March 30, 2015

This Spring, get a glimpse into the Beehive

WICE has earned the reputation for exemplary, professional classes held at a collegiate level, and rightly so!  We spoke with Jan Olsson, an instructor in the WICE Visual Arts Department, to highlight one of our many gifted instructors, as well as provide a glimpse into their lives outside the classroom!

"You just play," she tells me.  Armed with flowers, feathers, linen, or old scraps of clothing, students gather around the "Queen Bee," Jan's printing press, like children on Christmas morning.  "It's a fun process because you never know what's going to happen on the press.  Everyone gathers around it and holds their breath when we peel back the paper to reveal the finished product," Jan Olsson informs me as we stand peering at Queen Bee inside her studio at La Ruche.

In French, "La Ruche" simply means "Beehive."  Over time, more than 100 other studios were built to resemble it.  What sets apart this hive from the others is its maker: La Ruche was designed by Gustave Eiffel.  This artist's colony is a circular structure, three levels high with 24 studios that take the shape of wedges. 

Sculptor Alfred Bucher founded La Ruche to offer "la méditation et à la réalisation dans un climat de sécurité."  La Ruche was founded in 1902 and has since housed hundreds of struggling artists looking for shelter and acceptance.  Ever-changing, ever-growing.  La Ruche, past and present, is a sanctuary for painters, sculptors, and writers seeking acceptance and looking to develop their skills. 

La Rotonde is shaped like an octagon and originally was the wine pavilion at the World's Fair held in Paris in 1900.  Much like the historical trajectory of La Ruche, the Fair was a celebration of the achievements of the past century and meant to accelerate development into the next.  La Ruche keeps this spirit alive.  It has nurtured artists past and present and will continue to support creative thinkers.  Over the past century, Chagall, Modigliani, Léger, and Soutine have all called La Ruche home and benefitted from its provisions.

Photo Credit: Christian Larrieu

The studio alone is inspiration enough to seek out Jan Olsson and learn everything she has to offer.  And what a lot that is.  Jan has been working at La Ruche since 1990.  It houses her "Queen Bee," the intaglio press where she prints etchings, monotypes, and collographs.  She also paints and teaches in a second studio near the Seine, adjacent to the Parc André Citroën.  Her studio at La Ruche is adorned on every wall with Jan's own artwork -- prints, drawings, paintings. 

Fresh prints aren't the only things you get to take home from the atelier.  Like honey seeping from a beehive, friendships often bloom at La Ruche, where convivial conditions foster warmth and acceptance.  Perfect for a flower to bloom. 

What flowers they are that call her garden home.  Jan makes good use of her spacious jardin when springs comes around each year.  "During the warmer months, we'll order out from the Indian place around the corner and have lunch in the garden," Jan tells me.  More flowers produce more honey, just the same way that students take inspiration each year from the fresh blooms. 

For a student's personal take on Jan's "Creating Travel Journals" class, Dan Smith's inside look will make you marvel. 

Each class at Jan's atelier is different.  Working together with the Queen Bee, each student bee uses his own materials to produce a honey that's highly characteristic of his own personality.  This highly individualized experience begins before students step foot through the door.  Jan is flexible, and tries to hold scheduled classes no matter the size, large or small.  The show must go on!  She also tells me the story of the relationship she built with one student who was the only one signed up for a set of workshops.  She and Jan worked together to tweak the time and schedule so it worked better for both of them, and just like that, the class transformed from a lesson to a friendship.

Jan's numerous art courses can be found here. Her next class is held Wednesday 1 April, 2015. 

Everyone at every level of art is welcome! 

March 27, 2015

Creating Travel Journals - an Inside Look

Daniel Smith, WICE's Director of Programs, has switched hats and shares his experience as a WICE student in Jan Olsson's course Creating Travel Journals.   In his own words, Daniel give us an inside look at this drawing class:

How I learned to make mistakes and gained creativity in my Travel Journal

Image by Daniel Smith

When I bought my first Travel Journal, Sketchbook or Carnet de Voyage, I marveled at the white, empty pages of heavy paper that begged to be written with a fountain pen and thick black ink. Although I had been living in Paris for several years, my dream was to sit in a corner café with a travel book and write, sketch and capture the moment for all to experience.

