Laya Point Permaculture 2015–The First Calligraphy Course: Catalan Carolingian Calligraphy

LayaPoint2015 strip 1 w ltrg Laya Point Permaculture is a richly beautiful smallholding in the English Lake District, a region celebrated for its luscious views, romantic landscapes and (surprise!) lakes. This summer for the first time we succumbed to the blandishments of Keith’s godson Tom Dennison, who is the guiding genius of Laya Point (along with Nicole Hermes [“Lala”] his right-hand woman executive and communer with vegetables) and rolled on North to offer a course of Catalan Carolingian Calligraphy in a space we had never seen. Now we have. The much-fêted Salle Blanche of Saint-Antoine-l’Abbaye may now see some competition for the title of Best Classroom in Europe for the Teaching of Calligraphy. You will have to experience both in order to judge. These windows in The Old School at Ulpha: Laya Point’s main classroom/meeting space,  might’ve been made for a modern scriptorium. LayaPt strip 2 luminous Head gardener & chef Lala prepared delicious lunches for us every day, and we were required to pick and eat as many strawberries as we possibly could. They wanted eating.LayaPoint foodstrip The full range of dedicated calligraphers… Laya Point student strip Liz Goyder, Susan McGahan, Miquel Centellas, Lillian Berry, Stephen Watts, Helen Cowan, Tom, Nicole, Mabel Little, Mia (who really did no calligraphy, but helped to keep us all cheerful), and Steffen Hirth, Laya Point’s Wwoofer (en route to University at Manchester). Mabel and Helen were lured to Laya Point, I believe, through their membership in Eden Valley Scribes. LayaPoint demostrip Sue, Miquel, Lillian, Lala and Liz surround Keith’s first day demonstration…days later, Mabel, Liz, Helen Miquel & Tom following my demonstration of various uses of pigments, ground on glass with a glass muller…assorted media–gum arabic, almond gum, egg, glair… Which paint (gouache? watercolour?) for which work, and so on ad infinitem. Or at least until they began to distract me with questions for a little break…and the fabled duck-egg glair, which took, I think, actually half an hour to beat with all of us sharing. Cennino Cennini never mentions duck eggs. Quill cutting was a major activity, but as I was doing it, I have no photos. Mabel? did you take many? Anyone? And of your beautiful machine? Also, more photos of Keith actually presenting the script on the non-blackboard?LayaPoint demostrip2 Keith shows us images of manuscripts from Eleventh Century Girona…a facsimile of one of his own manuscript books (this one on paper) with some pages in a modern Catalan Carolingian…& demonstrates aspects of these Catalan scripts.
We had a look at the possibilities of adapting some of the historical initials–especially the droll zoomorphic, or at least zoocephalous initials accompanying the Catalan carolingian… CatalanInitials adapted Applied, with modifications and additions…along with other historical and modern possibilities–some adaptations by Sue, Lillian, Mabel, Helen & Tom:StudentCaps Everyone had a chance to write on calfskin vellum with a quill and ferro-gallic ink and/or gouache pigment & duck-egg yolk or duck-egg glair, some people added a little shell gold. Some people wrote on both sides of the skin. (Have you any photos of the inked sides? I haven’t. I’d like to include some, please!) VellumstripNow my memory is failing me–the spiral text is Tom’s; “JOY” is Stephen’s; the Jeff Stone text is Lillian’s; I think (but you’ll correct me, won’t you?) that “When you know Nature…” is Mabel’s; that “power dwells apart…” is Sue’s; and that the Lao Tzu text is Helen’s. But I could be very mistaken. Apologies if I am wrong. That was the minuscule (but not in a paleographic sense) part of the end-of-course exhibition. Then along the wall, we have: LayaPoint expo longSome drafts of Stephen’s, Liz’s draft, projects by Sue, Mabel, Stephen, Helen, & a finished and an unfinished version from Lillian. What about a closer look? Might the finished version from Liz’s draft look like this? Liz's Sue’s “Jerusalem” quotation looks clean and dignified with it’s long “J/I” in classic vermillion. Perhaps we were rather classic, all of us, but even six days to cover the basics of an historical script and its accompanying decoration along with appropriate tools and materials, and few excursions into modern calligraphic play (beer-tin pens!) takes time. Sue's Jerusalem A very elegant colophon and signature. LayaPoint2015 Mabel's Diddon If anyone has photos in better focus, I will happily replace mine! But we get the idea of Mabel’s presentation Wordsworth’s The River Duddon, as we were on the River Duddon… And she cleverly included the attribution, colophon and signature inside the initial. (I’d love an in-focus shot of that–presumably you still have it, Mabel, might you photograph it for us, please?Duddon rill 2 This little rill, right outside our panoramic window, runs into the Duddon only metres down the hill. Mabel was inspired! {Sorry, yes. It’s England: “…only yards down the hill.”