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Life in France

Silk Sleuth

So for those of you who follow my escapades on Instagram you will know that last weekend I happened upon a cache of the most incredible 1800s silks.

A trunk that had been hoarded lovingly by a collector friend of mine for many many years. For some reason, last weekend she decided that the day had finally come to share it with the world.

 A.D. Russelle

I arrived early to the brocante and as I walked towards my friends stand, a recognised some of my favourite makers hovering around her stand. Kristen of Les Petites Carabistouilles had already gathered a small mountain of delights and before us lay boxes of 1800s silks (bolts and dress cuttings); ribbons (silk velvet and Stephanois passementerie) and several wooden 1800s hat boxes of the most incredible 1800s & early 1900s silk flowers.

Exquisite threads

It was sensory overload, I felt a very strong (and totally inappropriate) desire to jump into the boxes and just swim in the beauty… of course I didn’t – but I sure felt like it!

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From the corner of my eye I spied the wooden edge of a trunk poking out from under my friends stand… I politely asked if I could have a look. She shrugged with a smile, “mais bien sur” adding that the silk was very damaged and that she didn’t think it was ‘good’ for anything.

I inched out the trunk from under the table and pried open its heavy wooden lid open. It was heaven, deep pinks and green brocade, torn silks, sensual scents of time stood still.  My friend explained that this was an entire collection that she had purchased with the intention of creating dolls clothes from the remaining silk.

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Wrapped in tissue paper amongst the silks were rolls of unused gold embellished ribbons and trims wrapped in twine; beaded and embellished dress panels with echoes of silk at their edges from a century ago when they had been hand-sewn to glorious evening gowns.

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It was the most surreal experience to be in this tiny Provençal village town hall and simultaneously transported back in time to the haute couture ateliers of the mid – late 1800s. I felt a huge lump in my throat and a pressure headache building at my temples.

My mind was wrestling with the reality that I couldn’t possibly afford to purchase all of it and yet what was the likelihood that I would ever find anything like this again.

Exquisite threads

It was terrifying and heady, a combination of intense desire and yet tremendous fear … there was a very high likelihood that I would have to put it all back if the price was beyond my budget.

I worked up the courage to ask my friend what she would accept for the lot.

Her reply…was more than my budget for the next few months buying trips… she saw the look on my face and kindly told me she would keep it safe and I should go have a coffee and think about it.

I called my husband and explained the treasure I had happened upon and he told me he trusted me and would support me on the investment…the decision was made!

Exquisite threads

My friend wrapped everything carefully for me and just as I collected the last box – she handed me a small package.

It was a gift, for our friendship, she told me it was something so damaged that she didn’t feel right selling it but she knew it would be in good hands.

Exquisite threads Callot Soeurs

The next day I took the time to sort through my purchases. Making two piles, one I would really dream to keep and one I would need to sell to finance my wildest dreams. At the bottom of the bag I found her package and I opened it to have a closer look at the items deemed too damaged to resell.

I opened the silk jacket up, the silk crackling with age and I cautiously unravelled the makers ribbon inside.

I felt my heart stop and tears well in my eyes…

I was holding the glorious ruins of an original Callot Soeurs silk jacket, the most incredible gift I have ever received in my six years of collecting.

Exquisite threads Callot Soeurs

“In 1916, American Vogue dubbed the sisters the Three Fates, and declared them “foremost among the powers that rule the destinies of a woman’s life and increase the income of France.” New Yorker, ’25 dresses’

Over the next few days I have been examining the other nine jackets (and dress remnants), trying to piece together the provenance and researching the makers behind these masterpieces.

One particular piece piqued my curiosity, a hot pink silk jacket with a label on the inside which reads:

“Madame A.G. Russelle, 33 East 20 Street, New-York”

Had this creation been purchased in New York by the young woman? Had she herself travelled to New York or had it been purchased as a gift for her? Who was this A.G. Russelle? This morning I woke with a burning desire to know more!

 A.D. Russelle

Google, my dear friend, led me to find the American Architectural Historian, Tom Miller. I wrote to him on the wildest chance he might respond and have a snippet of information about this Dressmaker who once worked from 33 East 20th Street.

Within an hour he reverted and I can’t tell you how I felt my heart explode as I read his mail.

He wrote:

“The house where Madame Russelle ran her dressmaking shop still stands.  If you Google streetview it, you’ll see the old brick-faced residence hiding behind a turn-of-the-century commercial front.


Her name was, in fact, Russell, but she added the French-sounding “e” and the “Madame” simply because French fashions (and, actually, all things French) were all the rage.  (As a matter of fact, when her name appeared among the list of patrons endorsing the Russian Vapor Baths in 1870, it was spelled as “Mme. A. G. Russell” without the extra “e”.)

