Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist

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With a Lot of of Help from my Friends

Late last year I sent out an email to a few special people.
It went something like this:

Kristal scraping paint

“Hey Nearest and Dearest friends,

Nguyet Painting

“If you’ve got an adventurous spirit, some handy skills and 1-3 weeks free time from Feb-April 2011…I’m recruiting the special few – intrepid friends and foolhardy family members who are understanding that this project will evolve organically with loads of onsite factors that will keep things interesting: snails-pace bureaucracy, local tradespeople’s extended holidays…the final assessment of the property once I arrive, etc.

Doug and Skylight

“These rooms have been used as warehouses for decades and have very little in the way of plumbing and electrics. They are small, unglamorous spaces smack in between other peoples’ houses [a terrace], and the rooms are currently stuffed full of the owner’s family junk, er, forgotten furniture. I will hire local tradespeople for roof repairs, major work, etc but would love to have help with other tasks like tiling.

Doug after Sanding

“If you’re up for this adventure, I offer:
* A free place to sleep [I’m renting a nice 2-bedroom house a few minutes’ walk away]
* Food [would love some help cooking too!]
* And local wine – err, at dinner ;)

Sharon with Tools

“Hope to see you on the other side!”

Hilary and her sis

And a few very special people DID respond.

Here are friends who responded to my call to help create the Studio. Pictured from the top down:

1. Kristal – who was probably the most eager to get straight to work – she arrived in late February and scraped and sanded her way through several chilly days in Cianciana.

2. Nguyet Vuong – the master designer behind this website – who worked with me on a beta revamp of the site during her two weeks in Cianciana. She also adapted Greek designs from the nearbly ancient colony of Eraclea Minoa for the motif you see her painting here.

3 & 4. Doug Wilson, Nguyet’s partner, a friend with Sicilian heritage who brought along his mom Diana. Doug & Diana cooked up a storm –  when Doug wasn’t sanding the studio’s rustic ceiling and turning prematurely grey. Discover Doug & Nguyet’s travel-blog here.

5. Sharon who shows she knows how to wield a crowbar. Here she’s just knocked through concrete to reveal an old Sicilian stove. Her extensive experience with renovations of historic houses in the UK – from materials to tools to aesthetics – was an invaluable asset.

6. Hilary and her husband David have been an incredible help for the past two years, both before and after I bought the house. Here’s Hil with her sister who was visiting, after they helped to fill the truck full of rubble. Hilary’s an American artist who lives in Cianciana year-round, and has a holiday home for rent there.

7. And the one who helped out most of all is the man I married on a beach in Thailand quite  awhile back. He helped me out when promised funding from artwork sales fell through from Hong Kong, when my cash card was frozen in Sicily, and when there was yet another load of rubble to be taken away. In fact, he got heatstroke from doing this at noon:

Roy & Rubble

Though upon reflection perhaps a dark Kangaroo-leather hat wasn’t the best choice for mid-day Mediterranean sun.

None of the friends I invited complained at the many challenges they encountered during their stay, which included delays in schedule and materials; panic from me about, oh, everything; my consistent mistranslations from English to Italian and vice-versa; small-town drama (in English) and too much more to mention here.

They worked hard, they worked long hours, they climbed tiresome hills all over town and out of it, and were unfailingly gracious and patient and flexible – everything a girl could ask for.

Thanks guys – this couldn’t have come together without you.

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