Temple d’Yverdon-les-Bains

Here is a view from a bench in the main square in Yverdon-les-Bains, Vaud, Switzerland.

Temple d’Yverdon-les-Bains, 27 October 2021, 3.30pm, 10″ x7″ in Sketchbook 11

This is a protestant church, built in 1757. The wonderful yellow stone is from Hauterive in the canton of Neuchâtel.

On the left you see the statue of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, for whom this central square in named. He lived 1746-1827. He was an educator, and established the idea that the process of teaching needs to be thought about. He was an early practitioner of the study of teaching: pedagogy. This is why on his statue there are also children.

Pestalozzi’s idea was “Learning by head, hand and heart”. He thought that education was a good idea, in general, for everybody, including the poor. It was good for people as individuals, and good for society in general. Education meant people contributed more, were healthier and happier, and generally better citizens. [My paraphrase of what I’ve read on the website of the JH Pestalozzi Society and elsewhere]. This all sounds very modern. The current ideas of “child-centred learning” for example, can be traced back to Pestalozzi, I read, as well as the concept of state education.

He initiated the Pestalozzi Children’s villages in Switzerland and elsewhere, specifically to help the poor and displaced. This work is still continuing as Pestalozzi World.

So Pestalozzi was a very influential person.

The lines in my drawing are wires suspended across the square for hanging banners and decorations. I like to think they also symbolise the rays of hope that education brings.

Later note:

Above the clock is the Latin inscription: SUPERNA QUAERITE

This roughly translates as “Seek higher things” or “Enquire upon matters of a higher order”.

It occurs in the Letters of Paul to the Colossians, Chapter 3 verse 2, which is rendered in my St James’ Bible as:

If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth.

Or if you prefer the Latin, from “Novum Testamentum Domini Nostri Jesu Christi”(“The New Testament. A Latin version prepared by Theodore Beza”[2010], via GoogleBooks):

Itaque si resurrexistis cum Christo superna quaerite ubi Christus est ad dextrum Dei sedens. Superna satagite non terrestria.

Below the clock are the Roman numerals: MDCCLV

1000+500+100+100+50+5 = 1755

Swiss house on a hill

Here is 23 rue du Petit-Montreux, Sainte-Croix, Vaud.

23 rue du Petit-Montreux, Sainte-Croix, Vaud 24 October 2021, 10″ x 7″ in Sketch book 11

I sketched this house after breakfast. The sun was bright and I rushed out into the crisp morning. It took me about one hour and 15 minutes outdoors, and then I completed it in my hotel room. The outside air temperature was 20 C.

“…the ladder that goes up the chimney…”

I particularly admired the ladder that goes up the chimney. So practical.

The sky is Phthalo Blue Turquoise, with some Lavender. The roof is mostly Fired Gold Ochre. The house walls, and the road, are a mix of Phthalo Blue Turquoise and Perylene Maroon, with a bit of Transparent Brown Oxide and Buff Titanium. The shutters are a mix of Fired Gold Ochre and Perylene Maroon. The hedge is Sap Green with those other colours mixed in to make it darker.

Here are some maps:

26 rue des Rasses, Sainte-Croix, Vaud

This building is on the Rue des Rasses, in Sainte-Croix, Vaud, Switzerland. For maps, see end of this article.

26 rue des Rasses, Sainte Croix, Vaud. Front entrance. 20 October 2021 in Sketchbook 11

There is much that is interesting about this building: there is the building itself, a 1930s marvel, there are the original occupiers, and there are the current occupiers.