In 1862 she hadn’t added the “e” yet and her shop was on Wooster Street.  By the end of the Civil War the neighborhood around 33 East 20th Street was seeing the influx of commerce.  Broadway, just down the block was seeing the beginnings of what was called the Ladies’ Mile–Manhattan’s major shopping district.  She and her husband James seem to have purchased the 20th Street house around 1867.  That year in October she advertised for an “Errand Boy Wanted–Immediately; good references required.”  She was still spelling her name “Russell.”

James Russell, who touted that he “works on my own” and “does my own buying,” from his shop in the house as early as 1867.  The couple, no doubt, lived on the upper floors.

On December 6, 1868 an advertisement in The New York Herald read: “An India camels’ hair scarf makes a pretty holiday present and can be had of me from $4 to $35.  James Russell, 33 East Twentieth street, near Broadway.”  That $35 price tag would be equivalent to about $600; so by that alone you can see he and his wife were catering to the carriage trade.

James Russell seems to have dealt only in camel hair scarves and shawls.  His advertisements list nothing else through the new few years and one mentioned he had just returned from Europe with a new stock.

In 1867 Madame A. G. Russell advertised for dressmakers.  “Those only need apply who are capable to make and trim waists.”  And James was still selling expensive camel hair scarves and shawls here.

New York Herald Ad A.D. Russell

Then, on May 11, 1873 James Russell announced he was “retiring from business in July” and that his building was available to lease.  After that date neither he nor his wife appear in the newspapers.  In their retirement they may have left town (which would account for their leasing the house).

At any rate, you can definitely date your jacket between 1867 and 1873.

More trivia: Madame A.G. Russell and her husband lived directly across from Thomas Jefferson (his family home was 28 East 20th Street), his family lived in this house until 1872.

Here are some details of the architecture of Madame A.G. Russells couture work (circa 1867-1873)

a.g.russelle collar a.g.russelle

back stays A.G. Russelle jacket_14

I don’t know about you – but this just makes me want to do a happy dance, my smile is making my face hurt and I want to know  about these silks!

Because I can’t keep it all – I am selling many of the exquisite 1800s silks and trims from this collection on Exquisite Threads – as much as I want to hold on to everything forever – it needs to go out into the world and I know there are makers who will make beautiful creations from this treasure!

Raphael and I went on a ‘date’ a few months ago.  It wasn’t meant to be a date, it started out with me wanting to catch the incredible ‘Les chafarcanis’ exhibition before it closed and in my fervour I think it must have rubbed off on him. “We’ll go together” he announced, “and book somewhere nice for lunch”…. Gorgeous antique textiles AND lunch out – I’m there!

Toile de Beautiran Guido Reni "le char de l'Aurore"

I was blown away by the Hotel d’Agar. I went there with a fair idea of what we would see as I’d had a glorious sneak peek of the exhibition and had seen and touched many of the precious chafarcanis in my friend Moniques home when we took our French Musettes there in May. However the Hotel d’Agar is the most incredible space, and you are (on appointment) assigned a guide who talks you through the exhibitions.

We were very fortunate to have Olivier Morand, the son of the founders, and a Louvre graduate, as our chaperon. I have never experienced a more intimate, personable, entertaining, charming introduction to a collection. It was pure joy! He doesn’t just repeat information as much as he weaves a tale around each object. He has grown up with many of these objets d’art and his passion is contagious.

I will share more images from the beautiful Chafarcanis show but before I do….

One of the fab Hotel d’Agar learning experiences for me was on how to identify an authentic Indiennes toiles.

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In the image above you can see numbers, these are the printers ‘reference numbers’ which would have been made by the draftsman to assist in the archival process.

Therefore if we know the number of a certain design we can trace the original ‘designer’ of the toile.
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Hand carved wooden stamps for each toile pattern, labelled with a number which reference each particular design.

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This photograph shows the ‘chef de pièce’. This is the stamp of the pattern printer.

Worth noting is the distinctive ‘Red band’, much like a watermark or a hologram today – this is also a sign of authenticity – however it is extremely rare to find a toile today with an original red band. As this band was created with Garance (madder root) purposely without mordançage,  it would have been either destroyed after the purchase (trimmed) or it would disappear after the first wash.

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In this image you can see the ‘Red band’ and also the stamp of the India Company

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The image above shows the original ‘sales label’. It is incredibly rare to find this element still intact. According to the Hotel d’Agar,  this is the only one ever found to the best of their knowledge.

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This summer I happened across a trunk of beautiful Toile de Nantes remnants at a brocante just outside Bordeaux. After much searching in archives and asking the advice of my textile collecting community – I discovered I found some real treasures.

