of the bodies to comply to the fashion dictates.
Exactly, what kind of devices might have been used, through the last 700 years, to achieve a waist as thin as a bee’s, to the point of asphyxiation? What was the trick to show off pushed up breasts reaching to the throat? How did they manage to exaggerate the hips to the point of needing 3 chairs to sit down? In the Victorian era, what kind of basket was used to extremely push up the derriere?
Men also used conning to oversize their pectorals; to make super muscular calves; and to over show their male attributes. Were available, in all sizes, some shells to put in the pants over the penis, advantaging greatly the wearer. Was it really useful to seduce the ladies?
Under the beautiful garments those devices were simply some structures, whale corsets, hoop padding, lacings, hinges, zippers, springs and elastic fabric. But to position them efficiently was purely an art.
This exhibition gathers over 200 baskets, crinolines, stomach belts, faux-culs, sheaths and push-ups provided by private collectors or public museums. People visiting the exhibition can try on those accessories (over their clothes) to truly feel the sensations of being choked, imprisoned, confined and have difficulties to move around. Of course, that was the price to pay to parade elegantly, to have perfect silhouettes: the precise quality of women of the highest extract. Nowadays, we still say “One must suffer to be beautiful”. Certainly this expression makes reference to those former eras.
The installation of the exhibition also includes a little cinema theater. The movies sequences show actors, from famous movies, putting on clothes, in different steps of their complex vestures. Some of those little movies are so funny!




Trompe l’oeil: an exhibition of make believe, optical illusion at the Museum of Decorative Arts.
This exhibition is very entertaining. The art of Trompe l’oeil exists since the Classical antiquity, some evidences of it have been discovered in mosaics. More recently many materials have been used to produce imitations: paper can imitate marble; rhinestones can mimic diamonds; and linoleum can make believe wood floor.
Some objects are a front for other objects: embroidery may create a faked scarf over a gown; an empty book may hide jewels; and painted faked drawers may dissimulate doors. Even a naked body may fool the viewer’s eye. It suffices to paint an outfit on the skin and the person isn’t really naked anymore...
This exhibition shows over 400 examples of deceiving objects. A real delight.





An organ concert at the cathedral of Notre-Dame of Paris
I live almost under the bell towers of Notre-Dame of Paris. How can I resist to the temptation to go to a concert of its organ?
The gigantic music instrument occupies all the available room at the back of the cathedral, hanging up in the air between the big stained glass rose window and the main entrance.
The organist, Johann Vexo, played pieces by Louis Vierne, Franck Cesar and Maurice Duruflé Veni Creator. The latter piece gave the opportunity of opening all bellows of the instrument. Believe me, it produced an impressive effect and made me humble in front of its might.
For many minutes the music wrapped me completely making oblivious anything else. The wave of musical notes resonated between the huge columns and flew away to the vault ceiling. Long after the organist had finished to touch the keyboard the music continued to reverberate.
Organs are mighty music instruments, Notre-Dame’s instrument fits well the gigantic church!


Johann Vexo plays Louis Vierne: Symphonie II at Notre Dame Cathedral


Visiting my neighbor Redouane Chalaf, painting artist from Morocco
I like to visit my neighbors at their open house events. Usually I offer them a little gift: chocolate, fruits, flowers. This is the way I express my gratitude for their generosity in opening their secret gardens.
The inspiration of Redouane Chalaf is a process of first an artistic research followed by the actual painting. His most recent paintings are inspired by a book about insanity and the general perception of it, through the History and human cultures. Redouane cuts out some pages from the book in question, he glues them on the painting canvas and then he properly begins to paint his work. The result is the predominance of the black color and the theme of a curled up man in his painting of the present period.
I sincerely hope that what I see in his paintings isn’t what he experiences during his Paris journey. Unfortunately I hadn’t the opportunity to ask him directly.


Redouane Chalaf

The photo research and the translation are made by Lucie Daigneault
Dare I say it? Has spring really arrived?.. it sure looks like it, the leaves on the trees are beginning to pop out, and the wide array of spring flowers are in bloom, colours everywhere! At long last…. I think spring has arrived, but we can also expect some very cool, if not cold, overnight temperatures before we are truly out of the cold weather cycle, mid May not withstanding.

So, on that note, what have I been up to over the cold winter months? You will recall from my March blog that I laid it all out for everyone to read… what UFOs I would work on this year, along with working on other projects.

I must say that I am quite pleased with the progress I have made on my stitched pieces. Mountmellick takes to the Sea is not only finished but also framed. Happiness!

