Saturday, March 5, 2016

The ‘’Beehive’’ of Paris: A Rare Visit

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of going back to the “beehive” or “La Ruche” in the far reaches of the 15th arrondissement in Paris. Not to make honey, but to make art.

This famous artists’ residence was built in 1900 out of the remains of a gazebo-like structure from the Paris Universal Exposition held that year. It was nicknamed “La Ruche” for its unique shape, which reminds me of a smaller version of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater.

Inside this beehive are very busy artists, like Jan Olsson, with whom I had the privilege of taking a print-making workshop organized through the nonprofit association WICE.

Taking a workshop is in fact one of the only ways to see this amazing structure, now officially called la Fondation La Ruche – Cité d’artistes. It's closed to the general public.

When I’m there, I feel as if I’ve stepped back in time. I leave the routine of work and family, and put on my black smock, and start to make art.

Jan makes it easy for people like me who are dabblers to make a finished work. On this day, we’re learning how to make monotypes. We take a small plate and apply ink using brushes, cardboard, Q-tips or other implements. I worked from a photo of three fish that I took.

I take my plate and paper to Jan’s own press, which looks as old as La Ruche, but was made for her in 1993. I get behind the captain’s wheel and turn. I peel off the paper to see what I’ve made.
And I go back to make more.

Jan remarked that we were very productive that day, making about six prints each. Very busy bees at the beehive. On my way out, I circumferenced the hive to take in the brick, iron, and glass structure—laced with ivy—that speaks of Paris, art, and the creative spirit.
Rose Marie Burke, an editor and journalist, writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home."

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