The Birthday Chocolatier

I hoped to treat myself to a hot chocolate, but time slipped by whilst caught up in a morning meeting. On the way home I called in to a chocolatier. Sitting on the corner of a beautiful Victorian sandstone building with large arch windows, it seemed opulent through the glass. I assumed its speciality was Belgian or such like. I avoided it for months.

Then I stepped inside.

I was wrong!
I was in Turkish nirvana!
The assistant explained to me. Everything was from Turkey.
I pointed at her djezma on a shelf, which had a base like an electric kettle. And all the little coffee cups, prava kafa in sachets.
Yes, there was Delight too and special sumptuous dates.
I told her it was my birthday and I was treating myself.
She asked what I did.
I said I wrote sometimes.
She told me her life story.

A young woman with four sons, who had survived abuse as a child, from her father, her mother’s partner, care homes, her partner. She’d been through the mill she said, but she was as okay as she could be. She became Muslim and it helped her to find stability and security.

I told her I once worked at Women’s Aid and she said that the organisation was her lifeline, helping her flee and resettle.
I wanted to hug her, but she was on the other side of the counter. So I put my hand out to her and she took it.
You’re okay now, I said. I am, she replied.
She gave me a birthday treat and I bought a beautiful wooden egg with small praline eggs  inside.
Poignant really, am also reading Chocolat by Joanne Harris again.
I’ll go back for gifts.
Time came for the bus home.

Don’t walk past the chocolatier, there’s more than cocoa inside.

OCA Learning Log Assignment Two

With this assignment I began researching collage artists, mostly female. Having never studied collage before, I was introduced to a whole new way of thinking and making that I hadn’t tried since childhood. I had never noticed collage or if it was present in exhibitions, had never looked closely.

 

 

 

Artists I came across were Hannah Hoch, Eileen Agar, Kara Walker, Wanchegi Moto, Nancy Spero and Sonia Delaunay. The latter I knew through her work in colours, shapes and fashion design.

I initially conducted research online, through my own general art books and then located books at Leeds Central Library, attached to the gallery. They have an art library. Accessing books is quite difficult at Foundations level as we don’t have an online resource to turn to. Art books are also notoriously costly. Leeds Art Library came to my rescue.

I took a morning to spend in the Leeds building and the opportunity to seek out collage in current exhibitions. In Abstracts in 1930’s Britain I found Frances Butterfield, Jacob Kramer, Cecil Stephenson, all of whom used collage as a means of expression.

I searched out Nancy Spero. She seemed to work in the moment and moved further away from Western art. She was known for her feminism. 

 

Hannah Hoch  – Hannah took photos from other sources and made images from them, creating photo montages. Her lines are sharp and hard and she connected them through colour. She enjoyed playing with dimensions. This collage made me laugh when I first saw it! It’s a great example of humour through collage.

 

 

I then looked at Eileen Agar’s work. Her approach was to use mixed media, layering paint with collage. Her work reminds me of Matisse’s work – fluid shapes.

All three artists manipulate collage very differently, it was inspirational to discover them and research their work.

I chose  Time for Tea but with coffee. I mixed words with found papers. It felt a little cheeky cutting up other people’s work, art postcards, brochures from creative writing courses and I have to say that initially I struggled with this, but these were the materials I had. I kept remembering Hoch and that working in collage in this way was fine, it did also lend itself to a rebellious approach to art. So much can be said with simple imagery.

The items were a coffee pot, small cup with saucer and shot glass. I also started a sketch book to formulate ideas around this theme, none of which I used, but I enjoyed researching and putting together. I kept what I made very simple, thinking more about shapes and sizes rather than colour initially.  I had mostly white paper to work on but found a sheet of blue printing paper and a wax drawing in an A4 sketch pad, which I did some years ago. As they were together I decided to cut up my drawing to create a djezma on the blue sheet.

I wondered about the shapes I was cutting out or drawing and whether it mattered that they weren’t exact  or that things fitted together properly. But there was also something enjoyable about the naivety in my work. I also wasn’t sure if I was interpreting the exercises properly, or if that really mattered either, if I was enjoying a process. Once I let go of the idea of perfection I started to have more fun in choosing from the selection of papers available in my home.

When it came down to working on A5, I suddenly felt that I could use the smaller papers and card to create an object in a more patterned, co-ordinated way, which I quite enjoyed the impact of.

For the last exercise on A5, stripes and spots, I worked on the theme of Italy from magazines. Cutting up photos of buildings, bottles of olive oil and Sofia Loren. It was enjoyable to take apart images and play with them. Interesting to note that it was very easy to tell what they were about originally.

My computer wouldn’t read the camera’s card after having taken photos of the work created. I also tried through another machine. I have been unable to upload them here as yet, but will keep trying.

Bibliography:

Agar,E. A Look at My Life, Methven, 1988

Hoch, H. Picture Book, Green Box Publishers, 1945

Spero, N. The Work by Christopher Lyon, Prestel, 2010

Taylor, B. Collage – The Making of Modern Art, Thames and Hudson, 2004