The building was constructed in 1929-1930 as a factory for Reuge, the music-box makers. Reuge had already been operating for some 55 years by that time, starting with a pocket-watch shop in 1865. The factory operated for 85 years, until 2015, then they moved production to another site. Here is a picture of the factory fully operational, from a Reuge publication dated 2007 1

In June 2016, Reuge still owned the building, even though they’d moved their production out. They still used the wood-panelled showroom to demonstrate their music boxes. Here are some pictures from when I visited the empty building at that time:

Since around November 20193 the building has been occupied by a group called “le Baz”. They are a self-governing collective, who have created a “ZàB” in the former Reuge building. “ZàB”, their website2 explains, stands for “Zone libre à Bâtir”:

C’est une zone autogérée d’expérimentation, d’émancipation, de solidarité et de lutte, et pas un espace de consommation passive. Elle est ouverte à toutes et tous à toute heure décente. Et ce pour souffler, partager, apprendre ou transmettre de manière spontanée. Toute personne présente devrait pouvoir répondre à vos questionnements concernant le fonctionnement. Tout comme vous, elles ne sont ni responsables, ni programmateurices, ni animateurices, mais ni plus ni moins que les acteurices d’une création collective.

It is a self-organised space for experiment, emancipation, solidarity and struggle, and not a place for passive consumption. It is open to everybody, at any reasonable time. It’s where you can breath, share, learn or communicate at will. All the people here should be able to answer your questions about how it works. Just like you, they are not the managers, nor the schedulers, nor the facilitators, but no more and no less than the participants in a collaborative creation.

[My translation]

I took them at their word, and showed up at an “heure décent”, which as it happened was about midday. As I hesitated in front of the door, a young man asked if he could help me. I said yes, would it be possible to go in? He said yes of course, had I not read the notice on the door? I said I had. But he was already about his business, rushing ahead of me, and had left the door open. So I went in.

I walked around the empty spaces. It was all clean and organised. Someone had recently been working on the wall murals: there was a smell of paint. There are huge areas of blank wall and vast empty rooms. There is a “magasin gratuit” where you are invited to take what you need or bring goods to donate. A handwritten notice explains how it works.

I didn’t meet anybody.

On the way out, I did meet someone. This was a young woman, who smiled and asked if I was visiting: “Vous faites le tour?” I said yes I was. She recognised me, because she’d seen me drawing, three days previously. We chatted for a bit. She explained some of the history. The town had been opposed to their use of the site. Some people thought we were squatters, she said: “ils pensent qu’on fait le squatte”. But no, she said, we are not squatters. In principle, “no-one sleeps here the night”. And they have the permission of the owner. Well, they had the permission of the owner. But things have changed…. so the situation now is, well, “un peu ambigue”, a bit ambiguous.

She smiled. She liked it there. She said that it was surprising how little one needed, just “les un ou deux trucs” a few things needed for existence.

“And friends,” I suggested.

“Yes,” she agreed, “and friends.” She told me her name and asked me mine. “Come back,” she said, “any time. Boir un café.” And she set off down the slope, towards a young man waiting patiently below, by the collection of wooden outhouses.

Here is the picture I had been drawing when I first met the woman.

26 rue des Rasses, rear entrance (view from the South). 17th October 2021, 4pm. In Sketchbook 11

In this view you can see evidence of the current occupiers. They have built a fence, made of wooden pallets, on top of a concrete platform which is part of the original building. On the concrete wall are inscriptions in a flowing calligraphic script I did not recognise, and a large symbol in a roundel.

Here are some external views and work in progress on the drawings:

Here are maps:

References:

  1. Reuge, the Art of Mechanical Music, Secrets of the Reuge Manufacture, published by Reuge in 2007. Picture of the factory in the snow is from the frontispiece.
  2. Website describing Le Baz, and the Zone libre à Bâtir: https://pantographe.info/ downloaded 22 Oct 2021
  3. The local newspaper <<24 heures>> carries articles about how the current occupiers took over the buildings and disputes between the current occupiers and local residents. See for example the article by Frédéric Ravussin, 22.11.2019, 06h51. These newspapers are available on the marvellous digital resource: Scriptorium from the University of Lausanne.

Basel, February 2020

In the streets of Basel, you can hear your own footsteps.

There are fountains.