} P1020348 One of  Stephen’s versions, I think with an ink from Jack C. Thompson, made with Catalan ilex galls we sent him. A paler, almost golden colour, that will nonetheless darken eventually. Stephen’s attribution and signature combined in a roundel…anyone have a better photo? This question is understood to be constantly repeated, for each work exhibited, please! And when we saw it on the wall, this version lacked it’s initial. Stephen stayed late and kept working: Here’s another version: P1020349 “Quiet minds…”, characteristically Scots, perhaps (?) from Helen, the red and blue not as clearly separate in the photo as “IRL”. I wish I had a photo of her draft letter with the colours reversed. (Helen? Could you send one?) I like to see the long and short esses (s, ſ –despite any ſ /f confusion. They don’t look much alike, surely.) Helen's Quietminds Lillian is going to include a source credit for her modern wolf–Laya Point, Ulpha, Duddon Valley…Ulpha, the place of the wolf. Please send me a photo when the colophon, &c. are added!Lillian's Winter And Tom’s Ozymandias didn’t even make it into the exhibition. He never stopped working on it (between being our host and organizer among other jobs). Leafing through available books and materials in the classroom, he found some examples of white vine decoration, and immediately began teaching himself. So we gave him a supplementary exemplar, and a little advice, and he went for gold–unhistorical white vine using three tones of red instead of the traditional three or four colours; and not shell gold (what would  that cost?) but “Iriodin”, an industrial “pigment” for metallic effects in textile printing. Mixed with gum arabic as a medium (or was it the duck-egg glair, Tom?) it made a nice non-traditional majuscule I for the text; with the colophon &c. curving up the margin…Tom's Ozymandias Excellent. I’m sure Lala (who, as our chef, was not available to sit in class for six hours a day) and Steffan (who had to look after the vegetables, the ducks, and run messages for the centre) will be returning to their pens, ink, drafts, &c. Perhaps you’ll send us some updates? IMG_1367 And at the end, me (Amanda) flanking Liz, Sue, Mabel, Stephen, Helen, Lillian, Miquel, & Tom, with Keith as the other bookend. (This photo, of course, is by Lala. We should’ve set up the tripod and got Steffen in, too. Next time.) Miquel, have I mis-attributed your projects, or were you hiding them? Send me photos, please! That’s the official end of the course. Before it began, however, Keith’s friend Ralph, the landlord? Landowner? Lord of the Smallholding? who is the father of Tom (who is co-incidentally Keith’s godson*–I mentioned this above, but you’ve had time to forget it) had asked Keith to do a wall (why does the word “mural” sound so pictorial?) at Laya Point. So while I began the re-consolidation of all our pens, paints, books, &c., to pack up; K finally attacked the interestingly piebald wall outside the door, in the porch, of the Old School building. And  produced this:
LayaPoint 2015 Mural view SMALL
(Keith can be seen inside, decompressing with Tom and Lala.) What is it like full on?
LayaPoint Mural full SMALL
Some details, the unprepared render(?)/cement(?) surface with its weathering, stains and dings offers a depth even before letters are added. I believe Nicole has a photo of just the underpainting (Lala? send it along?) which looked rather bare before the swirling Romans came along to animate it. I am envious of Keith’s freely painted Roman majuscules…
LayaPointwall x 4
& we look forward to seeing how it weathers in time, what patinas it gains; or whether it will fade or abrade and need palimpsesting (as one wall on fresh render did, in Paris).
Oops, I forgot “Jeeka” [Ma-gi-ca]…Mia you’ve seen before, disguised as a student… if only one or more of the ducks would waddle in and settle in the basket as well…what an idyll.
Mesdames & messieurs, meine Damen und Herren, ladies & gentlemen, I await your comments, corrections, addenda, and additional photos? Or links to your own online albums, blogs, &c. Please share! We didn’t have a “proper” evaluation–I believe Lala is sending a questionnaire. I look forward to the results.
Summer at Saint-Antoine 2015, Week 1, Italique, starts Monday evening. Will we have changed mental languages? Il faut s’échauffer.