Image by Daniel Smith
At our first class of a half dozen WICE Members and our WICE Instructor, artist Jan Olsson, we learned to test our pens and markers on scratch paper. Using scissors we cut patterns of our lines and circles to glue onto pages. We wrote descriptions and stories of life in Paris. “Hey, this is easy,” I said; there was no drawing or complexities.

Based on a demonstration by Jan, I could not wait to buy markers of black, gray and light gray to create the illusion of distance and depth. Once I found the markers, I started a Paris city-scape on the inside cover and facing first page.  Easy. Just as Jan explained I used dark in the foreground and lighter greys in the middle and background and quickly my city-scape was finished! But when I turned the page, to my horror, I realized that the ink had bled through the first page onto the second. My new travel journal was already permanently ruined.

March 24, 2015

A New Take on 'Spring Cleaning'

Here are a few questions for anyone who is reading this post: Have you downloaded a program and lived to regret it? Does your computer seem to have a mind of its own, behaving in ways you don’t want? When you do a search, are you taken to irrelevant websites? Has you search engine changed without your permission? Are extraneous tool bars or pop-ups appearing on your desktop?

Paul Lewis’s 3-part class aims to help you take back control of your computer through a series of sessions that will help you “Spring Clean Your Machine.” While some classes offered by WICE are designed to inspire creativity or to increase appreciation for the culture around us, Paul Lewis describes his classes as ‘practical’; “The sessions are designed to help anyone who owns a computer but does not have a technical background,” he explains. (Most of us, then!) Do not, however, let the mention of technology and practicality sway you from what promises to be not only an informative and incredibly useful course, but also a chance to learn from a man who has taken his knowledge of computers to a few countries around the world and has many an interesting tale from doing so.

Paul's Spring Cleaning class comes at the perfect time... Spring has struck the city!
After graduating with a degree in Engineering from The University of London, England, Paul practiced as an electronics engineer and after a few years moved into teaching engineering, first in Scotland then in Nairobi, Kenya. It was here, slightly removed from the technical advances taking place in other parts of the world, that he ordered his first personal computer and began to try and understand it. At the time in Kenya, there was no one to turn to for help with a personal computer; “I was sent floppy disks by a friend in West Africa who then gave me help via amateur radio.” Paul explains. After Kenya, Paul moved with his wife to the US and worked in several Silicon Valley high-tech companies. After working in several capacities in a few more African countries and the US it was time to retire.

In retirement Paul found his calling as a friend to the computer-less-literate; he helped neighbours with their technical issues and, over time, began to give classes at the local computer club. Upon moving to Paris and joining WICE, Paul was asked for help by another member in need of some technical support and, as they say, the rest is history… The classes that Paul offers are those that he has taught for years now and he informs me confidently that one way to understand computers is to start teaching others about them!
With his years of teaching experience and consulting on home computer issues, it’s safe to say that there will not be many computer related problems Paul hasn’t heard of or cannot solve. His first class, ‘Spring Clean your Machine’ is a chance to remove the useless, reorganise the important, and improve your defences against cyber criminals.

 Here is everything you need to know about Paul's upcoming sessions: 

          Spring Clean your Machine: Keeping your PC Lean and Mean

Date:   Wednesdays, April 1, 8, and 15, 2015   - 3 sessions
Time:  10h- 12h
Location:  WICE - 10 rue Tiphaine,
           75015 Paris

March 13, 2015

Film Classes... coming soon to the WICE office!

Paris When It Flickers
A 3 Part Film class given by Vincent Fournols

As anyone with an interest in films will know, Paris, with its iconic scenery and winding streets, has played host to a huge variety of film since the first films were created. Where better to learn more about these films and the importance of the city in the industry’s development than from within the winding streets themselves?
Over the course of the first two sessions, Vincent will explore the part that Paris has played in the film industry since it began. He will discuss the influence that the city has had in the world of politics and art and will use movie clips to illustrate his lecture.
Having given these two classes before, this time round Vincent has added to his repertoire by turning up the tempo for a 3rd class on musicals. Musical lovers might be surprised to hear that there are in fact great French musical films… Vincent will elaborate!
And here is what the man himself has to say about his classes:

March 7, 2015

Make It Happen: International Women's Day 2015

The first time I personally heard of International Women’s Day (IWD) was in my twenty-second year of life.  After researching it, I realized how dire the situation was – a holiday this important should not go ignored!  This is the time to uphold women’s achievements, recognize challenges, and focus greater attention on women’s rights and gender equality to mobilize all people to do their part.  United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon summed up recently what has been published time and time again: “When we unleash the power of women, we can secure the future for all.”

