Françoise Lesage, Nature Obliges

Françoise loves color so much that she hardly dares to talk about it. Perhaps does she fear of reducing the emotion that color gives her? Would she feel like betraying the special relationship she has with color, a relationship she formed as a child? At that time already, contemplating a large box of colored pencils brought her immense joy.

Color collector

From this first experience, she has kept a taste for color collections: four drawers of multicolored silk coils, her home-made ceramic color chart, her collection of wools dyed by her hands, and her professional pencil box. The pleasure is different every time, with the material making its own contribution: a blue on wool has nothing to do with a blue on a ceramic tile, or even with the brilliant blue of silk!

Each of these collections reveals a facet of Françoise. The silk threads, her talents as a seamstress that she has put at the service of the whole family. The ceramic color chart, an essential part of her decoration work: listening to her customers, she designs a project for their shower, bathroom, kitchen or floors. The pencils are there to elaborate the preliminary project which will be validated or modified, then carried out. Françoise transforms their stories; from these interactions she creates decorations and functional objects: ceramic plates, cups or porcelain lampshades… In this sense, she calls herself more of an artisan than an artist.

On this porcelain cup made by Françoise Lesage for a market gardener, carrots in relief.

Showcase


Her house is the showcase of her know-how and of her talents as a colorist. In the bathroom, dragonflies mingle with stylized flowers and leaves in harmonies of blue and green, sometimes energized by flashes of yellow or softened by more neutral elements. The kitchen sinks are decorated in the same spirit. On the ground, swallows surrounded of tiles in different shades of earth, travel from the entrance to the living room through the kitchen. They create a link between the wooden framework of the house and the interior decoration.

Françoise Lesage work: bathtub, sink, tiles, work table, everything is homemade; the vegetables come from the garden, even potatoes.

Françoise wanted this house like an undergrowth. The light filters here and there, and more abundantly above the kitchen where a curved staircase gives the impression of a suspended bridge between trees. The plants themselves believe in this fantasy: from the top of the wall, where some of them are installed, leaves fall in long clusters. You walk around a column of old stones that supports the framework and delimits the space like a friendly tree. This building, a veritable vessel, was designed by her husband, Henri Chaumont, and built entirely by their hands. One can feel Gaudi’s breath in this extraordinary creation inspired by nature.

The inside of the Lesage-Chaumont House

Working with wool

It is undoubtedly in the work with wool that Françoise expresses her quest best. In the past, she was content to buy naturally dyed wool and made winter jumpers for the whole family, in cameos adapted to everyone’s tastes. One thing leading to another, she became interested in the resources of plants to make her dyes, following recipes or according to her intuition; she began to question the plant: what secret are you hiding, my beautiful one, how can you reveal it? Do you offer all your splendor in your flowers, or do you hide magnificent, unsuspected tones in your leaves or roots?

Today, Françoise takes me to the woods to pick borage berries ; they are black and yet they give a very soft green. I have a feeling that no plant in the garden or in the nearby woods will escape a dyeing trial.

In the jars, the flowers are ready for the next dyeing, the others are drying. The jumper, knitted twenty years ago, has lost nothing of its beauty or comfort.

More recently she wanted to obtain the wool herself, and has invested in the project “laine fleurie ». She offers craft products using the wool of sheep grazing in nature reserves in the Walloon region. Biological diversity in the environment is thus guaranteed while ensuring open spaces made up of meadows, with no need for maintenance other than the sheep pasture.

Wool in the Digital Age

Who says product, even if it is artisanal, says production line… So Françoise bought knitting machines, each one dedicated to a particular type of yarn. One of them has been adapted to produce a knitted fabric based on a digital photograph…and here is a magnificent clematis declined in ecru and grey knit, tones chosen to remain as close as possible to the rustic character of the sheep.

Knitting machines and clematis transformed into knitwear.

This mix of technology and poetry Françoise also deployed it in the project of the “burning sheep” (see the video below) where she dressed the sheep of a small flock with a led blanket, on the occasion of the Liège Festival of Lights. At nightfall, the movements of the flock gathered by a sheepdog could be seen on the hillsides.

The “burning sheep” (les moutons ardents)


In this quest Françoise comes full circle, the one that links her love of nature, her passion for flora, her pleasure in inventing recipes and marveling at the colors thus produced.

During lockdown

The spring 2020 was occupied by an immobile journey in her garden. This is how she describes the project:

” From March 21 to September 21, I set out to draw a plant each day with a particular technique.
I draw the plant with a black pencil, extracted a dye base from the plant, with which she colored the drawing.
With this same juice, I dyed a small ball of wool of 8 gr. These balls will be woven to form a long fabric with the colors of the days.

This work of attention to the plant world has been rich in lessons. At first, I didn’t think I had enough diversity to ensure a daily regularity. In fact, some plants disappeared before I could paint a picture of them.
When the fall equinox arrived, however, the raw material suddenly began to disappear.

The explosion of plants in spring is of a rare intensity and the cessation of vegetation is just as intense.”

Francoise Lesage Lockdown project : part I the plants (© Françoise Lesage)
Francoise Lesage Lockdown project; patrt II, the wool (© Françoise Lesage)

An exhibition of her work is planned for summer 2021 and a publication

The future

Would you invite Françoise for a residence, in any delimited environment, for realizing such a beautiful portrait of the local nature? Do you have any island, or a valley in the mountains, or perhaps a piece of land along a railroad track?

Françoise’s work as a ceramist can be seen here.

The Chaumont-Lesage house, and on the right, the little sister, Françoise’s workshop.

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