Thursday, May 25, 2017

Fabulous Fabriano Part IV

This is the fourth post in the continuing story of my "Paper Pilgrimage" to Fabriano, Italy.  Here are the links to the first three if you are just joining in:  Part I, Part II, Part III.

It took months of planning to coordinate our trip to Italy to include a visit to the city of Fabriano. Lou, a meticulous planner, asked me many questions about what my expectations were for our time there.  It was such a leap of faith to set out for Fabriano, I had to be certain that it was what I wanted to do.
In order for it to fit into our broader plans for Italy, we had to rent a car, drive across the country, and hope to be able to somehow find out where and how I could purchase paper and sign a guest book - my two hopes, my two dreams for a visit there.

What if we can't get a tour, or go near the factory?" Lou asked, checking one more time before he made all of the reservations over the internet worlds away from our home in Florida.

"If I just get to stand outside the door of the factory and have my picture taken there, I would be satisfied," I blurted out.  I didn't have to think before I spoke.
The answer surprised even me.
It was that important.

"All right, then we will do it,"  Lou said.   And with that, he booked our trip.

Now to resume the story...

We said "Arrevaderci" to Marchese del Grillo Hotel on Saturday, April 22, on a clear bright spring morning.

A little side note I meant to include in the last post...just before we left the hotel and just before our exchange with Mario, I placed my tangled Zendala box atop the display and took a photograph.  To me, it tied together the gifts that the Zentangle Method has given me and my appreciation of Fabriano paper - a little secret union (up until now that is :)

View overlooking the front gardens of Marchese del Grillo with
the snow capped Apennines Mountains in the distance.

View from where our car was parked.

Leaving for the city, we pulled over to the side of the road to take one last look at the "Villa of a Thousand Windows".

 Looking back, our stay at the Marchese del Grillo would have satisfied my every notion of Fabriano: the paper display in the lobby accompanied with the luxurious little history book, all of the exquisite details of the villa, the warm hospitality...but little did we know what awaited us in the city.

 The museum was located in the city proper across from a lovely park.  We circled the cobblestone block a few times looking for a place to park.  Fortunately we found a metered spot just a block away.  The directions for payment were in Italian and we fumbled a bit to understand what to do.

In the parking lot was an affable, very tall and very dark skinned gentleman peddling his wares.  He spoke English in a deep, melodic voice.  Humored by our puzzlement, he was very helpful.   He showed us the coin machine and where to display the proof of payment on the car.  In our brief exchange, we joked about many things:  being new to Italy, travel, and even American politics.  We tipped him to show our gratitude and parted with a mutual exchange of "God bless you."  I was struck by the universality of kindness and laughter.

We only saw him for just that brief bit of time.  It could be because he was not legally allowed to pedal his wares on the streets of Fabriano.  Across Italy we saw many immigrants selling any number of things, constantly on the lookout for the police, and swiftly scattering off at any sight of them.

It also could be that he was there at just the right time, at just the right place, when we needed a bit of help in a strange, new place.  That gentleman (an angel to us) made such an impression that I can still hear his full bodied laugh and when I do, I say a little prayer of thanks.

As we walked toward the museum, the park was to our right and this ancient wall was to our left.

We followed the signs and just a short distance up this alley...

...we came to the entrance to the Paper and Watermark Museum.

Entrance to the Paper and Watermark Museum, Fabriano, Italy

Through the open door on the right, we entered a wonderland of paper making history.  There was a display room to our left and a small office and gift shop to our right.  We walked into the gift shop.

Jutting out into the space was an elongated, curved counter top.  On one end was a cash register and on the other, a beautiful opened book. On it, some handwritten notes and signatures.  "This is it!" I remember thinking and with that thought, a dream like feeling came over the entire experience.   

In a hushed and hurried voice I said, "Get your camera.  Get your camera, this is it.  This is what I came for!" 

I could hardly feel my feet on the floor.  A bit shaky, I pulled out a pen from my purse that I brought from home.  The pen was a gift from my good friend, Kelley. In many ways, circumstances that united our families and formed our friendship led, in part, to my involvement with all things Zentangle.  I wore my scarf from Zentangle (link). a necklace made by Su D'Alessio (link), and best of all, Lou and I were together.   

It bears repeating that while I signed that book, I felt the presence of everyone with me - my dear readers, students, friends, and family, from whom I learn so much.  

After some reveling in that glorious moment, we took a look around.  Everything was beautifully appointed.  A touch of modern craftsmanship in a clearly ancient space.  Light colored wooden cabinets, display cases, and drawers.  Back lit sheets of beautiful paper displayed the most detailed of watermarks, shelves held little handmade notebooks.  

