I woke early today to find that the canal was clouded with fog. I grabbed my camera and went out onto the street. Nearly every second person I saw was a photographer.
I hope it’s foggy again soon!
The work at the studio went well, too. Here’s me with the blues/greens/greys print just off the press.
And here’s our inky gloves lined up on the bench.
And then, this evening coming home from the studio, we were caught in a rainstorm. The streets were darkly beautiful wet with rain, (as Van Morrison might have said.) I will go out tonight again when it is completely dark, and shoot some more.
We have printed our plates a second time, with a quite good result. There was a mark from a fold in the press blanket, but we decided it was a ghost of Venice.
Here’s me and Chris lifting the print from the press.
Venice continues to enchant us. Here’s the Bridge of Sighs, crowded with people.
Venice has many hidden corners. The eye leads you on to explore just that little bit further. What lies beyond the next corner?
Various minor disasters befell us yesterday:
1. Daphne washed her knickers, and in pegging them, Venetian style, to the washing line outside her window, saw two pairs flutter down like white doves to the children’s playground four floors below. Would her language skills be up to retrieving them while maintaining her dignity? Answer: Yes. Always. She is a woman of style.
2. We returned from the studio exhausted from a full day of printing to find the power had failed. No electric light, no hot water. Non Fontionna. ( The very first sentence we heard in Italian on our arrival in Venice! Was it a sign? ) Appeals to have it fixed seemed to go nowhere. It would be OK tomorrow. It is what you should expect in a seventeenth century building. We were being a bit precious. Look at the view of the canal! How to respond? We dined by candlelight and awaited the morning. Pollo con limone e aglio and ratatouille followed by panforte, accompanied by prosecco.
Late today, as promised, power was restored, and with it, communications.
3. Nicki and I got lost. Again.
4. Nicki has been bitten on the thigh several times, but not by a gondolier.
However, we had some success in the studio. We made two prints from the plates we had prepared. The plates are made from found materials sourced in Venice, including a bit of our building which had fallen off onto the balcony. Non Fontionna. So theres a little piece of the seventeenth century in our print.
The inked plates on the press bed.
Our finished print : The Textures of Venice. The colors are the reds and browns of the city. The next one will be in jade green, aqua and blue and we have begun to make the plates for it. Conditions in the studio make it very difficult to make work to the standard one would achieve at home, but we are pleased with what we have achieved so far.
Another view from our apartment.
We’re struggling a bit with the facilities at the studio – lack of materials for printing the plates mainly – so we have instead been enjoying Venice……..here’s some photos to illustrate.
A four eyed Nicki consulting the map yet again.
Reflections on the canal.
Our first plates are ready to print, and hopefully we’ll be able to start it tomorrow. The plates are collographs, all made from found materials, torn paper and cardboard with acrylic gesso, mediums
and PVA glue. This first set will be printed in Venetian red, pinks and browns, intaglio and relief.
We will make a second set of plates using similar materials and construction methods, which will be printed in the jade green of the canals, blues and aqua.
We will need the print gods to be with us, however. There are many hurdles to leap over to realize our plans.
Me and the famous fiocchi d’avena.
The courtyard to the apartment with wisteria in bloom.
A view of the canal.
We had a good day at the studio today. We printed the large plate I made earlier in the week, and although it has a long way to go, I can see it has possibilities. The colors are wrong, the press it was printed on is too small, the blankets have cuts in them and there are other problems as well.
Me, contemplating the print and thinking hard.
Here is Nicki making a new plate. We are going to make about a dozen plates, all from recycled materials, and print them together to make large format prints.
What we have so far:
It takes three people to print one of Melody’s large format prints.
We have porridge! Daphne and Nicki found some fiocchi d’avena at the Rialto. Not the a plastic bag full of rough cut oats, but a very sophisticated tin. It remains to be seen what the contents look like.
Despite last nights experience, I took the wrong vaporetto again this morning, and arrived at the studio late and a bit distracted. Daphne and Nicki arrived sometime later, and both spent some time
on the drypoint I had started. Here’s Daphne working away:
We had another studio lunch – this time penne with tuna and tomato, and a special lamb shaped Easter cake contributed by Melody, like a panettone. Here we all are:
Christa, Stefano, Gianfranco, Christiana, Melody, Nicki and Daphne with the remnants of the cake.
Christa is making a book which includes her drawings and poetry.
A word about food.