When I brought it for framing, I also had a couple of other pieces framed, Florentine Fancy, an EAC Intermediate Canvas Group course, and the introductory metal work piece. It is always nice to see the finished pieces framed and hung for enjoyment.

Other pieces are getting attention as are the Cyber courses EAC is offering along with the two Cyber courses the Cyber chapter sponsored. The canvas candy bowl is one that has been completed and on display. I have been working on some more than others, but they will all get their share of attention in their allocated time frames.

With the arrival of warm weather many of us will turn our thoughts to gardening, travel or stitching outside (or some of each). Where are some of your favourite places to stitch in summer? Will you take stitching projects with you when you travel? It is never to early to think of these things.

I always take some projects with me when I am away from home. However I have found that I stitch better inside than in most places outside. I find the novelty of the warm fresh air and scenery to be a distraction, but I am working on finding the perfect outdoors spot for stitching, stay tuned, I will share it with you when I finally settle on one.

This is Seminar week, hosted by Ottawa Valley Guild of Stitchery, and the clock is now ticking on the 2015 Seminar hosted by the Calgary Guild of Needle & Fibre Arts. If you have not had the opportunity to attend a Seminar, perhaps now is the time to give some thought to attending one. It is an experience you will not soon forget. After attending a number of Seminars, I am not attending this one for a variety of reasons, but I have already noted on my calendar my travel to Calgary for Seminar 2015. Perhaps we might meet there?

I the meantime, enjoy this lovely weather, and until the next time...
Happy Stitching!


Saturday, July 27, 2013

One of the privileges of the Cité des arts’ tenants (the building complex where I live in the 4th borough) is to have access to the public library Forney, which is specialized in the handcraft, the fine arts, the fashion and costumes, the art of gardening, the decorative arts and the graphic arts. Its facilities are right across the street from home.

And this is a very beautiful building! At the beginning, in 1500, this was the Hotel of Sens, the gothic castle of the archbishops of Paris. A century later the Queen Margot lived in there for a year (Marguerite of Valois). I’m so impressed! The rue Figuier’s access (the fig tree street) leads to the entrance through a courtyard. Crossing this courtyard I have the impression of to walk in the very steps of the daughter of Catherine of Medicis (Marguerite of Valois).

In 1572, Marguerite of Valois married Henri of Navarre (later King Henri IV of France). Marguerite was a catholic and Henri was a protestant. This union trigged the sad event of the St-Barthelemy’s Massacre, degenerating in a war of religions in the entire country.

A famous French movie narrates those events, “La reine Margot”, by Patrice Chéreau, starring Isabelle Adjani. I’m tempted to watch this movie one more time.

Scene after scene, the actress wears fabulous embroidered historical gowns...And herself, she is so beautiful.

Hotel of Sens, the public library Forney

Inside the public library Forney

Another view of the public library Forney

One of the Queen Margot’s gowns worn by the actress Isabelle Adjani, note the hand embroidered bodice

July 27

The Museum of Cluny is the national museum of Middle ages. For that museum also, the Cité international des arts’s tenants have free passes. I feel so lucky! Its collection includes all sorts of medieval objects and the extraordinary tapestry of the Dame à la licorne (The Lady and the Unicorn).

The Hotel of Cluny was built at the end of the 1400’s, in the flamboyant gothic architectural style. I have to walk 30 minutes to go to the Museum of Cluny. Nearby there is also the famous University of Sorbonne.

Today, I visit the Museum of Cluny mainly for a guided tour: Vêtements et parures du Moyen âge (Clothes and Apparels of the Middle Age). Wandering from a hall to another, we can admire sculptures, stained glasses, illuminations and paintings.

The guide explains the evolution of the shirt. The shirt originates from the roman tunic. A type of clothing worn for 1000 years, indifferently used by men and women. Many variations mark the evolution of the tunic, it was alternately long or short; one layer or many layers; split or full fabric; plain or colored fabric; embroidered or not. In sum, through the centuries the tunics have been known in a wide variety before the details of their confection began to reveal the social rank, the profession or the gender.

Unfortunately, I couldn't salute the Lady and the Unicorn. (I say the Lady, but in fact it is question of six large tapestries). The Monalisa of Cluny (the Lady) hadn't leaved the museum for 20 years. But at the very moment I come to visit her, she travels in Japan. She'll come back in October to be accommodated in a new set up.

Great! At the end of October I'll still be in Paris.