The relatively small room was divided into both retail and office areas. 

This room divider was a work of art in itself ~ a large square (approximately 4' x 4') created by individual wooden squares, tied at each corner to create rope squares with the watermark of the museum carved into it.  It screamed Zentangle!

Lou and I realized that we were alone save for an older gentleman who popped out from behind an office door.  He greeted us in Italian.  After a few attempts at communicating, he appeared equally frustrated that he didn't speak English as he was that we didn't speak Italian.  He motioned for us to follow him.

We walked through an arched doorway, into the courtyard.  He opened a glass door and flipped on the lights to reveal a very large room filled with rows of blue velvet covered theater seats, about one hundred of them.  

In the front of the room was a long wooden table and atop that was a huge flat screened television. Not at all unremarkable, except that above it was an obviously centuries old fresco of the crucifixion of Christ.

He inserted a DVD into the player on the table and selected "English".  With that he scurried to the back of the room, turned out the lights, and shut the door.

Did that really just happen?
Could we really be here? 

The movie began.  
I wish I had the script to convey here, but in a nut shell the narrator began with an explanation that paper has held its own over the course of history, even in this age of computers and electronic filing.  It touted the impact of a handwritten note on beautiful paper and the need for it in producing fine works of art.
The narrator gave a brief history of the creation of paper, how the industry came to Italy, how it progressed through the ages, and how its history - dating back in Fabriano to the early 1200's - is lovingly preserved here.

The movie ended and we sat there in the dark and in the silence.  "What do we do now?" we both wondered aloud...

Lou got up, flipped on the lights, and took this picture.  It was our way of pinching ourselves to make sure we were not dreaming.  I'm seated in the front row there, just on the lower right of the photo...

After Lou turned off the DVD player and television, we walked up the main aisle of the theater room, turned off the lights, shut the door behind us, and strolled back out into the courtyard.

We were the only people in sight.  The glorious open courtyard before us, we wandered into room after room off of the surrounding hallway.  

Each room held a different treasure.  Because of what we learned in the movie, we could identify some of the things we saw.  This table held stacks of the thick felt pieces used to extract water from newly formed paper.

We could see that the museum not only housed these centuries old pieces, they were used in demonstrations and classes held there.  These felt rags were damp to the touch.

This station had a slightly more modern set up in front of one dating back to the 1700's.  The water-filled bucket on the left in the foreground held an electric device that churned and chopped the cotton fibers.  

I carefully moved the control to the side to take this photo of this carved watermark that decorated the bucket.

What looks like snow in the photo are actually dried cotton fibers.

As we spent time piecing together what we learned from the movie and what was before us, we were startled to hear someone calling to us from behind, speaking in English.  

To be continued...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom

Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life!
~Albert Einstein

For My Children by Adele Bruno, CZT
Tangles:  Sand, Teenos, Uncorked, Lanie, Cack, Bud, Iza

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"It's a String Thing" #196

It's Tuesday, your good news day!

Every once in a while, a new tangle is published and it looks so inviting that I'd like to spend an afternoon getting to know it.  Inadari Novello's new flower inspired Plingh is one such pattern.
It has familiar elements:  a dot grid, rice shapes, and it is filled in a similar manner to my own Lanie.

So let's keep it sweet and simple this week and create a monotangle with Plingh.  With its myriad possibilities and our cache of tangle enhancers (aura, perfs, rounding, sparkle...) the results will be excitingly diverse.

Here is our string ~

IAST #196 by Adele Bruno, CZT

Simply pencil the string line onto your tile and tangle away.   
Keep in mind that string lines are suggestions and let the patterns lead the way.

Here are the (Not so) Official Guidelines: 
* Challenges are posted on Tuesdays.
*Use the string posted for the week and some or all of the suggested patterns
* Submit a photo of your tile saved as jpg or scan your tile (300 dpi or higher) and save as a jpg
*Email your jpg file as an attachment to -
*Entries are to be submitted by Saturday evenings.
*Photos and 'Best of Show' are posted on Mondays. 

Send in your photos - you will encourage and inspire fellow Zentangle® enthusiasts all over the world.  WHEN YOU SIGN YOUR NAME, PLEASE INCLUDE WHERE YOU LIVE.  

PLEASE NOTE: It is not necessary for you to have a blog or website to participate. 
In order to eligible for the drawing, you must send in your completed tile.

If you do have a blog or website, I will add a link upon request. 
Please include the site specific URL. 

I look forward to your emails.

"It's a String Thing" #195 Tiles Coming Soon

The results of IAST #195 will be posted this Friday.

Please forgive the delay, but today our family is celebrating the graduation of our youngest and last to finish high school, Isabella Grace.

