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Metal, Bois, Fer - Meet my Belle-soeur! + Bilingual side-by-side text (new!)

Coffee tables mirrors iron wood france
Mirrors and coffee tables and a paravent, or screen, made by my belle-soeur, who is a welder, and artisan, and un amour. Read on.

30-Day French will teach you everything you need to know to speak French on your next trip to France with 30 lessons based on real-life conversations. Try it out.

TODAY'S WORD: le fer

        : iron

le chemin de fer = railroad
le fer à repasser = iron (for shirts, slacks, etc)
le bras de fer = the game of arm-wrestling
le fer à cheval = horseshoe

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Soundfile: Listen to Jean-Marc read this French sentence

Fer. Aujourd'hui je vous présente ma soeur, un artisan qui travaille le bois et le fer.
Iron. Today I'd like to introduce you to my sister, a craftsperson who works with wood and iron.

Improve your spoken French with Pronounce it Perfectly in French or  Exercises in French Phonetics


I was wondering about how best to introduce my belle-soeur, Cécile, when a page on her website caught my eye. Clicking on it, I found a poem she wrote in place of a biography.

I took a short cut and included Google's translation of Cécile's poem. I happen to like its rough-around-the-edgesness which adds another layer of soul to the poem. The translation is clunky and not always fitting--like the wooden and metal rejects my belle-soeur rescues. So I am giving you an assignment today: find a more precise word each time you see one that just doesn't cut it and share it in the comments (link at the end of this post). Together with Cécile we will all be artisans today: word artisans and artisans tout court.

This is only an introduction. If  you would like me to share more of Cécile and her work, be sure to say so in the comments.

Note: It took time to figure out how to put in the following two-column table into this post, but it could be a helpful way to present bilingual text in the future. What do you think? I hope it shows up intact in your email (let me know in the comments at the end of post).


Fouiller les bennes,
démailler les tonnes d'acier
régurgitées par l'industrie.

Il y a l’œil qui cherche,
Qui se pose, qui dicte à la main
De prendre : là.
D'extirper de l'amas un fragment.
Le dépoussiérer, le caresser,
Le sentir du bout des doigts.
Extraire du tas enchevêtré
Des pièces non conformes, hors d'usage.

Il y a le grain et la fibre
Les tons qui se déclinent.
Il y a l'odeur qui accompagne
La main qui caresse ou qui hésite.

Sous l'écorce la patine qui éclôt.
Le mouvement chauffe la matière,
Lui offre un éclat.
Le bois respire.

L'atelier est un poumon
Qui abrite et donne le gîte.
Il y a les mains sales qui savent,
Sentent, touchent, embrassent,
Ou coupent mais apprivoisent.

Fusion des genres et matières.
Alliage des bois et des métaux.

L'intimité est en chantier.
Digging the skips,
Unravel tons of steel
Regurgitated by industry.

There is the eye that seeks,
Who arises, who dictates by hand
To take: there.
To extract a fragment from the cluster.
The dust, the caress,
Feel it with your fingertips.
Extract from the entangled pile
Non-conforming parts, out of use.

There is grain and fiber
Tones that decline.
There is the odor that accompanies
The hand that caresses or hesitates.

Under the bark the patina that hatches.
The movement heats the matter,
He offers a shine.
The wood breathes.

The workshop is a lung
Who shelters and gives the lodging.
There are dirty hands that know,
Feel, touch, embrace,
Or cut but tame.

Fusion of genres and materials.
Alloy of wood and metals.

Intimacy is under construction.



Cecile jean-marc martha charles atelier fer bois marseilles
Our special tour of Marseilles last week included a stop at Cécile's atelier, near the popular cultural Friche Belle de Mai. She is one of 10 artisans sharing this space.
Fer bois cecile paravent
Take a minute and follow my belle-soeur on Instagram. She is beginning to post pictures of her work! Click here to see a table she remade for me
Jean-marc 50
Jean-Marc turned 50 last week! Behind him, one of the mirrors Cécile made. Photo by Sandra Zirah


A bench Cécile made us, on the right. There is a much better photo of it at her website. And for any inquiries, do not hesitate to contact Cécile here:
One of Cécile's work stations. Did you enjoy meeting my sister-in-law via her poem and her work? Which pieces or phrases stood out? (I love "The workshop is a lung" "L'atelier est un poumon") Share your thoughts in the comments.


le fer = iron
la belle-soeur = sister-in-law
un paravent = a screen
un amour = a love
tout court = period, plain, simply

Stories you may have missed:
A story about my frangine, or sister-in-law, a French Robinhood


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  SABLET HOME- for high quality vacation rentals in the heart of Provence. Click here for photos and more details.

AMAZON GIFT CARDS - for that hard-to-buy-for one on your list!

FRENCH GOURMET ITEMS - including herbs, mustard, coffee, tisane, chocolate, cakes


PARIS METRO CUFF - Unique bracelet and great gift for those who love Paris. Click here.

THE FRENCH LOVE THESE TOWELS - quick drying, good-looking


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Experience Provence on a Lavender & Vine small group tour. Discover secret lavender fields, markets, Roman sites, private wine-tastings. Relax in a village home.

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