*This is how we were lured to offer a course in England, where neither of us have taught for thirty years or more.

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Summer at Saint-Antoine 2014 Part 2

P1000663Ah, dusk. Twilight, gloaming…crepuscular lighting. I haven’t found a time of day when Saint-Antoine is not photogenic.
Expressive majuscules…Beginning with looking at examples of simple capitals, and a variety of layouts…
P1000573P1000576Looking at some uncommon majuscule forms from manuscripts…
P1080258Everyone hard at work, Jacinthe

P1000634Françoise…P1000640 Jean…P1000641David…P1000642 Marie-Claude…P1000644That’s not everyone. Joan and Anne escaped photographic documentation of their participation this week. But they can be seen in “Part I”.
& some views of their work, from the exhibition at the end of the course…
P1000650 P1000653 P1000664 Exhibition visitors…P1000666 P1000671 P1000672

PT2 PROJ strip
Saint-Antoine has been a part of younger daughter Caroline’s life since she was three (and before that, the Community of the Arche of Bonnecombe). So of course it’s where she and her American sister choose to get together whenever they can. Working in the vegetable gardens is more their thing than calligraphy.
P1000569P1000567Beautiful daughters, returning from a days work in the potato fields.
Mesdames, messieurs — have you more photos to share? Send them along and I’ll add them here! Merci!

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Summer at Saint-Antoine 2014, Part I

The view from the garden. Where does lunch come from? Skies, grass, water…
I know the titles of the Saint-Antoine posts are very dull, but they reflect continuity. Neither Saint-Antoine nor the classes are dull, though. Everyone is paying attention here, although Jean looks as though he might be reserving judgment.
P1000459 - Version 2 The subject is different–“Gothic” has so many variations.
StA 2014 Fraktur titleA bit rigid, but we have to start with the most basic elements.
Maybe all the photos look alike? But every summer, and every class is different – each dynamic is different. There are the  “best-beloved” students, to whom Mr Kipling might tell a story, and new students whose stories we don’t know yet.
Here we are trying to approach Gothique Fraktur – as so often, at the request of
P1000528Christiane Soufflet.
What will she ask for next?
Serious concentration on Keith’s demonstration, and the Catalans are recording it for posterity–or future study.
K demo strip 2014 i
Christiane R, Tatjana, Nicole, Anne; Marta, Christiane S, Marisa…Individual consultations and work on projects, in the luminous Salle Blanche:
Studentstrip2014 i copy
We try to have a half-day free in midweek (compensated for by evening audio/visual presentations) so that people from outside the area can do a little tourism (although there are always those who cannot tear themselves away from their écritoires). Interested parties can wander around the village which is beautiful, or pile into cars (sometimes borrow bicycles…) for a wider ramble. If you come all the way from Australia, the teachers might even take you on a secret cascade escapade…(it’s not that secret). It’s cold though.
CogninEscape2014 i
A couple of Saint-Antoine luncheons, flanking the end of course supper.  There is no shortage of delicious food. We always think we will be thinner when we leave, but so far it hasn’t happened. All those wonderful salads & crudités are irresistible. And the bread!
Foodstrip2014 i
More garden and views–there are even startling manifestations of nature in the classroom: see the mushrooms growing in the potted plant. Saint-Antoine is full of life!
Jardin 2014 i
End of course exposition…it is impossible to get everyone to show up for group photos. Mireia, Marta…show off your work!
Expostrip2014 i
Keith, Nicole, Joan, Mireia, Christiane, Marta, (me! who took this?), Claire, Marisa, another Christiane, Maria…who’s missing? Bénédicte, Jean, Fanny, Anne & Tatjana. A very poor turnout for a group photo, I’m afraid. Perhaps they’ve all already gone down to the pizzaria for a beer.
Manège2014 i
You thought I was joking about the pizzaria? It’s pretty great!
Miscellaneous other photos…Please! Mesdames et messieurs, Senyores i senyors, Ladies & Gentlemen, send me your photos! I’ll be thrilled to include them here!
Nota Bene! a large number of these photos are from Maria Montes & Marta Cunillera–hot designers/photographers both! Colleagues in design, and Maria now works in Australia…
Maria n Marta
just another piece of work…please, mesdames et messieurs, send me more!
by Maria…