Each year IWD is celebrated on March 8.  The first was held in 1911, and we’ve come a long way since.  In 2015, thousands of events occur to mark the economic, political, and social achievements of women – organizations, governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, corporations, and the media celebrate the day.  There are many ways to get involved on an individual basis as well.  There are social media trends (Twitter hashtag, anyone?) and local events, such as movie showings and parades.  You can sport the colors – purple, by the way – or just have a simple conversation with someone about the importance of this day.

In Paris, there was the “Re-Thinking Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality in 2015 and Beyond” international conference, artistic exhibitions at the Salle des Pas Perdus and Salle des Actes, and museum expos.  There's plenty to do, just not enough time to fit it all in!

February 25, 2015

Happy New Year of the Goat

 Chinese New Year in Paris serves as another reminder of the multicultural nature of the city… and is a chance to eat incredible food in the sunshine

In a recent blog post I suggested that you visit one of the various Chinese New Year parades this February. Chinese New Year was last Thursday and, following my own advice, I took to the streets of Paris with thousands of others to join the celebrations. The biggest of the parades is at Place d’Italie, an area with a large Chinese population, that is home to Asian food markets and more Asian restaurants than anyone could ever desire. Given the presence of Chinese culture in this area throughout the year, I was sure that this area would be alive for the New Year festivities and was not disappointed.

Crowds fill the banner-lined Avenue d’Italie

During the course of the afternoon, a stream of flag bearers in traditional dress, dancing dragons, musicians and floats moved through the streets to a soundtrack of fire crackers and flutes. As with any parade, the view for the crowd was limited; many a photographer could be seen climbing higher for a better vantage point (post vans, lamp posts, benches and public toilets all took on new roles for the day) and the best view was undoubtedly that enjoyed by those on the balconies above the streets. Nevertheless the atmosphere was truly spectacular and with the blue skies and the delicious smells of Asian cuisine it was easy to forget the cold Parisian winter and spend the afternoon in a different world entirely.

One of many beautifully crafted Chinese Dragons

Standing in the crowds at the parade, I was reminded of another time in recent weeks that I have been amongst thousands in the streets of Paris; the protest on Sunday 11th January after the terrible events of the week before. Here we were rallying in the name of freedom of expression and for a Paris in which different cultures can exist side by side. While I am aware that the Chinese culture was not one that was affected by what happened, I could not help but appreciate the sheer volume of people who came to celebrate an occasion that is not in the western calendar and the bold brilliance of the celebration itself. It served, for me, as a testimony to the many different faces of Paris, the many cultures who share the city and their ability, and willingness, to do so.

And so with much color and noise, Paris reminds us once 
more that it is capable of far more than romantic bistros and
 famous architecture.

… or Happy New Year!

And for those wandering exactly what the Year of the Goat entails:

February 16, 2015

A Tale of Love Locks - Can Love Conquer All?

As part of its Guest Blogger Series, WICE welcomes WICE Member Meredith Mullins to share her writing. 

So many ways to say "I love you"
©Meredith Mullins
Romantic Paris: A Valentine’s Day Parable
Once upon a time, there was a city of light known as the most romantic city on Earth. Paris opened its heart to lovers around the world. Romance in Paris was a part of life.
Couples strolled the banks of the Seine arm in arm, kissed in the secret (and not-so-secret) corners of the well-tended gardens, and paused to embrace on the graceful bridges.
Romantic Paris (a view from the Pont des Arts before the love lock craze)
©Meredith Mullins 
Then a heavy weight threatened life as romantics knew it. Love locks came to Paris. Tons of them. And the city of romance began to feel the strain of too much love.
A new kind of love (view from the Pont des Arts today)
©Meredith Mullins
Can Too Much Love Be a Bad Thing?
The love-lock craze arrived in 2008. Locks were becoming cultural symbols of commitment, from Italy to China.
The locks first appeared on the Pont des Arts, a historic wooden walking bridge connecting the Louvre and the Institut de France.
Couples pledged their love by placing a padlock on the bridge and throwing the key into the Seine. Their love was “locked” forever.
Love locked forever
©Meredith Mullins
Love Knows No Boundaries
At first, the locks were random—a few here and a few there—with space between to let the beauty of the city filter through.
At the beginning
© Sheron Long