Sections from a very rare 1815, toile de Nantes called CINCINNATUS, created by the highly celebrated Atelier Petitpierre.

Toile de Nantes 'CINCINNATUS' 1815 Detail : quote “On annonce a Cincinnatus qu’il est elu Dictateur.” Atelier Petitpierre.

I also discovered another very special piece, a remnant of the rare and celebrated Toile de Beautiran inspired by Guido Reni and his work “le char de l’Aurore”. It is one of the most celebrated Toile de Beautiran – inspired by Guido Reni and his work “le char de l’Aurore”

 

Toile de Beautiran Guido Reni "le char de l'Aurore"

18th Century. Toile de Beautiran  “le char de l’Aurore”

This particular design is one of the most celebrated designs created by Beautiran, a Bordelais Indiennes manufacturers. Copper plated print on cotton, garance dye for the beautiful red colour of the print.

The motif of Char was inspired by the famous work of Guido Reni which is in the Palais Pallavicini in Rome. We can recognise the subjects of Greek Gods Apollo & Daphne in the scene.

Toile de Beautiran Guido Reni "le char de l'Aurore"

You can find some of these treasures for sale in Exquisite Threads now

Guido Reni, L'Aurora

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Toile de Beautiran Guido Reni "le char de l'Aurore"

Toile de Beautiran Guido Reni "le char de l'Aurore"

Toile de Beautiran Guido Reni "le char de l'Aurore"

Some of the panels I found have exquisite mendings, some are so seamless that you only realise there are mends when you turn the fabric over.

When a textile is cherished so… every tiny mend is a love letter.

Toile de Nantes 'CINCINNATUS' 1815

Toile de Nantes 'CINCINNATUS' 1815

The tool-whisperer and the ‘carottier’

One of my New Year resolutions is to try to let go of a few things… beautiful things that I’ve been collecting over the years.

My friend Corey once told me, when you walk past something and you don’t ‘see’ it anymore then it’s time to let it go… it’s easier said than done.

This ‘carottier’, an apple corer is a beautiful piece of ‘Art Populaire’, a handmade tool from the 18th Century. What makes it extra special is that it’s owner carved ‘his’ initials into the wooden handle, it reads ‘MFX’.

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Normally I’m drawn to threads; silk, tattered, torn, mended, much-loved and lived in threads.

But something about this tool was incredibly comforting.

Simplicity. Childhood. Nourishment

This was his tool.

His initials held me spellbound… I imagined the tart taste of apple. It was so peculiar.

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It also didn’t help that my friend, who was selling the tools – is a major ‘art populaire’ devotee. A very shy man by nature,  I love to pick something up and ask him, “what is this for” (“ça sert a quoi“) just to watch his face light up in a smile. He takes the beloved tool from you, turns it over in his hand lovingly and he takes a deep breath. Every story he weaves is a love story.

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He doesn’t do it on purpose. He just sweeps you up with his passion – he makes the big soft fabric-loving, feminine you, LOVE tools. Cold metal, chisels, hammers, keys, locks, sculpted wood … you suddenly need it in your life!

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And so this is how I adopted the ‘Carottier’. I decided it had to come home so that I could adore it.

Over the years, I would take it out of the drawer, hold it in my hand, feel the weight of the cold metal and let the wood caress my palm.

The powerful feeling of connection never failed but I just couldn’t bring myself to use it as it was intended, it sadly never saw the inside of an apple….and so back it would go into the drawer of antique treasures.

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As I accumulated more brocante treasures, I thought of MFX’s apple corer less and less. .. and then earlier this week I found it hidden at the back of the drawer under a jumble of cupcake holders – oh the shame!

I thought back to Coreys words and realised that my time as its guardian is up and it needs to be passed on!

And so the clear out begins…lots of goodies to be found in the Etsy boutique, thread, tools, paper, silk, treasures galore.

But first I wanted to show you a glimpse into his beautiful world… so you can see it for yourself

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At the entranceway to their home

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Enamelware, rolling pins, handmade cutting boards… so many gorgeous antique homewares

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Gorgeous textures everywhere

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He has priced every single piece with a tiny ticket… aren’t these enamelled whisks beautiful?!

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I had to ‘adopt’ this pichet too… just saying!

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His wife collects Provencal pottery and every piece is incredible. The only complaint we ever hear from our French Musettes when we bring them to visit these dealers is that they wish they were filling a container and not simply a suitcase.

A bientôt

Ruth

x

 

Reflection & Gratitude

I always find this time of year tricky. The ultimate sense of anti-climax after the Christmas holidays, taking down the decorations and the trepidation of stepping into a new year in which we have poured so many hopes and dreams.