Gemsberg, Basel Old Town, 7″ x 10 ” on Fabriano Artistico paper, [sketchbook 6]

In the hour and half that it took me to draw this picture, people made use of the fountain. Someone came out of one of the adjacent houses and filled a watering can. A woman helped a child to stand on the white marble edge and then to walk cautiously on the iron bars across the water. The child dipped her hands in the flowing water and drank. She played with the water that came from the spouts. Then the woman and the child returned to their bicycles, and continued their ascent of the hill. Elderly people, climbing the hill, paused here to rest. A runner lent over the water and sluiced his face, before pacing on up the slope towards me.

This part of town is very old. Basel has the fine custom of telling you a little about each street, on the street sign. The one for Gemsberg says:

“Zum Gemsberg, 1661 erstmals erwähnter Hausname”

So this street was named after a house which stood here in 1661. [German speakers reading this: please correct me if I got that wrong!]

The house on the right has an inscription in magnificent script. My German-speaking consultant enables me to state with some confidence that this reads as “In 1563 [this house was created] by joining together two houses: “To the Fridberg” and “To the Slifstein”, both mentioned in 1300-1322″

“Fridberg” might mean “Tranquil mountain” and “Slifstein” might mean polishing stone, or polished stone. Perhaps these were people’s names. I learned at the Basel Paper Mill that in those times smooth stones were used to polish paper, so may be Herr or Frau Slifstein was a paper polisher. But that’s just surmise.

Caption beneath a reproduction of a glazing hammer, Basel Paper Mill.

Here’s work in progress on the drawing.

Later I tackled a tough assignment: Basel Cathedral, “Basler Münster”.

Basler Münster, West Front, 7″ x 10 ” on Fabriano Artistico paper, [sketchbook 6]

This is a magnificent medieval construction, the present building dates from about 1500. It is a real challenge for the Urban Sketcher. Each edge is decorated. Each corner hosts a saint, or often two. Every planar surface has decoration, low relief, a statue. Not content with simply a sundial, they added also a clock. And on top of all this, the two towers are by no means identical. They each support a forest of spires, some octagonal. The main spire on the right seems to have curving edges, unless that was a cunning optical illusion. Even the roof is decorated with a pleasing coloured diamond pattern in tiles. I did my best, but those medieval stonemasons got the better of me.

To the left of the door is St George and the Dragon, a very realistic statue which I had to put in. St George’s horse prances on a firm plinth. St George himself wields a real metal lance, copper or some copper-containing alloy, since it is green. The dragon, some distance away, is made to balance on a precarious shelf, endangered by the thrust of the lance. It’s a dynamic and three dimensional scene.

Here is work in progress on the drawing.

I made more sketches around the city:

On the long journey home, I sketched the people, and my luggage.

Sainte-Croix, February 2020

The weather in the Jura mountains is changing. This is climate change, the residents tell me. Once, the snow came reliably every year, bringing skiers. Now, the snow is unreliable. “It shouldn’t be like this,” they said, looking out at the slushy rain. This is February: high skiing season. “It should not be like this,” they say again, sadly.

Here is a sketch made looking out of the window into the rain and melting snow. The lady at the Post Office added the stamp.

Sainte-Croix, February 12th 2020, looking down the hill towards the station.

I made that picture with just watercolour: no pen.

The Hôtel de France celebrates the fine engineering expertise of the area with a collection of typewriters. There were several in the meeting room where we worked. Here is one of them.

Typewriter. The Post Office lady obliged with the stamp.

This was a busy visit. My arrival had been delayed by a storm, and so work was compressed into a few hours. My next sketching opportunity was while I waited for a lift to the station.

Here’s a view across Lake Geneva in the rain.

Sainte-Croix: l’Atelier de mécanique ancienne du Dr Wyss

Here is a machine that was used to make music boxes:

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The machine is about 100 years old. It still works. It sits with its colleagues and companion machines in the workshop of Dr Wyss, in Sainte-Croix. Dr Wyss collected the ancient machines, as the music box industry declined in the region. They are now looked after in a dim and oily machine shop, in a semi-basement of an unremarkable building. Mr Théodore Hatt is their carer, curator and operator. I had the great privilege of spending some time in the workshop, quietly drawing, while Mr Hatt showed the collection to a visiting engineer from Germany.