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Summer at Saint-Antoine 2013, Part II


P1010849L’abbatiale. Beautiful sunsets. Unusually not photographed from the frisbee field (actually le champ de foot). This week, all the best photos were taken by Anna Coll Marfagón.
IMG_2688Check in, wander into the luminous Salle Blanche…Luke attended both weeks last summer.
Luke Atkinson stayed for both weeks, so for a brief time between courses, he had the Salle Blanche almost all to himself, then:
It began to fill up.
We were once semi-officially named ambassadeurs for the manuscripts of le Mont Saint-Michel by Jean-Luc Leservoisier, curator of the fonds ancien of the Municipal Library of Avranches, where the manuscripts written in the scriptorium of the monastery now reside. (Or are they somewhere in the “Scriptorial” – the new tourist information centre about the manuscripts and their production and conservation? Or are the at the Université de Caen, who are digitising the manuscripts?).
Fortunately we were able to see and study many of them when they were (perhaps) more accessible than they are now.
Each time we present a course on the particular Carolingian scripts used at Mont Saint-Michel, we try to focus on a different manuscript or style, so that people who choose to “repeat” a course will get something new from it.
LeftRightRight-handed or left-handed, everyone can do a respectable carolingian.
StA2013 II allLuke, Jacinth, Anne, Anne, Txus, Mireia, Anna, Françoise, Nadine
It’s not all serious concentration:
P1010949And it is necessary to eat….
EatAnd at the end of the week, show the work in an exhibition…P1020044projsI think here we have Txus Marcano, Luke Atkinson, whose “Littera Scripta Manet” is this?
Mesdames et messieurs – have you more and better photos of the exhibition pieces (I know there are many more pieces) – more and better photos of the whole experience?
Please share them with us! Come to the (Calligraphic portion of) Summer at Saint-Antoine 2014 – find us here.

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Summer at Saint-Antoine 2013, Part I

P1010724This year there are only two Parts to Saint-Antoine. Everyone agrees that the Salle Blanche is obligatory; and owing to the high demand for the Salle  Blanche (sometimes by teachers who only use it for an hour a day….) we had only two week-long courses at Saint-Antoine in the Summer of 2013…[It looks like something similar in the Summer of 2014 – please contact us about other courses…google: keith7amanda].

