HEATHERMATTHEW

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Finally, France!

 Une petitie chocolaterie in Bretagne, France

Une petitie chocolaterie in Bretagne, France

After finally arriving in France via La Rochelle we did a quick trip to Brittany to conclude our tour of neolithic sites in the UK and Brittany, France. On route to Carnac we discovered this petite chocolaterie which was too delicious to walk out of empty handed. Nothing says France quite like chocolate - in bread (pain au chocolat), in bowls of hot chocolate for breakfast (le petit déjeuner) and bags of homemade chocolates in artisinal chocolate shops (les chocolateries).

Armed with chocolate from Brittany and wine from Bordeaux, we sped south via freeways and small roads, through avenues of shady trees around a thousand roundabouts until we reached Lasalle, France, home for two weeks of my residency at la Filature du Pont de Fer.

La Filature was originally part of a vast network of la sériciculture (silk production) in the Cévennes. The restored studio building was where silk was uncoiled and spooled from silk cocoons but now houses several artist studios.  We are spending our first two nights in a former magnanerie, the top story of a private home, where the caterpillars were raised from seeds (graines) fed literally tons of mulberry leaves and kept warm, until la montée sur bruyère or the climbing onto the heather, when the caterpillars climbed up into the large branches of heather to spin their cocoons.

 Dans la magnanerie ~ when the caterpillars climb the heather. Note the caterpillars feeding on mulberry leaves beneath. Photo from the book by Bernard Henry,  Des Métiers et des Hommes à la Lisière des Bois

Dans la magnanerie ~ when the caterpillars climb the heather. Note the caterpillars feeding on mulberry leaves beneath. Photo from the book by Bernard Henry, Des Métiers et des Hommes à la Lisière des Bois

It turns out that our host's family had been involved in the silk production trade for many years and Pierre's father was a quality inspector of silk caterpillars for the Ministère de l'Agriculture. It was his job to certify the quality of the graines de vers à soie (seeds) as apparently the silk caterpillars were susceptible to the diseases, Grasserie and Flacherie. These seeds were transported in small boxes which after inspection were banded with official paper seal wraps. He had a collection of the boxes,  each beautifully crafted and pin marked with air holes in different patterns. I am yet to find out if these patterns were, like lace or knitting, particular to a region. My research begins....

 Box for housing silk worm seeds and the official paper seal of quality control.

Box for housing silk worm seeds and the official paper seal of quality control.

 Patterns on the boxes which carried the  graines de vers à soie.

Patterns on the boxes which carried the graines de vers à soie.

This project was assisted by a grant from Create NSW, an agency of the New South WalesGovernment. The NSW Artists' Grant is administered by the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA).

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