Overview of Montmirail, from a very old magazine. Our house can be seen at the foot of the right side of the castle. There are four little trees in front of it.
Photo taken by one of our recent clients of his pretty wife on the terrace at Maison Conti. He was gracious enough to send it to us.
Welcome to Maison Conti
We had clients last night who drove from Switzerland in their Russian motorcycle with side-car. Sweet.
Dinner on the terrace
Sunny breakfast at Maison Conti.
This morning we had two charming couples from Austria. The wives are twin sisters, the husbands are best friends and the babies were born three days apart.
Sunny day on the terrace
Emily and the family came for the weekend. Quinn, Zinnie and Jos did some projects in the garden playhouse.
Our last spring project this year was re-painting the stairwell, covering up the trompe l'oeil paintings that we had grown tired of and remaking the banister which was also a kind of trompe l'oeil construction made by the previous owners. We bought the large mirror at a local brocante to add to the collection of antique mirrors that hang on the opposite wall. Finally we removed a bust of Marie Antoinette that had lived in the niche for eight years. We replaced her with a hibiscus plant. Truth be told, we smashed Marie to bits and took her to the dump. This was not a political statement but rather a decorating choice. She was extremely heavy and the only way to remove her was to destroy her.
Here's how it looked before:
The end of the season here at the Maison Conti is jumping. Last week we had a group of Americans here for a watercolor class, this week it was a course in photogravure with a motorcycle rally in-between.
Victoria Copeland contacted us last fall, asking if she and her husband Michael, who is a talented painter and experienced teacher, could conduct a watercolor course here at the Maison.
We have been in plans ever since. Victoria, who is a well-organized and energetic lady, pulled together a group of five delightful and totally inexperienced students, all from the east coast of the U.S. to participate in the workshop.
They were a very agreeable group to have around the house. Apparently there was not one of them who arrived with any expectation that they would be able to learn the first thing about watercolor painting. None of them had done anything like this before.
The first exercise, to loosen the students up, involved scribbling inside journals and then picking out little areas to add paint to. This was non-threatening and at the same time lots of fun. It was hard to come out with a bad result. The paint and journals which were provided were of top quality so there was no question of struggling with materials.
I really enjoyed watching how well everyone worked together. They were all completely game, despite their own self-doubt, to work at the very clever exercises that Victoria and Michael had planned. The weather also completely cooperated. It was gorgeous all week long.
What everyone in the class discovered, much to their surprise and pleasure, was that they were able to make wonderful little paintings.
I was very impressed with how well everyone did. I tried to peek into the classroom in-between fixing meals to get a sense of how the Copelands work, and I must say I wish I had been more free to take the course myself! Their clear suggestions of how to approach a painting and their clever exercises seemed empowering. They do host watercolor retreats periodically in various locations. I highly recommend them to you.
At the end of the workshop, everyone wished it could go on a little longer and they all expected to keep up their sketch books.
It was a pleasure for us to have a house full of happy art students!
At the weekend there was a big rally of antique motorcycles. Bikes had to be at least 50 years old to be able to participate in the all day ride which commenced in Montmirail.
The countryside around us is full of rambling roads and pleasant meanders through picturesque villages and verdant landscapes. It makes the area a magnet for beautiful old vehicles and their enthusiasts.
We could picture ourselves on old bikes like these. What a great hobby that would be!
There were about 25-30 bikers who roared or putted out of town early in the morning.
The last excitement of our busy season was a course we gave this week to Al, a friend of my brother's from Santa Cruz. He is a talented photographer who has done cyanotype, photo-silk screen and several other photographic techniques. He's in the middle of building a studio at home where he can pursue these methods. He wants to add photoetching to his repertoire.
I don't use photogravure very much, but I was pleased with how well Al's photos printed up. It really is a wonderful technique and doing a bit of it this week made me want to do a lot more myself.