It is a rare and wonderful thing to have all seven of our children home at the same time.  With lives and families of their own, and most living in other areas of the country, co-coordinating a reunion can be nearly impossible.

Gratefully, today was an exception.  Here is photo proof ~

Isabella's Graduation Day:  Sarah, John, Nancy, Elena, Catherine, Louie,and Isabella
They sure know how to make a mother proud!

Please check back tomorrow for IAST #196,
Wednesday for some inspiring words,
Thursday for Fabulous Fabriano IV,
and Friday for IAST #195 Tiles.

Thank you!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Fabulous Fabriano, Part III

My "Paper Pilgrimage" continues from where we left off in Fabulous Fabriano, Part II (link)...

We arrived in Fabriano at dusk.  Initially, I was disappointed that we did not have ample daylight  hours remaining to drive into the city and at least scope out where the Paper and Watermark Museum was located.  

All of those anxious feelings melted away when we arrived at the Marchese del Grillo Hotel.  Our accommodations were exquisite, our meal delectable, and after being on the road for the better part of a week, my husband and I found it very easy to relax and soak up the surroundings without being eager to move on to the next adventure -  even if it was to see where Fabriano paper originated.

There is a back story to tell:  My dear friend and fellow CZT, Dorian Eng and her husband traveled to Italy just a few weeks before us.  We met for lunch upon her return and she gave me some priceless advice.  She said to take little gifts for hosts and tour guides as thank yous along our journey.  
Dorian had tangled tiles and little zendala folded boxes and gifted them.   
(Dorian's website is Little Bit of Heart and on it you will find a How-to video she made in conjunction with Sakura. )

While I did not have time before we left for our trip to make them, I tucked a zendala tin and supplies into my carry-on bag.  

Fast forward to Fabriano, Italy.  When we walked into the lobby of the Marchese del Grillo and that fabulous display of folded Fabriano paper greeted us, I knew what I had to tangle to leave as a thank you.

In the crisp early hours of the next morning, as I waited for Lou to be ready to go to breakfast, I opened the side window in our room and parted the thick green, wooden shutters.  In plain view was the valley that cradled the city and the mountains beyond, all enveloped by the most brilliant of blue skies.

The window was wrapped in a thick width of walnut hued wood with a desk sized window sill, and a little step up to it - providing a perfect place to tangle.

I began a little zendala box there...

Not wanting to rush, I tucked the tiles into my bag and we headed to breakfast.  The atmosphere in the wine cellar was much more conducive to conversation than tangling, and so my zendalas sat patiently beside me and waited.

As we walked up through the lobby to the second floor, just above the staircase, an elegant room greeting us.

We explored every detail of that hall, the Trompe l'oeil painting, fine furniture and wood trimmings, gilding, Murano chandeliers and sconces, and just the right lighting from a long wall of windows...a glorious place to tangle.  I pulled up a chair and Lou snapped photos as I slipped into the sweetest time of tangling.  

Where was I?  Could I really be tangling in a villa on a hillside in Fabriano, Italy?  No reasonable thinking on my part could answer affirmatively.  Only in my dreams could it be true, and so I must have been dreaming...

Never mind that the Fabriano factory awaited, never mind that we were driving to Rome later in the day, it was a luxuriously relaxing, totally 'zen' time.

This is one of Lou's favorite photographs, and very creative too, I might add...

After signing my name to the tiles, we slipped into our room, packed, and headed to the reception area to check out.   Showering many compliments to the clerk about our stay, I asked if there was a manager I could speak to.  She said that she would call for him.

We had a happy reunion when he came to greet us.  To our surprise, Mario D'Alesio, was also one of our waiters from the previous evening's feast.  We explained that we had traveled from Florida to visit the Fabriano factory.  He was very familiar, but said that he had lived in the town all his life and had never been through the factory. He explained that tours of the factory are not offered, in large part because the paper for the Euro is printed there and security is understandably tight.  
"When you come again, perhaps I can arrange something, but it would be doubtful." he said.

Suddenly it all made sense why my research from home into a factory tour came up empty every time.  A contributor to "It's a String Thing", Hilary, who winters in Rome, even offered to have her husband call on my behalf and his inquiry was denied.  

That aside, the conversation with Mario was joyful.  I explained that I was an artist of the Zentangle Method and that the our work is done on Fabriano paper.  He was genuinely interested.
He explained that the Museum was a working paper factory and that we would be most pleased to go there.  I felt more encouraged about our chances of experiencing what I hoped for in Fabriano.