The machines operate from huge and very dangerous-looking belts in the ceiling. At a certain point in his presentation, Mr Hatt sets all these belts in motion. They create a gentle rhythmic noise, rumbling down the length of the workshop. He connects different machines, driven by the belts. Each machine changes the noise slightly. His explanations, in German, come to me in harmony with the machine beats.

I drew the electroplating machine, and the drill:

Here are some work-in-progress photos, and a close-up of the cogwheel in the first picture:

 

On the way home, in Geneva airport, I drew the view:

“Amidst runway fog
a hawk circles and plummets.
The crows are annoyed.”

 

Sketching in Sainte-Croix, Vaud, July 2019

I had been travelling since 5am. So I just rested. I looked out of the hotel window. I saw chimney pots.

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With the wind and snow in Switzerland, it’s worth a lot of effort on the part of the chimney pot designer to get it right. Clearly, though, much experimentation is required. Every one in this drawing is different.

Switzerland is the only place I know where copper is a construction material. The rest of us use it to make small domestic items, or jewellery. But here, the whole of the chimney pot stack with the cylindrical top, in the middle of the picture, is made of copper. Also copper is the guttering which runs across the middle foreground, and some of the down pipes.

Later, in a pause, I made another drawing, this time from the terrace of the Hôtel de France. This time I was tuned in to chimney pots. See the marvellous construction on the skyline! It is even furnished with a set of steps, so the chimney pot repairer is provided for. Or perhaps the chimney sweep.

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Another day I searched for chimney pots again, since this was becoming a theme. Here is the view from the same place, looking a slightly different direction.

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Here is the picture under construction.

The item in the middle of the base of the picture is a letter box. I posted a few postcards:

Pen and ink sketches are a good way to fill in the time waiting while travelling:

And I did some sketching at the breakfast table.

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Breakfast room, Hôtel de France, 11th July 2019

Hôtel de France, Vaud

Last week I stayed with my friends at the Hôtel de France in Sainte-Croix.

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Here is a sketch I made of the hotel from across the road, sitting on a wall by the lay-by. It was really cold, 4 degrees C. One and a half hours, drawn and coloured on location.

A woman parks her car in my line of sight and blocks the view. She is one of a succession of people who parks their car in my line of sight and blocks the view. They all do so unapologetically. I might be just air, sitting there with my sketchbook.

They are collecting items from the hardware shop, which is called “Jaccard”. They all return quite quickly and drive off. So I have become used to the rhythm, and it no longer bothers me. I draw the chimneys, over the top of the car, and the distant mountain, which is called Covatannaz.

This particular woman, on returning to her car, called out “Hélène!”. Her car was empty. I assumed she was calling to someone round the corner. “Hélène,” she said again. I realised she was talking to me. None of my names is Hélène, although I quite like the name. I ran through the options in my head. Was “Hélène” a kind of French form of “Fore!”, which golfers shout? Was this a warning of some kind? No. She and I were looking at each other, she with an open face of greeting, me no doubt with a puzzled frown, which after a little while influenced her open greeting, and she frowned too.

“Bonjour!” I said brightly, hoping to lighten the mood.

“Ah,” she said, and her expression altered again. Perhaps my voice was wrong. Even with one word, my English accent must have been apparent. “Excusez-moi,” she continued,  “Je vous avez prise pour Hélène Jumeaux*.” She continued to look at me as though I might change my mind and confess to being Hélène Jumeaux, despite the accent. When I didn’t, she hid her confusion by examining my picture, which she genuinely seemed to like, and she complimented me.

