Les Petits Bonheurs - Claire Lee, painting with sound.
In 2012, a few months shy of welcoming Charlotte into the world, my friend Corey Amaro wrote a lovely piece about Rubanesque on her blog, Tongue in Cheek and all of a sudden I started to recieve messages from women from all around the world. Words of encouragement and support, shared tales of antique textiles and their love for France.
One note in particular stood out.
Claire Lee, from San Francisco, wrote that she had been following my blog and wanted to send me some music inspired by my blog and my creations...I blinked madly at my screen wondering if I was reading correctly. A few days later, I recieved a beautiful package from her. Everything about the gift was magic, from the envelope, to her beautiful curving handwriting, the unique handmade paper ephemera cd sleeve and lovingly selected tunes contained within.
Here was someone who I had never met, reaching out, sharing her wonderful gift to nourish and encourage me.
Since then, whenever I see one of her handmade envelopes in the letterbox my heart swells with anticipation.
These gifts have arrived at moments when I needed a lift, be it from sleep deprivation or a crisis of creative confidence. I feel like part of her is with me when I listen to her music in the car, while out walking, in the atelier.
I don't think I know anyone with such eclectic taste and knowledge of music and I asked Claire recently if she would talk a little bit about her intuitive creativity here. To let us into this secret gift of hers. How is it that she knows exactly what a person needs (despite 6000 miles seperating us) and then to translate this into a personal soundtrack.
Painting with Sound - as Claire describes it, and it is the perfect description. I hope you enjoy learning more about this beautiful person and I've shared her gift of music here below.
A selection of images from Claires beautiful Paris instagram gallery
"I have walked through many lives, some of them my own."
This line from the poet Stanley Kunitz resonates for me each time I reach into one of my collections.
I grew up in San Francisco. I studied art history and design at the University of California in Berkeley and traveled a lot in my younger days. My father worked for an airline and family members were allowed to travel anywhere on the world-wide routes on a stand-by basis. I went around the world at least twice, stopping in Europe, India, Nepal, Japan, Hong Kong and China. I lived in Paris for 17 years and during that time traveled to Guatemala, Columbia, Mexico, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, Afghanistan, Egypt and the French Antilles. My accumulations reflect those interests...textiles, books, antiques, postcards, ephemera, songs, vases, ceramics, plants, yarn...
My husband and I have made our home in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 28 years now. Together we have raised five children in a blended family. They are now all grown, and my husband and I are retired. We spend time in Paris at least once or twice a year."
Ruth: When are you happiest?
"I am an artist and a maker. I am happiest when I work with my hands, be it drawing, collage, knitting, gardening, cooking, floristry, sewing. I have several art tables and this is part of my favorite one. It is in the kitchen, my favorite room in the house. Like Maira Kalman who I greatly admire, I feel life is better with snacks. I love a cup of tea nearby."
"I first began putting mixes together for people rather than sending them cards. I think about the person, her work, interests and what might be going on in her life. I then look for possible musical matches. It's like painting with sound. Over the years I have collected music of a wide range of genres, enough to listen non-stop, day and night for over a month...folk, country, bluegrass, blues, jazz, R&B, rock, alternative, soul, reggae, world, jazz, classical, opera, contemporary, electronic.
I made the "4am" compilation for you after reading your blog posts about sleep being hard to come by after the birth of Charlotte. I wanted to express my appreciation for the daily effort you make to have a creative life while raising two very young children.
Ruth: What inspires you?
"For my music compilations, I am inspired by people, places, events. I made a music mix I called "Red, White and Blue" when President Obama won the 2008 election. I play it still. It has Otis Redding's "A Change is Gonna Come", Mavis Staples' "Turn Me Around", Bob Dylan's "Hurricane", Odetta's "Midnight Special", Nina Simone's "Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Suite", U2's "Pride"...among other songs.
I also draw inspiration from compilations posted on the Internet and from film soundtracks. Right now, I like listening to Soundcloud.com/secousse. Film soundtracks I have particularly liked are "Water", "Lost in Translation", "Marie Antoinette", "Comme Une Image", "Pina", "La Grande Bellezza".
On a compilation, I can spend anywhere from several hours at a stretch to bits of time over days or even months. I feel as if I am sitting at a piano, the keys being hundreds of pieces of music. It is a spacious and many colored medium, expressive of states of soul.
Ruth: Can you talk a little about your collection of paper and ephemera?
"I have always collected paper for the beauty of the substance, the surface pattern or the images. I have boxes of postcards collected over decades. I have made notebooks, greeting cards, bookmarks and ornaments as gifts. More recently, I began collaging to create CD covers for my gift soundtracks.
"I find the collage process freeing and relaxing. Things go together or they don't. Associations lead to other "finds". I set out with intent but no particular expectation. I like to reflect the content of the soundtrack. Here are some of my CD covers:"
Ruth: Do you have a favorite source for your materials?
"Art magazines, museum publications and promotional materials for art exhibits are probably my favorites. Friends and family have also given me interesting paper and even vintage ephemera. Corey Amaro has kindly gifted me French material from her Tongue in Cheek brocante. I love the vintage treasures you sent me recently!"
Ruth: Do you have other collections you would be willing to share?
"From a month-long trip to Afghanistan in the '70's before the Soviet war in 1979 and long before the present one began in 2001, I have some much treasured objects. They are eloquent of the beautiful places I visited and the deeply hospitable people I crossed paths with. I cannot pick these up without great sadness over these devastating decades of war. These small intricately worked purses are from the ancient covered market that once existed in Mazar-I-Sharif, none more than 4 inches in length by 3 inches in width. Have I saved these items from destruction? It is a minor comfort to think so."
"Well, eventually one parts with everything and at this stage of my life, I try to be more modest in my collecting. I have many things from France, both old and new. Here is one thing I have always really enjoyed: My "Plan de Paris A Vol d'Oiseau" dated 1959. It is a 5ft by 8ft map of the kind that used to hang in the Paris subways. I can see every street and building. Life before GPS. Here is a small corner of my map."
"Paris is a magical place for me and the subject of the collection I spend the most time on these days. By this, I mean the album of photographs I build daily on Instagram. My daughters had been urging me for years to post on IG. I became an Instagramer in April 2014 as a way to show my children, friends and family why Paris has such a big place in my imagination and my life. I also post photos of the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California, but most are of Paris. Over a thousand images later, my followers assume I live in Paris. I guess I do in my soul. I very much appreciate sharing this love of place on Instagram. You can find me @kclrparis"