The Lady and the Unicorn, one of the six tapestries

Sunday, July 28

In total, 250 artists, from around the world, live at the International City of Arts. Many wings form this complex, an ill convenient situation if you want to make new relationships. Welcoming cocktails and openings of exhibitions in the two galleries of art of the complex allow some opportunities to fraternize. Otherwise, the contacts happen among neighbours in corridors, laundrette, entrance hall, stairs and elevator.

Everybody's busy. When Kaori Nakamatsu, a Japanese artist, visited me I was delighted. Kaori practices the art of painting china. We live in the same building, her, on the courtyard side (I'm on the street side). O.K., it means no traffic noise for her but she is deprived of the view on the Seine River, the riverboats, the gigantic chestnut trees and... the hoboes.

Instead, her window view shows huge stone walls and their vines. Late at night, neighbors chat in the courtyard.

Her residence stay extends for three months. She would like to stay longer. So, she trys to prolong her visa and to find accomodation. She would also like to exhibit in Paris, but the International City of Arts' exhibition hall is unavailable. One has to make a reservation many months in advance.

In addition, the post fees for her pieces of art, coming from Japan, are prohibitive. So her plans were to create new pieces of art during her stay but the delivery delays, for her artist supplies, were very slow. And when cardboard boxes arrived at long last, they had been damaged. It means a big effort of adjustment for her.

And she's trying to adapt the best she can. Every morning Kaori follows French classes.

Those obstacles, that Kaori encounters, show how much it could be difficult to adapt in our new life in Paris. We have to face many challenges, identify new anchorage points, built a new day to day life to achieve the well being necessary to be able to create. It takes so little to perturb this equilibrium.

I lent Kaori my book about the Paris' artisans. One of those artisans practices the same art as Kaori, china painting. This is a little thing that I can do to help her to appreciate Paris.

An example of Kaori’s work

Monday, July 29

Let's continue the visits of the Paris' artisans: the Mise au verre boutique, master in the art of glass wares, in the rue de la Tour d'Auvergne, in the 9th borough

At first glance, the workshop is inviting. The boss and three workmates work in silence, standing up (it's a tiny workshop, there is even no room for chairs). Around the worktable, in the center of the workshop, everyone is focused on his stained glass piece.

Mr. Grossriether is a former computer engineer. After his job termination, he shifted his career. The ironic thing is, when he was young, he decided not to study the fine arts, an income source too economically unreliable...

He went back to school and achieved a professional high school degree in the stained glass technique. He restores and creates for private clients. It is noticeable, in posh buildings of Paris, the stair cases are ornamented with magnificent stained glasses.

Mr. Grossriether's diploma doesn't allow him the restoration of churches, another specialty.
To each one, his specialty.

Stained glass by Marc Grossriether

Tuesday, July 30

The visit of the Ste-Chapelle (the Holy Chapel), a jewel of architecture radiant style

From 1226 to 1270, the King Louis IX of France (whom will be canonized eventually) commanded the construction of the Holy chapel, in the purpose of gathering and storing the Holy Relics of the Passion of Christ. At high price, Louis had acquired some of them. These acquisitions had a great effect on the prestige of France. For the medieval people, the country and the city of Paris became like a new Jerusalem, an important Christian capital.

In the Louis' vision, the Holy Chapel was destined to serve as a jewel box for the crown of thorns, a nail from the cross of the Passion and other effects that belonged to Christ.

The Holy Chapel stands on two floors: the Low Chapel and the High Chapel. The relics were guarded and worshiped in the High Chapel, the access exclusively permitted to the King, his entourage and the priests. A second floor outdoor walkway linked the Royal Palace and the Holy Chapel.
The Low Chapel was reserved to the Palace's staff. Its architecture is characterized by arches, colonnades and trusts.

And what about the common people? They simply hadn't access.

The most famous pictures are of the High Chapel. Sumptuous stained glass suround the hall. They are raised at an impressive height. Their intense colored designs narrate some passages of the Bible, the Ancient and the New Testaments.

Both, in the High and in the Low Chapels the decoration is heavily charged with the Louis IX's coats of arms: fleur-de-lis on blue background paired with towers on red background, referring to Blanche of Castille's coats of arms, Louis' mother.

During the Revolution (1789), the Holy Chapel, as a symbol of royalty, suffered from vandalism. But its stained glass has been spared. The Holy Relics of Christ still exist. They are kept safely in Notre-Dame of Paris.

I intent to visit them. Every first Friday of the month they are presented to the public.
Nowadays, the Holy Chapel isn't a place of worship, but a most frequented tourist attraction. Between the guided tours and the crowd of tourists, praying is a difficult challenge even for the most pious believer.