When I presented him with my little gift, he was so grateful that it made me teary eyed.  He paused for a moment, gazed intently at the box in his hands, and when he looked up, smiled and said, "You make us feel too important."
It may as well have been his birthday - and mine too, because he signaled to his receptionist and in Italian asked her to find something for him.   She rummaged through a wooden bench just to the left of where we were standing and produced a small green journal.
Mario presented it to me and said "Fabriano makes these for us to give to our special guests, and I'd like you to have this,"
The journal was made of hand pressed paper with a relief of the villa and the words: Locanda Marchese del Grillo, Fabriano
By this time, I was laughing and crying and feeling so at home.  It was one of those moments that instantly melted into my heart and I knew that I would be able to bring it to mind in all of its detail and emotion, no matter how much time passed.  It was magical.  

We asked to take a photo and Mario said that we should get one with his mother, too.  Giddy, we followed him down to the kitchen.  His mother, Emanuela, happened to be cooking in preparation for a large party later in the day.  Mario explained that his sister is also a chef, but was at home that morning.  We exchanged warm hugs, laughs, and stories.  

There were so many coincidences...Mario's father worked in the steel mills of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in tougher times in order to send money home to keep the family business thriving. Both Lou and my own grandfathers, fathers, uncles, cousins, and even Lou himself worked in the Pittsburgh mills.  Lou's grandfather immigrated to the United States from Italy to work in the same mills.

I wore a necklace made by Su D'Alessio (Delicately Detailed Pottery) and we marveled at the similarity in their names.  

We posed for this picture, Mario held my zendala creation, and I held the journal he gave me while his mother and I joked about holding our chins up for a more flattering photo ~

Here we were, living worlds apart, yet connected by so many things, most of which were love, gratitude, and appreciation.

All wrapped up in my Zentangle® scarf and
ready to visit the Fabriano Paper and Watermark Museum
Arrevaderci, Marche del Grillo!

To be continued...

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."  ~Lao Tzu

How about a journey of over seven thousand miles that began with one stroke?

Over seven thousand miles separate Japanese artist and junior high school teacher, Lovelygiraffe (her internet pseudo name), and myself.  And with just a few pen strokes, our world's united through "It's a String Thing".   

Lovelygiraffe began participating in IAST early in February of this year and her tile was honored in IAST #184.  After several email exchanges, she sent these inspiring photographs and the story behind them.  I asked permission to pass them along, and here they are ~

Staircase tangles by the students of Lovelygiraffe in Hokkaidou, Japan

Staircase tangles by the students of Lovelygiraffe in Hokkaidou, Japan

Lovelygiraffe filled a void in after school club activities and offered a class in Zentangle. She wrote that the students "were crazy about Zentangle" and that "the after-school art room was silent when [the students were tangling]." 

She took the students' tangled squares, mounted them on colored paper, laminated them, and attached them to the risers on the school staircase -"Staircase art", she dubbed it.

While the after-school club activities have ended, Lovelygiraffe continues studying and tangling on her own and hopes to become a CZT someday.

 In the meantime, as she wrote, she "encountered" my blog "and got the opportunity to learn further."  She said, "I am filled with gratitude."

My sentiments exactly, I am filled with gratitude.  Thank you, Lovelygiraffe and please thank your students.   Their work is beautiful!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"It's a String Thing" #195

It's Tuesday, your good news day!

We begin this week with our string~
IAST #195 by Adele Bruno, CZT
Strutz by Sarah Fowler
While this tangle employs the 'Hollibaugh Principle' of layering one element under an existing one, and is similar to the pattern, it has a quirky life of its own.  I think you will enjoy it.

Tessell by Judy Okawa
A bit reminiscent of Warped Eggs, this tangle begins with a dot grid and has endless possibilities from there.

Printemps by Maria Thomas
Below are my "Tips for Tangling" the Zentangle® classic:

Use as few or as many of these tangles as you would like.

Simply pencil the string line onto your tile and tangle away! Keep in mind that string lines are suggestions and let the patterns lead the way.

Here are the (Not so) Official Guidelines: 
* Challenges are posted on Tuesdays.
*Use the string posted for the week and some or all of the suggested patterns
* Submit a photo of your tile saved as jpg or scan your tile (300 dpi or higher) and save as a jpg
*Email your jpg file as an attachment to -
*Entries are to be submitted by Saturday evenings.
*Photos and 'Best of Show' are posted on Mondays. 

Send in your photos - you will encourage and inspire fellow Zentangle® enthusiasts all over the world.  WHEN YOU SIGN YOUR NAME, PLEASE INCLUDE WHERE YOU LIVE.  

PLEASE NOTE: It is not necessary for you to have a blog or website to participate. 
In order to eligible for the drawing, you must send in your completed tile.

If you do have a blog or website, I will add a link upon request. 
Please include the site specific URL. 

I look forward to your emails.