I learned Italian from an 8 year old…

Not all Italian.

But in the “stone barn ruin” space, I’m your man.

We’re are staying tonight at an agriturismo near Montieri; we decamped from Serrazzano, as our 5-day printing residency came to an end. We didn’t get far, just 39 km, but it’s a transition day, and we needed a rest from the mad dash to the finish of our print projects.

It was a warm, sunny afternoon as we arrived, so I took the opportunity to sit outside and sketch the ruin of a stone barn just across the yard. As I was sketching, the 8 year old son of the owners ambled over and watched me draw. He attempted to engage me in conversation, in Italian, to which I responded, using Google Translate, “can you teach me Italian?” He agreed, enthusiastically.

And so, as I sketched, I asked him the names of things: roof, wall, sky, clouds. He told me the words, sometimes needing to spell them, but often not, as Italian is surprisingly easy to spell.

My favourite of the words he taught was architrave—“the lintel or beam, typically made of wood or stone, that rests on the capitals of columns”—which is a pretty sophisticated word for anyone to know, let alone an 8 year old.

This turned out to be a very effective way to learn: he was a good and patient teacher, and his effusive exacto for every right answer was very affirming.

I realize, as I type this, that among other things this was the thing on this trip I’ve done that my father would have definitely done in the same situation. He wouldn’t have written a blog post about it, but he certainly would have told my mother about it (as I did Lisa).

Sulphur and Helium

There’s a slight smell of sulphur ever-present here in Serrazzano, and I used this as inspiration for my first printing experiment last week. By chance, there was a very sulphuric yellow at the ready.

Today, in a mad dash to the finish line, keen to print with some of the luscious very large wood type, I extended the elemental theme and made a helium poster.

Societa’ Cooperativa Supermercato Castelnuovo Valdicecina

L. and I drove a harrowing 20 minutes to get groceries yesterday.

The most expensive item we bought was an 8-pack of Crodino, a non-alcoholic aperitif I’ve grown fond of, which was €6.25; meanwhile, the litre of red wine for supper was €1.51.

We were billed 2 cents each for the compostable produce bags we placed our onions, peppers, carrots, and cucumbers in. The Italian system for produce-buying seems to universally involve bagging, and then, self-serve, placing each item on an automated scale, selecting a picture of the item from a screen, and sticking the label that spits iout onto the bag.

Photo of my grocery receipt.
Screen shot of a Google Map showing driving directions from our apartment to the grocery store.

Late Nite Printing

Time to dry” is one of the significant limiting factors when you have just five days of press time, especially when multiple layers are involved.

Yesterday, late in the day, the box design evolved to the point where we knew we needed to print solid colours on all the boxes before we slept.

Which is how we found ourselves, ‘round midnight, mixing ink and printing boxes, in the ancient mill building that houses the flatbed press.

The timestamp on the photo of the bell tower I took on my stumble home is 1:26 a.m. A long day, with much accomplished.

A flatbed press with two lino blocks set up to print a solid silver colour.
An ink mixing table with silver ink being mixed.
A blurry photo of a bell tower at night.

Tuscan Fire

Our apartment above the print shop in Serrazzano is heated by a woodstove in the kitchen. We’ve landed in Western Europe during some unseasonably cold weather; nearly everyone we meet tells us that it was so wonderfully warm “just a few weeks ago.” It’s 8°C outside this morning, though, so we’ve got the fire roaring.

Two Rs, Two Zs

It’s our first working day in Serrazzano. After a tour of the shops—printmaking is three floors down from our apartment; letterpress is reached by walking through a labyrinthine set passageways and steps—I set out to acclimate to the letterpress shop by printing something.