March 30, 2015

This Spring, get a glimpse into the Beehive

WICE has earned the reputation for exemplary, professional classes held at a collegiate level, and rightly so!  We spoke with Jan Olsson, an instructor in the WICE Visual Arts Department, to highlight one of our many gifted instructors, as well as provide a glimpse into their lives outside the classroom!

"You just play," she tells me.  Armed with flowers, feathers, linen, or old scraps of clothing, students gather around the "Queen Bee," Jan's printing press, like children on Christmas morning.  "It's a fun process because you never know what's going to happen on the press.  Everyone gathers around it and holds their breath when we peel back the paper to reveal the finished product," Jan Olsson informs me as we stand peering at Queen Bee inside her studio at La Ruche.

In French, "La Ruche" simply means "Beehive."  Over time, more than 100 other studios were built to resemble it.  What sets apart this hive from the others is its maker: La Ruche was designed by Gustave Eiffel.  This artist's colony is a circular structure, three levels high with 24 studios that take the shape of wedges. 

Sculptor Alfred Bucher founded La Ruche to offer "la méditation et à la réalisation dans un climat de sécurité."  La Ruche was founded in 1902 and has since housed hundreds of struggling artists looking for shelter and acceptance.  Ever-changing, ever-growing.  La Ruche, past and present, is a sanctuary for painters, sculptors, and writers seeking acceptance and looking to develop their skills. 

La Rotonde is shaped like an octagon and originally was the wine pavilion at the World's Fair held in Paris in 1900.  Much like the historical trajectory of La Ruche, the Fair was a celebration of the achievements of the past century and meant to accelerate development into the next.  La Ruche keeps this spirit alive.  It has nurtured artists past and present and will continue to support creative thinkers.  Over the past century, Chagall, Modigliani, Léger, and Soutine have all called La Ruche home and benefitted from its provisions.

Photo Credit: Christian Larrieu

The studio alone is inspiration enough to seek out Jan Olsson and learn everything she has to offer.  And what a lot that is.  Jan has been working at La Ruche since 1990.  It houses her "Queen Bee," the intaglio press where she prints etchings, monotypes, and collographs.  She also paints and teaches in a second studio near the Seine, adjacent to the Parc André Citroën.  Her studio at La Ruche is adorned on every wall with Jan's own artwork -- prints, drawings, paintings. 

Fresh prints aren't the only things you get to take home from the atelier.  Like honey seeping from a beehive, friendships often bloom at La Ruche, where convivial conditions foster warmth and acceptance.  Perfect for a flower to bloom. 

What flowers they are that call her garden home.  Jan makes good use of her spacious jardin when springs comes around each year.  "During the warmer months, we'll order out from the Indian place around the corner and have lunch in the garden," Jan tells me.  More flowers produce more honey, just the same way that students take inspiration each year from the fresh blooms. 

For a student's personal take on Jan's "Creating Travel Journals" class, Dan Smith's inside look will make you marvel. 

Each class at Jan's atelier is different.  Working together with the Queen Bee, each student bee uses his own materials to produce a honey that's highly characteristic of his own personality.  This highly individualized experience begins before students step foot through the door.  Jan is flexible, and tries to hold scheduled classes no matter the size, large or small.  The show must go on!  She also tells me the story of the relationship she built with one student who was the only one signed up for a set of workshops.  She and Jan worked together to tweak the time and schedule so it worked better for both of them, and just like that, the class transformed from a lesson to a friendship.

Jan's numerous art courses can be found here. Her next class is held Wednesday 1 April, 2015. 

Everyone at every level of art is welcome!