Freedom: The Board
The idea was to find a gorgeous old frame at the flea market, like one that had been used for a belle epoch mantle top mirror, and put a chalkboard inside it. The gorgeous frame failed to materialize. I saw interesting pieces, even archways, doors and windows that had been recuperated, polished, buffed, sold and resold many times over but was not finding exactly what I had in mind. I have learned through the course of various projects that when you are have an idea and it does not come together as planned, you really shouldn't let that stop the momentum. You need to take it as an opportunity step out on a ledge and rethink things. The more I looked for this frame, the more I kept seeing signs that I wasn't going to need it.
Chalkboard paints came as an alternative idea. After some research about what was available, I knew we were going to have to make our own. I realized that in addition to being expensive in this country, they only came in a few dowdy colors, none of which were very appealing to me. I wanted a special color, you know the fleeting one that comes through when the quetsche plums are ripe and stacked in baskets on a sunny afternoon and have that natural white film like a filter on them, making it look like the dark plum color is penetrating through, soaking up light, pulling on our attention. In the end it wasn't very difficult to match with the palette book the painters lent me. I quizzed the mason for clues on how to translate the type of grout I needed buy here in France to make the chalkboard paint, and it came together.
It was a chilly clear day in December 2011. The front window was in, the big boards came down and we had natural light in the kitchen for the first time. Before we'd removed the storefront, the shades they left behind had tinted everything behind the front window a cramped hot angry yellow color. And now, we suddenly had freedom, and life. The sun, although it was coming in at a winter angle, began to heat the space immediately. The kitchen counters and appliances were covered with cardboard to guard against the fine dust created by plasterwork and paint droplets but their forms meant something at once. The walls, painted a neutral grey were fully dry. I mixed my chalkboard paint by making a water slurry with the grout and then combining it with the paint. I applied a rough rectangle onto the wall with a mini roller. My original intention was to get some classic wood trim from a nearby "droguerie" to frame it, but once I'd just put this rectangle freehand onto the wall, I stopped and stepped back. I knew I would not need anything more. I could barely wait for it to dry so I could sand it down and begin putting ideas up. On that first day, I drew, from a shadow of an idea, my frame at the top of the board. For the first time I put up the name, PLUM.
I wipe the board every day and every day new ideas go up. It has become, with time, part of the ritual of preparing for a class. Before I mop the floor, I put that day's the plan on the board. Recipes, the names of that day's students, the steps, the signs I want to communicate. On design and test days, ideas of all kinds fly and end up on this board. When friends visit and we're working out plans and schemes to grow on, they go up on the board. On Market Table days, I list what dishes we might do and the board transforms throughout the class. The chalk board is one of my favorite things about this kitchen.