We have been eating extremely well, cooking breakfast and dinner at home and eating lunch at one of the many excellent trattoria around Venice and Murano. Fresh produce is easy to find, very high quality, and shopkeepers have great pride in their wares and their presentation. It is foolhardy to attempt to handle the fruit and vegetables. Dirty looks will be rained down upon you. The butcher cuts and ties his meat with the care befitting a work of art.
Today, for example we lunched on Murano. The food was delicious. I had grilled sardines, Daphne had Carbonara, and Nicki had Spaghetti Vongole. It was piercingly cold in the wind, so we each had a hot chocolate to follow. Hot, dark and sensuously delicious, it was neither too sweet nor too bland.
We sat there warmed to the core and deeply satisfied, when the waiter approached us. ‘Are you……Australian?’ , he asked. ‘Yes, how did you know, from our accents?’ ‘No, you had fish and chocolate! I once had a customer who had vegetable soup and a hot chocolate. She was from New Zealand.’ Antipodean eccentricity versus the suave Italian culture. Apparently one has hot chocolate
With cake in the afternoon, NEVER after fish.
All that was left: sardine tails and Vongole shells!
We are having minestrone for dinner tonight. In Italy, it appears, you are expected to make stock from scratch. At least we have been unable to find any packaged stock other than the dreadful cubes. Nicki went to our local butcher and asked for some bones for the stock, and unfortunately, as it turned out, asked for ‘ porco ossi’ or ‘pollo ossi’ which caused great hilarity. He said ‘I have no bones at all’ and then something incomprehensible which reduced his clientele to gales of laughter.
Apparently porco is an extremely rude word in Italian.
After a two and a half hour vaporetto trip back from Murano (don’t ask!) we staggered into Harry’s Bar thinking of having a warming drink before walking back to our apartment through the rain. We figured that since it was such an institution, we needed to do it once before leaving Venice, and now seemed to be the right time. What a disappointment! Full of well heeled tourists (of course) completely lacking in atmosphere, and with prices for a single drink equivalent to what we have been paying for a whole meal, we decided it had to be done, to bite the bullet and pay up rather than leave. Daphne ordered a tea for 9 euros. When it arrived it was a small teapot full of less than boiling water, no milk, and a selection of TEABAGS!!! Nicki and I had another hot chocolate each, nowhere near the quality of the one we had in Murano. It was half the quality for twice the price.
A bit of a slow start today. We finally arrived at the studio at around noon.
However, Nicki made her first print today – her first print ever, that is! It is a dry point on recycled aluminum. Unfortunately, the paper was pretty awful.
Here she is, with her work, Textures of Venice.
Ben and Jenny are going home tomorrow, so everybody at the studio had a lunch, cooked by Gianfranco, in their honour. Since Jenny is vegetarian, it was spaghetti con pomodori, with olives.
There was a glass of red wine, and Gianfranco’s good coffee afterwards.
Here is Ben with the woodcut blocks for his large format prints.
He struggled to get them into a tube to transport them back to England. Because of the weight of the paper and the tube, he is desperately hoping he can get them accepted as on board luggage on the plane.
On the way back to our apartment afterwards, we stopped in at an art and hardware store to find materials for the collagraphs we will be making. I made risotto with rocket and mushrooms for dinner, and we bought some delicious small cakes. A glass of prosecco, and an early night for us all.
Well, we managed to catch the vaporetto with our big box of plates. (Picture tomorrow!)
At the studio, there are printmakers from all parts of the world. At the moment, there is Melody from Mongolia, a Ben from Whitstable, England, Jenny from Ithaca, New York, Chris from Portugal, Christa from somewhere else in America, and we three Aussies………..and Gianfranco, our host.
Melody is printing very large etchings of ballerinas. Her mother was a Russian trained ballerina.
Jenny makes large woodcuts. She is a keen environmentalist.
We made more rubbings, cut up some of our new plate, and Nicki and I each started a dry point based on some of the photographs we have taken, while Daphne investigated the fonts available for letterpress printing and made a rough mock up of the book we intend to make. As our first excursion into printing together it worked very well.
Desperate for oats to have for breakfast, we have tested Daphne’s Italian to the limit. No one here seems to understand the concept of porridge. Our local Providore suggests espresso and biscotti is the breakfast of champions. His idea of porridge is that we cook it for ten minutes, then throw it out and go to the cafe for espresso and biscotti. Apparently what we want is ‘farina d’avina’ or perhaps
‘fiocchi d’avina.’ Or perhaps we forget about it and go to the cafe.