Sunday, January 2, 2011

Porte Ouvert

Since I was invited by a professor to attend a stage at ecole Boulle, I had no idea how difficult it was to visit the school. Once I was provided with my student identification and pin, I realized how special it was to be accepted into that institution.

Assuming you were visiting Paris as a tourist and wanted to see the school, this is probably what would happen: you would enter the front door and meet a security guard sitting behind a window. He would ask you what your purpose was and, if you had not made prior arraignments to visit, send

you away. Assuming you got past the entry, you would find yourself in a lobby without any information on where to go; just the normal crowd of students passing on their way to class.

The actual administration is located on the second floor, and, since the school is 6 floors high, you would need to ask them where the workshop is that you wanted to visit. There are many different workshops in the school. Classes in upholstery, chair making, cabinet making, carving, engraving, metal working, industrial design, marquetry, finishing, sculpting, and so on. Everywhere you go there is amazing talent. The teachers are all outstanding in their profession, and the students have such a high level of ability that it is taken for granted that anything is possible.

Once a year, however, the school opens its doors, and makes it possible for the public to see the work. This happens at the end of January, in a few weeks. I can imagine that this week the entire school is cleaning up its floors, ceilings, lamps, windows and setting up dioramas in each workshop to show off their projects. It is a busy time for all.

Busloads of people arrive, from all over Europe. Italians, Germans, English, French and many other countries arrive to tour the school during this special time. As an English speaker, it became my duty to explain the marquetry workshop to these visitors who did not speak French. It was a treat I will always cherish.

It also gave me a chance to tour the entire school during this time. Normally, I had very little chance to see all the other workshops, since I was busy doing my student work. But during "open door" I could wander all over the school and discover for myself what was going on. Behind every door was a new experience and a chance to see some wonderful work.

If you have the chance right now, go to Paris, take the metro to Place Nation and walk two blocks to ecole Boulle. It is worth the trip.

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