Tres Cher Chalk!

2016-04-28 11.57.24The Pastel Shop was a treat.  The tour2016-04-28 12.53.14 – well, really a lecture – was in the Henri Roche shop: La Maison du Pastel.

The store was founded in 1729, bought by M. Roche in 1865.  He sold pastels and actually created new colors and changed the formula when working with artists including Degas and Bonnard.  His son, a doctor, joined him.  The son continued the enterprise after M. Roche’s death and he was later joined by his three daughters.

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The direct line ended there – but in 1999 when the eldest passed, the two remaining sisters sought someone to get involved. . A distant cousin took it over in 2000. An engineer, she learnt the craft from those elderly cousins.

Isabelle Roche (that’s with an accent on the ‘e’ if I had a French keyboard) (ro-shay) welcomed us and told us her family story. I loved the shop with the original wood shelves and boxes.

It was a big job to take on by herself.  Dwindling stock and small clientele…

Serendipity is a marvelous thing.

Isabelle Roche met 2016-04-28 11.55.47Margaret Zayer in 2010.  Margaret is an American and an artist who was at the time a student in Paris.  She joined Isabelle.  Now the two, an engineer and an artist, make the pastels by hand.
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The studio (you can’t call this a factory) is in the country outside Paris so we had to settle for an
excellent video of the very time-consuming process. The process hasn’t changed much – the scale is from 1909 or so. The pigments are now bought from distributors so they no longer have to grind it.  But they hand mix and squeeze and roll.

The pastels are pricey – 27 euros for 3 half sticks, 120 euros 2016-04-28 11.40.36for 12 sticks – but when you see the process, you understand the cost.  The pastels in and of themselves are a work of art.   See the open box on the left?  That holds 72 pastels – with the box it costs 1,385 euros.  Almost $1,600.

2016-04-28 11.49.03I have included a link to the website for the store itself and a link straight to a 15 minute video with much of the same footage I saw today of the process.  I never much enjoyed working in pastel but now I want to pastel again!  Too pricey – and yet, I would feel like I was buying a piece of art and of history.2016-04-28 11.56.38


It’s only open one afternoon a week.  The rest of the time I guess they are in the studio making more pastels.  And nowadays with the internet, why not?

Funny coincidence – I am going to have dinner tonight in a restaurant two doors down from La Maison.  My vegetarian French friend selected it: Le Potager du Marais.  We are checking out a veggie restaurant each week.  (I must admit I am not up for the French cuisine of eat every part of the animal… veggie is stressless!)

Two Weeks Plus

I wonder when we will stop counting from the 13th of November? When that date is no longer a reference point, we are well on the way to being healed.

And we are. And the city is. Starting…

I read articles in the Sacramento Bee (yes, digital edition) that say Parisiens are still scared. I was myself measuring that level of fear by the patronage of the restaurants and cafes. Empty seemed to mean to me that Parisiens were not going outside because of fear.

But now I wonder if that is a valid measurement. What I wonder is how tourists who have stayed home have impacted my impression? Last Saturday a French friend and I went for a drink and dinner at an Irish pub. And it turned out it was no longer an Irish pub but was transformed into the Baker Street pub. In Visalia years ago, I designed the set for Baker Street the musical – but this pub didn’t interest me. (Weird to think an Irish pub became a British pub… no love lost there- and the website still has it as the Irish place…)

So we walked on. Ended up on Ile de la Citie – where Notre Dame is located. There are some very nice restaurants but they didn’t appeal. And they were empty – but it was only 730. We ended up in a very touristy restaurant on the right bank, with a view of Notre Dame, la Concergerie and the Eiffel Tower. Prime tourist real estate. And it was empty. Turned out to be a great place for a conversation and view but the meal was mediocre. I know that two weeks earlier, there wouldn’t have been a seat available.
Same for Les Deux Magots. (Not maggots ! Magot means a Chinese figurine – there had been two statutes of Chinese men years and years ago.) This is the world famous café where Sartre, Beauvoir, Hemingway and more sat and drank and debated or wrote. I have never stopped there before because it was always filled with tourists. Went Sunday night for a chocolat venoise (hot chocolate with lots of Chantilly cream!) and it too was empty (the café, not my cup)..

So is it the Parisiens or the tourists who are staying home? On my bus ride through neighborhoods, not necessarily tourist areas, I noticed a number of smaller cafes that had more clients. And even as I type that, I am not sure there is a neighborhood that isn’t a tourist area these days. What with AirBNB, any apartment can become a tourist haven.

So I am going to take advantage of the lack of tourists and hit the renovated Picasso Museum (five years in the making!) and the Rodin.

Years ago in my HR career I noticed that doctors put people off work after surgery for a routine 6 weeks. I was a bit skeptical until my mom had major surgery and complained daily that she had no energy until that 6 weeks were up! And I had minor surgery and tried to go back after 4 weeks and nope, that wasn’t happening. So I believe there are natural times for our bodies to heal. And emotions. I don’t mean to suggest anyone will quickly overcome the grief from loss of a loved one or the impact of physical harm or emotional trauma. Far from it. But after 2 weeks, I found myself starting to breathe again. And two other friends here had the same experience. Was it the constant rehashing in the news and a change in the news cycle? The distraction from the COP21 climate conference here? Or a natural reaction?

All I know is I am relieved to feel happiness again.

Fear? I have read too many articles about the chances of being killed by a terrorist versus being hit by a truck. (Apparently, the chances of being killed by a terrorist are similar to those of being killed by your television falling on you….) When I had the realization that these people – how can I call them that? – just want to kill as many innocents as possible before they blow themselves up, I knew that there is little you can do. One crazy person can walk down the streets of Paris and shoot…. Or down the streets of a town in Colorado.

So I stay here and try to let life settle back down.