P1010695Ah, the Salle Blanche. The light. This is why all the students, forever, require the Salle Blanche. What were we presenting again? Ah, yes: StA 2013 Flyer Part I…Gothique…. as originally requested by Christiane – Maria Agra Bermejo…& Christiane Soufflet: P1010706Concentration…. P1010703 P1010735P1010721Christiane Soufflet, Nicole Robin, Keith Adams, Xavi Vaqué, Carol Van Waart, Joana Royo, Enric Royo, Jaume Royo, Luke Atkinson: P1010747Joana Royo P1010748 - Version 2Keith evaluating layouts…(Enric Royo, Jaume Royo, Maria Agro Bermejo, Dani Garcia, Luke Atkinson) P1010758Justine Vassal, Luciana Canepa, Dominique Augier, Nicole Doux…P1010750Nicole DouxP1010777 - Version 2Christiane SouffletP1010790 Maria Agra BermejoP1010791Luke Alexander Atkinson P1010792Jaume Royo P1010793Gérard GosmeP1010794Dani GarciaP1010795Dominique AugierP1010797Enric RoyoP1010801Justine VassalP1010803Christine NodetP1010712 - Version 2Nicole “Fleur de l’Unité” RobinP1010804 Xavi Vaqué P1010805Carol Van Waart P1010808 - Version 2Luciana CanepaP1010811Lucia Legland P1010812 The fin-de-stage exhibiton:P1010779P1010818P1010799P1010820P1010822P1010824Photo0135Avez-vous, mesdames, messieurs, d’autres photos à partager? Teniu més fotos per compartir? Anyone want to share more photos? Surtout des oeuvres achevées? De les obres acabades? Of the finished work exhibited? Photos des repas? Fotos dels apats? Pictures of the fabulous meals? Corrections? Comments?

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A startling evening in August

I am at home, unexpectedly, for a complex concatenation of reasons. But I am here, and I walk the dogs, and my lovely neighbour feeds me (so far).
But this evening’s dogwalk was unexpected. Startling. And I returned home weeping.


There are more photos, but taken in the gloaming. And at the moment WordPress is seeming less intuitive than usual. For all fans of storks…I’ll try to post it better tomorrow(?).  I am here with responsibilities, and storks are not a priorityImage

… but they were so beautiful and unexpected and bloody hard to photograph in the deepening dark…
The village stream is dried up – they won’t want to stay.
I am so surprised that I coincided with their passage at all…and how I wish they could be lured to settle here.

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A week’s miscellaneous photos

P1010345Signage: always looking at signage. Always photographing signage. I stood in the street for some time trying to read this. Strangely, it appears to be a branch or new incarnation of a shop I knew. A week after I took it, I looked at the image on my camera screen and could finally identify the first letter. Then it came into focus.
Curiously, I showed it to K and he went (aloud) through the same process of decipherment I had gone through. So probably I shouldn’t help anyone. It is Catalan, though.
That same day (a week ago last Friday), after the dentist, I went to the next town to meet K (who rushed off before the dentist got to me because he had a class) for lunch and a brief shop – I bought some fish (Dorada, Orada, it seems to be “Bream” in English?).
P1010346So here it is, being our second course on Saturday. Done in the fireplace. The best way. I seldom seem to remember to photograph both courses at the same meal.
P1010347The dogwoods/dog roses are out. It seems such a privilege.
P1010350I visited an unfamiliar supermarket, and found new packaging for a well-known, politically incorrect product…
P1010351It’s somewhat less worrying than it used to be, maybe. The caricature elements are less than they were.
P1010352A first course, with leftover gaspatxo, Monday…
and a different, white-rather-than-pink dog rose.
P1010353P1010354And Wednesday’s first course, with a tiny bit of left-over brandade accompanying the salad, so I remember that Tuesday‘s second course was in fact, brandade.
P1010356Too easily fascinated, I know – the exposed interior walls of the building that used to stand here in our market-town, sprayed with insulating material, but showing built-in cupboards &c. just wanted photographing.
P1010358All local views come from dogwalks. This always-attractive ruin is our neighbours’ former fassina where brandy and liqueurs could have been made.P1010359And the sky is the sky. (Photos are apt to come out crooked and ill-framed with two dogs on leads at the same time – taking those photos with one’s third hand gets a little tricky.)
But the sky is good, and the churchtower looks all right to me.P1010361And on the shelf that pretends it is supporting the “life sized” plywood A from a long-ago exhibition, to the little marquetry box from the Alhambra, and the slightly-melted glow-in-the-dark Virgin of Montserrat, K added the cylindrical box to the little globe, and I finally found a suitable support to hold it outside the box – a red-blood-cell shaped hotel soap from somewhere in France. So now we can look at the little historical-replica globe.
Except for crookeder or less-in-focus duplicates. This is a week’s-worth of photos. Doesn’t mean it was a typical week.
Chi? You have asked for more pictures of food!

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