The woodworker’s shop ‘Le Gîte’ is located at the edge of Turquant’s artisan village. It’s only a short walk from the large cave where the work of the other artists is on display.
When we arrived at the house the second time, the door to the shop which earlier that afternoon had been closed, was open. It gave access to a garage-type square space. It was like a mini-version of the large Aladdin’s cave we had seen further up the road. All kinds of wooden objects, ranging from children’s toys to elegant decorative pieces where lined on the shelves that occupied the two sidewalls and the back wall of the ‘garage’. There were also some glass showcases containing handmade jewellery. We didn’t see any pepper and salt sets, though, and that was exactly the item we had come for.
We were greeted by small smiling lady. It was hard to guess her age. She was rather plump, had very short light-grey hair and rosy-red cheeks. She was wearing jeans and a white jumper. Dressed otherwise, she would have made the perfect fairy godmother. Behind her steel-rimmed glasses, her eyes were twinkling with good humour.
“You must be the people they phoned about” she said. While I was looking around at the jewellery, B. asked the lady about the pepper and salt sets. When the little fairy godmother said: “I make the jewellery”, we more or less expected that it was her husband who did the woodworking. So we were rather surprised when she continued “My sister makes the wooden objects. I’ll go and get her!”
She disappeared inside the house to come back a few minutes later, followed by grey-haired person dressed in workmen’s blue. The sister, who looked very manly, was holding a pepper and salt set that was similar to the one we had seen at the restaurant. “Bonjour”, she said. “My sister tells me you wanted one of these sets. I’ve changed the model, though, and this is the first piece of the new series” handing the piece to B. And she added “It isn’t finished yet. I still have to rub it with line seed oil to protect to wood.” B. and J.L. liked the new model too, and decided to buy the set as a present for their son, who’s a chef.
While the sister in blue returned to her workshop to give the set the finishing touch, I bought two pairs of earrings from the fairy godmother sister. She explained that they had originally lived in Nantes, but had come to Turquant little over a year ago when they had heard about the artisan’s village reopening. They were working in close collaboration with the central troglodyte shop we had visited earlier, but only sold directly from their own shop as they liked meeting the people who bought their artefacts.
When the woodworking sister returned with the finished piece, there was some banter between the two of them about who ‘wore the trousers and kept the books’. You could tell that these two sisters were very close and devoted to each other.
We also learned that you should put some crushed nutmeg in a new wooden pepper and salt set. It neutralizes the smell of the wood and the line seed oil, and stops them from ‘contaminating’ the authentic taste of the salt and the pepper. After two weeks it is safe to remove the nutmeg. The sister in blue had already put the nutmeg in the set B. and J.L. bought.
The two sisters accompanied us to the gate and watched us walking back up the hill. When we turned around to wave at them one last time, they were still standing there, side by side, in perfect symbiosis.