Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fellow Students

With such a tiny group of students in Italy, I felt I got to know everyone better than usually happens in a larger group. Too, we were together longer and had activities outside the studio.

Here's a photo of the workroom, with my fellow students studiously working. Left to right are Rebecca, Debbie, Carol, and Un-Roen.


I have a memento from Rebecca Galvan that will hopefully become an artistic element soon. It's a big, black scorpion that terrorized Rebecca, the most critter sensitive of us all, in her room one night. Sprayed with hairspray and Lysol and threatened with face cream, it was eventually secured under an upturned glass and finally removed by Gordon to the great outdoors cold. I don't know which of those things killed it, but I thought it would look great electroformed. It did suffer a little in its container on the way home, so I'll have to see if I can rescue it.

My fondest memory of Debbie Bateman is a long car ride with an Italian teen at the wheel. Since our tiny four-seater couldn't take all eight of us to dinner, we called around to the few open restaurants to find one that would send a car and driver to collect us. Not once, but twice. On a ride home from the restaurant, we laughed and laughed as Debbie in the front seat conversed with Guido. She spoke some Spanish, close enough to Italian to puzzle out, and he spoke enough English to understand when we guessed correctly about what he was trying to say. We heard stories about his girlfriend (an older woman at 21) and her Lamborghini endowed family. Debbie struck up conversations everywhere we went, leading us to most of the fun interactions with locals.

Carol Douglas and I ventured off the beaten path in Rome, so we spent a lot of fun time together. Overall, she made more pieces at the workshop than anyone else, partly because she stayed at home during the walled cities tour and worked, firing two loads of bronze clay as well. Motivated by an upcoming exhibit, she focused on constructing fairies and sprites, delicate hidden faces. She lives in the tourist-attracting New Forest in the south of England, where hopefully I'll get to visit some day. The prize of our outings is the collection of porcupine quills collected along the winding roadside between the Villa and the miniscule willage of Villastrada, where we walked for coffee on the final, only sunny day of the workshop. We needed Debbie to chatter more with the little old Italian lady who stopped to pantomime the demise of the critter, scurrying hunched-over back and forth across the road, then holding up one hand to represent the beast and smashing it with the speeding car of the other hand. "Animale morte" we could figure out.

Finally, Un-Roen Manarata outdid us all with her lightning work. Born in Thailand, living for many years in Belgium, she owns three bead shops. Obviously a business woman, she had no tolerance for inactivity or inefficiency. She whipped out gorgeous pieces every moment in the minimum time possible and freely demonstrated shortcuts. She brought her two published books to share, along with beads and findings and Belgian chocolates. Fairies were also a passion of hers, and she sculpted a tiny, delicate face from bronze to compare techniques with Carol and show Louise, who wanted to learn from them both. Even in off moments, she was attaching pearls and metal clay leaves to peyote beaded rings. Warm and funny, she charmed every other member of the group. She's teaching and taking workshops at the Bead and Button Show, so I'll see her in Milwaukee in May/June. I'm told that watching her shop for wares to fill her stores is a site to behold. I'm looking forward to it.

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