Little by little, the spaces were filled, and the architecture of the bridges began to change—the railings became sheets of bumpy metal and the added weight strained the structures.
Locks were attached to locks. Huge industrial-strength megalocks were added (no doubt by the lock sellers), so that lock territory could be extended.
Is there such a thing as too much love?
©Meredith Mullins
When the bridge railings were full, determined lovers turned to new bridges and then to other lockable structures such as lampposts, statues, fences, and even the Eiffel Tower. Everywhere you looked, there was love.
Love knows no boundaries
© Sheron Long (L) ©Meredith Mullins (R)

When lovers could not find or buy a lock, they improvised with ribbons, tissue, shoelaces, and plastic bags. What could be a more beautiful way to say “I love you” than with a plastic bag?
Canny lock sellers raised the price for a lock with more than one key. Throw one key into the Seine, but keep an extra in case “eternal love” needed to be reassessed in the future.
Psst...wanna buy a lock?
©Meredith Mullins

Can Love Conquer All?

Love was indeed conquering the city. The elegance and history of Paris were in jeopardy. Kitsch was taking hold.
There were more than a million locks in town and even more rusting keys in the Seine. It was only a matter of time before a bridge would collapse or a Bateau Mouche would run aground on a mound of love-lock keys.
Kitsch takes hold
©Meredith Mullins
At the urging of disgruntled Parisians, including the No Love Locks activists and the arrondissement mayors responsible for the most burdened bridges, the city finally stepped in to find a solution to all this love.

The Weight of Love

Their work intensified when, in August 2014, a section of the Pont des Arts collapsed under the weight of the locks. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
Several key solutions were proposed. The simple response was to cut the existing locks, but that didn’t solve the problem for the future.
The plywood solution (Cartier-Besson rolls over in his grave, remembering a very different view)
©Meredith Mullins
The city tested several bridge materials to discourage the visiting lovers’ quest. Plywood and plastic panels. Both materials invited graffiti. The bridges began to look like abandoned warehouses or New York subways. At least the sheer panels could be cleaned every so often.
A test of the clear panels on the Pont des Arts
©Meredith Mullins
 The final solution is a work in progress, but, at the moment, nothing seems to deter lovers from finding a place for their locks. They rise to the romantic challenge.

Oh, I See

There are many sides to this story of romance.
There are the romantics who would say that the expression of love is the good part of what makes us human. In fact, we need more love in the world.
Broken locks, broken hearts?
©Meredith Mullins

There are the business people who would say that the love-lock craze has become one of the top tourist attractions in the city.
There are the nostalgic Parisians who want the elegance and beauty of the historic bridges left in their original form.
There are the activists who say that the placing of locks on any historic structure is the height of vandalism.
Love or vandalism on the Pont de l'Archeveché?
©Meredith Mullins

There are the realists who ask the visitors if they would want Parisians to come to their town and leave a memento behind that defaced their public spaces.
And there are the philosophers who value the idea of liberty—the freedom to express yourself as you wish—but who add a note of practicality.
Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.  —Philosopher Zachariah Chafee

Love Will Find a Way

And then there’s me. For the sake of the beauty of Paris, I hope that love will find another way. There is no need to jump on the love-lock bandwagon.
We can stroll, kiss, embrace, and enjoy the bridges as they were—the ultimate romance in Paris.
The Pont des Arts in all its beauty, before the love lock craze
©Meredith Mullins
Happy Valentine’s Day
A day to say “I love you.” Cards, chocolates, flowers, and love locks. These cultural symbols miss the point.
The real OIC Moment is this: If we could say “I love you” every day, love might be “locked” without the need for things like love locks.
Pont de l'Archeveché
©Meredith Mullins
For information about the Valentine’s Day “Give Paris Love (Not Locks)” campaign, go to No Love Locks.
Thank you to Nicole de Groot for the article in The quoting philosopher Zachariah Chafee.
Comment on this post, or inspire insight with your own OIC Moment here.