Prosopagnosia, face blindness, affects maybe 1 in 50 people, according to “faceblind.org“. It is an inability to recognise faces, not an inability to remember names. That is also a problem, but a different one. I know this, because, as I’ve got older, face blindness has become more and more of a problem for me. I felt sympathy for the woman. Neither my limited mastery of French, nor the situation, enabled me to express this connection. But we managed. We smiled, and talked about the picture.

Forgive me if I pass you on the street without recognising you, even if we’ve seen each other only a few hours before. Please say hello. And say your name.  As I’ve got older I’ve realised that many mental and physical defects, such as deafness, visual impairment, prosopagnosia, encroaching memory loss, can all be interpreted, by people who are young and fully functional, as rudeness. It’s made me more forgiving of other people’s weaknesses, other people’s apparent rudeness.

Here is the line drawing, the same picture as above, before the colour went on.

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Here are a couple more drawings from the same trip, and a photo of this drawing on location, just after I finished it.

I have made pictures at the Hôtel de France before:

Sainte-Croix, Vaud, Switzerland

Sainte-Croix, Vaud

View from a Swiss Hotel

Some sketches of hotel tableware

Here is a gallery of archive sketches from Vaud and Sainte-Croix.

*names in this story have been changed

Sainte-Croix, Vaud

I’m just back from another visit to Sainte-Croix in Vaud, Switzerland. Mostly I was working, but I managed to do a few sketches.

I started sketching at the airport. The flight was full.

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Here’s one of the outside of the hotel, done in 1 hour and 50 minutes, sitting on the pavement in the sun.

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In between work on the computer and discussions, I made small quick sketches of what was in front of me. I experimented with watercolour sticks, which are very messy, but deliver strong bright colour.

Here’s another experiment with the watercolour sticks. I was walking back from the swimming pool, and saw this sweep of land and the farmhouse sheltered by trees.  I was shortly due back at the hotel, so I made this sketch in about 10 minutes, sitting on the road. The watercolour sticks throw the colour on very quickly, and don’t allow me to fuss.

IMG_4628 Farmhouses on the hill

Here is a sketch made in about 20 minutes, while waiting for a meeting to start. I was looking out of the window…..

IMG_4626 From the window of the Bistro

At the end of my visit I sat at a table on the terrace and looked across to the Mont de Baulmes.

IMG_4624 from the terrace

Pen and wash, 20 minutes plus 20 minutes later.

Here are the watercolour sticks in their new/old box. It’s an old cigarette box. I just discovered they all fit into it nicely.

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Here’s a drawing on location:

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With thanks to Marina and Rolf, proprietors of the Hôtel de France, 25 rue Centrale, Sainte-Croix, Vaud, Switzerland. www.hotelfrance.ch

I have sketched here before:

Sainte-Croix, Vaud, Switzerland

I visited the Hôtel de France, Sainte-Croix in Vaud, Switzerland. Here is the hotel, from the street outside, just after I arrived.

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I had to wait in Geneva train station, for the train which goes to Yverdon-les-Bains. The sun came through the windows and people walked through the lighted space.

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The Hôtel de France is known for its absinthe.

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I sketched the absinthe table. The bottles look like a group of people waiting for something to happen. Like people, the bottles have common basic characteristics, but each has their individual variations.

Glasses, too, have their characters.

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I walked down the ancient salt road to the village of Vuitebœuf. Here is the Église de Vuitebœuf from the rue du Culaz, which I afterwards found out is also on the ‘Via Francigena’ pilgrims’ route Canterbury to Rome (1900km).

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This church was constructed in 1904 to the design of Charles-François Bonjour.

I travelled back to London late Sunday night, on a crowded ‘plane from Geneva.

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Work in progress on the drawing of the Hôtel de France, 19 April 2018. Jackson’s watercolour sketch book, 7″ x 10″

Here are links to previous drawings in Sainte-Croix.

View from a Swiss Hotel

Some sketches of hotel tableware

Sainte-Croix, Vaud

Here is a link to the etching of the Absinthe Table: The Absinthe Table

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