Andy Parkin's studio destroyed by fire

Posted by Sarah Stirling on 13/12/2016

The studio of British mountaineer and artist Andy Parkin, who crafts the Piolet d’Or and Kendal Film Festival trophies, was destroyed by a fire on Friday night. The 16th Century former saw and grain mill just outside Chamonix was also the workshop of Rabbit on the Roof skis, and painter Anati Graetz. Sarah Stirling speaks to Andy to find out what happened, what’s next and what you can do to help.

AP: I found the cat today. This black ball curled up in some rags in the ruins. I thought he was dead of asphyxiation, but then Marley looked up at me as if to say, "There you are!" When you’ve lost everything, it’s the little things. Going through the ruins and finding a book or a painting you’d forgotten. When there are only a few things left to remind you of your life, they’re precious.

I had been making trophies for the next Kendal Film Festival and Piolet d’Or, but I’ve got molten sculptures now. I shall recycle them, of course. That’s what I do. Like when I recycled my life, after the accident, when I was blasted into a crevasse by an avalanche back in 1984 and left disabled. After that I started skulking around the bottom of crevasses, and making art out of bits and bobs that had been through the glacier, and been transformed by the mountain, as I had been.

WATCH: Andy Parkin at work in his studio

 

A video posted by Yucca Films (@yucca_films) on

We don’t know what caused the fire. The inquest is still going on. I’ve got to see the police in half an hour. The insurers will come in this week and take out the dangerous beams and so on. They have a civil obligation to clean up so nothing falls in the road. It’s not forecast to snow, so we have at least a week to stabilise the building.

It was 10:45pm at night when the fire started. We had all gone home after setting up for an event. The Chamonix Guide’s Syndicate were going to celebrate their 70th anniversary at the studios, which we call the Moulin des Artistes, "artist's mill", on the Saturday night.

I’ve been working from that building for 24 years, and Peter has been making Rabbit on the Roof skis there for six or seven. The building has been owned by the Vouillamoz family for generations. It was sculptor Philippe Vouillamoz and myself who converted it into an art workshop.

DONATE: to the appeal to rebuild the Moulin des Artistes

The ironic thing is, it wasn't just an art studio; we used it as a community and fund-raising centre, and now the community is rallying round to help us. I teach kids to paint there. They don’t get that at school. We open it up for events. It provides things that Chamonix would lack otherwise. Exhibitions, meetings, lectures, charity and community get-togethers.

Chamonix as a valley has changed hugely since I've lived here, but I want to make sure the spirit of the place survives. Peter and myself are carrying on the traditional artisan aspect, and bringing local people together with the foreigners. Even if the place develops and changes around us, there are values we can pass on and carry on.

WATCH: Rabbit on the Roof at work

There’s a lot of good will and intentions to recreate, but it’ll take a while. The idea is to maintain the original character. It’s been gutted, but the walls are like a fortress: they’ve stood for 400 years.

The vaulted roofs date back to at least the 17th Century. Anywhere else it would be a listed building. It’s got a lot of history. In the 1600s the building was owned by the Duc de Savoie. That’s back before Chamonix was even French. In 1860 this region voted to become part of France.

Boutch a boutch, a charitable organisation, are organising the fundraising. We're so grateful for any help. It’s a play on words. "Bouche a bouche" means "mouth to mouth". They are motivated 20-somethings who support projects for the betterment of the valley. They will be the generation that carry on the traditional ideals of Chamonix.

It's good that you're writing this, because it tells people that we are going to rebuild and carry on. Lying there, in the crevasse back in 1984, I thought, "it could be worse". This is a bit like that. It’s only materials, after all. I’ll have some calcinated beams to make things out of now, too.

In a show of solidarity, the Chamonix community has launched a fundraiser for the artists, Peter Steltzner, Anati Graetz and Andy Parkin. A support evening has been organised by the association Boutch a Boutch for Friday 16 December.

The BMC is in touch with Chamonix based friends of Andy and we are speaking to the Alpine Club and Community Action Nepal about a UK-based fundraising initiative to help Andy get back on his feet – so watch this space.

DONATE: to the appeal to rebuild the Moulin des Artistes

READ: Nine setback stories from the winding road of climbing life


Go BIG this season

This autumn, pay only £59 for a 7-day single-trip European Alpine & Ski policy*. Time to book another adventure.

Years of experience

We've been insuring adventurers like you for over 30 years. That's why all of our policies come with:

  • 24-hour emergency assistance helpline
  • £10 million emergency medical cover
  • £100,000 search, rescue and recovery cover
  • £10,000 personal accident cover
  • £5,000 cancellation cover
  • £2,500 baggage cover
  • No age loading until you're 70

WATCH: BMC Insurance: built for the #mountains on BMC TV

Want to know more? READ: 5 reasons why you need BMC Travel Insurance

*Policy details: £59.08 for 7-day alpine single-trip European insurance up to age 69.


« Back

Post a comment Print this article

This article has been read 11355 times

TAGS

Click on the tags to explore more

RELATED ARTICLES

5 of the best beginner ski tours in Chamonix
0
5 of the best beginner ski tours in Chamonix

Think powder's only for pros? We've got five of Chamonix's Mountain Guides and off-piste skiing instructors telling you otherwise. To get you touring, they've come up with their favourite beginner ski tours in and around Chamonix.
Read more »

Top ten Vallee Blanche myths
2
Top ten Vallee Blanche myths

Forget cramponing down a death defying ridge before leaping over gaping crevasses – the Vallee Blanche is not what you might imagine. That said, it’s no pushover either; Charlie Boscoe uncovers the myths.
Read more »

Balade au Clair de Lune on the South Face of the Fou climbed free
0
Balade au Clair de Lune on the South Face of the Fou climbed free

Frenchmen Fabien Dugit and Cédric Lachat have succeeded in making the first free ascent of the rarely climbed hard aid route Balade au Clair de Lune on the South Face of the Fou (3,501m) in the Chamonix Aiguilles.
Read more »

Post a Comment
Posting as Anonymous Community Standards
3000 characters remaining
Submit
Your comment has been posted below, click here to view it
Comments are currently on | Turn off comments
0

There are currently no comments, why not add your own?

RELATED ARTICLES

5 of the best beginner ski tours in Chamonix
0

Think powder's only for pros? We've got five of Chamonix's Mountain Guides and off-piste skiing instructors telling you otherwise. To get you touring, they've come up with their favourite beginner ski tours in and around Chamonix.
Read more »

Top ten Vallee Blanche myths
2

Forget cramponing down a death defying ridge before leaping over gaping crevasses – the Vallee Blanche is not what you might imagine. That said, it’s no pushover either; Charlie Boscoe uncovers the myths.
Read more »

Balade au Clair de Lune on the South Face of the Fou climbed free
0

Frenchmen Fabien Dugit and Cédric Lachat have succeeded in making the first free ascent of the rarely climbed hard aid route Balade au Clair de Lune on the South Face of the Fou (3,501m) in the Chamonix Aiguilles.
Read more »

BMC MEMBERSHIP
Join 82,000 BMC members and support British climbing, walking and mountaineering. Membership only £15.72.
Read more »
BMC SHOP
Great range of guidebooks, DVDs, books, calendars and maps.
All with discounts for members.
Read more »
TRAVEL INSURANCE
Get covered with BMC Insurance. Our five policies take you from the beach to Everest.
Read more »