The upper level of the Holy Chapel

The Conciergerie is one of the buildings of the Royal Palace's ensemble. For many centuries, around 1400 years, the Conciergerie (the name could be translated something like: the caretaker office) embodied the heart of the royal power, a mighty symbol of the monarchy. Later, this building also hosted the Parliament of Paris'.

In 1370, the nature of its vocation changed, it became a state jail. A new manager, a caretaker, was designated, by this, giving the present name of the building. At the French Revolution, the Revolutionary Tribunal sat in its high ceiling halls, beside the court of justice. The prisoners' quarters were on the lower floor of the facilities.

Rapidly the dungeons were overcrowd by the Parisian's prisoners and others prisoners coming from all over France. In any event, the journey at the Conciergerie was short. Whether a prisoner was acquitted and walked out free, or one was condemned and went right away to the guillotine.

The most famous prisoner was Queen Marie-Antoinette, In 1793, she was decapitated on the public place. In the Conciergerie, her cell was restored, herself and her jailers are presented.

This building is charged with so much tragic events, hosted so many historical characters. When I think of those people, they stop of being only names in books of History or characters in movies.
They are real human beings, men and women, who suffered in those narrow unhealthy cells. At night they must have been frightened in the total darkness, but were still fighting for their just cause.

Those dungeons imprisoned also innocent people who were unfortunately trapped in the vortex of History.

That visit urges me to read books about the History of France.

The Conciergerie, a view from the Seine River

Thursday, August 1

I visit Johanna Braitbart's workshop, a fashion accessory's artisan, on her visit card it is also mentioned: Jewels, Embroideries and Accessories.

On my way to her workshop (on the Blancs-Manteaux street) I take the Temple's street. I know well this particular street because there are many stores selling beads, sequins and other jewel supplies. Ah! Beads, the dream of every embroiderer!

Some stores sell by the piece or little amount but other stores specify they sell only in large amount. I haven't yet dared to visit the latter.

At the boutique of Johanna Braitbart I'm told that she is on vacation. But she is still everywhere in the store by the expression of her personality. The way the purses are adorned is very tasteful. With Johanna Braitbart a plain hat becomes an elegant and original millinery. And the sophisticated headgear can completely transform a plain outfit or can give zest at a chic evening gown. Johanna Braitbart design all sort of accessories in the 1900-1930's style: headbands, scarf-collar, covers, etc.

Laces, feathers, jet beads and jewels are her main inspiration and basic material.

A little thing to purchase at Johanna Braitbart’s boutique, only 350€ (around $534), a cute headgear for summer

The artisan of Paris' directory, that I consult, was edited in 2007, of course things may have changed since.

Indeed, when I headed to the Sycomore's Workshop I expected to meet up a maker of oboes and bassoons. Apparently, Olivier Cottet, after 30 year of experience in the making of wind musical instruments, had given his place to the young stringed instrument maker Christelle Caillot.

When I arrived she was just finishing a brand new guitar. She was tightening the first strings of the instrument and was testing their sound, the very first musical notes of this instrument.

A special moment

Here is a link to a short documentary about Christelle Caillot, we watch her at work, she plays the guitar and this is magic.

The photo research and the translation are made by Lucie Daigneault

I had participated in EAC's 2014 atc challenge and this week I received my delightful package from the swap. For those unfamiliar with atc's they are miniature works of art 2 1/2" by 3 1/2". I enjoy the challenge of being creative on something this small.

The lovely cross stitched foxgloves atc was embroidered by Kerry in Calgary and what I think is huck embroidery was stitched by Leslie in Nova Scotia. Thank you!


Rebecca from the Starfish Youth Stitchers in Newfoundland embroidered the sweet little yellow chick. Lots of nice texture and different techniques in F for Felt by Sue Thomas in Ontario. I really like the metal foiling on it which is something I'd like to try soon. Sunset came all the way from Vicki who lives in Australia! Thank you :)


The Shisha Bug atc was stitched by our current president of EAC, Joyce Gill It's wonderfully shiny and looks fabulous! Thank you very much!

Thank you all for participating in this exchange. They are a great addition to my atc collection.
Wishing everyone a delightful day,

Find out more at the Embroiderers' Association of Canada website.
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About EAC

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The Embroiderers' Association of Canada (EAC) is a national non-profit educational organization whose purpose is to have a fellowship of persons who enjoy needlework and wish to learn and share their knowledge; and thereby to work towards maintaining higher standards of design, colour and workmanship.

Our aim is to preserve traditional techniques and promote new challenges in the Art of Embroidery through education and networking.

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