So I wanted to look back and be thankful. For the laughter; the many friends that I’ve been blessed to welcome into my life; the personal creative challenges that I’ve pushed myself to achieve; and the beauty that we’ve experienced thanks to our French Muse Experience.

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A year ago today we brought home this little guy, Elvis. A bundle of love, slobbery kisses and energy – the best Christmas present ever! 

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For Valentines day my French husband offered me a week long natural dying seminar at the Conservatoire des Plantes Tinctoriales in Lauris where I learnt how to dye with thirteen natural plant dyes, falling in love with Garance, Indigo and Cochineal all under the guidance of world renowned Indigo expert Michel Garcia.

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Natural Dying workshop

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This was taken on my husbands birthday, aka Valentines day, the 14th February. We braced the February chill for a walk (and an impromptu family portrait) in one of my favourite Lacoste locations, the sculpture quarry de Lacoste.

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Later in February, we took a family road trip, driving down through the Camargues and to the Mediterranean for some much needed ofresh sea air, rest and eating ourselves silly.

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We experienced the electric atmosphere of Carnaval in Murs. The earth moved with every beat of their drum, chasing the Winter away and ushering in Spring with hope, beauty, new life. Can you feel it?

2016 was a year of collaborations and one of the funnest for me was the Instagram Takeover with Irish brand Cuisine de France to coincide with Saint Patricks day and their #vivelesdifferences campaign!

Cuisine de France takeover

I roped all the family in and was very proud to be able to share glimpses into life in the French countryside, and days filled with good food, sunshine, dancing in the streets, and antique textiles.

On Mothers day, my husband had to work so I decided to take the kids on another adventure. We ate pizza, and drank Orangina and Creme Brûlée. We went to the parc to see who could swing the highest and on our way home – we passed a huge field of poppies. Seeing the world through their eyes is the greatest gift!

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Getting to collaborate with one of my dearest friends, Corey Amaro (pictured above prepping flowers for our French Muse bastide)! The French Muse Experience soared in 2016 and we were very lucky to meet and look after the loveliest clients. From magical week long retreats to fab Mini Muse private buying trips – 2016 was the year where inspiration and creativity were king!

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We have three Provence French Muse retreats planned for 2017 in May, September & October so don’t hesistate to get in touch if you would like to join us on a life-changing, beauty-filled adventure. You can read some of the feedback from our  2016 guests here.

 

More unforgettable highlights from 2016…

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I’ll never forget the meals with friends especially this impromptu picnic hidden in the forest beneath Lacoste followed by a dip in the source with George & Crystal.

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My friend, Trish Andersen came back to Lacoste in June to create incredible textile /paper / floral installations for the event design of Sam Lasseters Summer SCAD Parade. Painter Aurelie Alvarez and I helped out and spent the most surreal few days bringing it together. This was the view from our ‘office’.!

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Sam Lasseter bestowed a huge honour on my French husband.. He asked if he would be a flag bearer. I love that the photograph below captures the moment Raphael passes proudly carrying our tattered and torn silk antique French flag, you can just make out my friend Joanna and I grinning on the sidelines. Joanna and I found the huge flag at the flea market and she dared me to buy it, when I did she whispered to me “I knew the moment you bought it that we’d be friends forever”.

Getting it home was another adventure. The only way it would fit in the car was if it rested over Joannas shoulder on the passenger front seat and so my dedicated conspirator cradled the ripped and dusty silk for the hour long journey home, giggling along the way.

I thought where am I going to hide a 5m high flag (that I don’t really need) from my ‘brocante-allergic’ husband… so I propped it up against an outside wall behind a rose tree. The disguise didn’t fool Raphael and no need – he LOVED it, announcing happily that I could buy an infinite amount of tattered French flags at the brocante and he wouldn’t complain – be careful what you wish for I said in return!

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Balmy Provençal summer evenings are made for wild dinner parties – and we hosted a few. It helped to have the event designer to the stars – Trish Andersen – as a house guest… dinner chez nous never looked so pretty!
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Setting the table 

Farm to table – our friend George picking out only the best melons for our dinner

…and they were like tasting sunshine!!

 

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My desert island, kindred-spirit dinner party people, sculptor Gabriel Sobin, painter/goddess Aurelie Alvarez (+ Freddie and Aggie), and straight off a plane from NYC @brooklyninteriors @stephencantonson.

 

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King Louis got to taste quite a few desserts this year!

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A stolen moment from our family break in August where we escaped to the Atlantic coast for sandy sandwiches and quality family time with cousins.

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Just before Christmas I was thrilled to participate in the Boutique Ephemere du Sud alongside seventeen of Provences most talented makers. It was a first for me to show my jewellery in such a setting but I loved every minute and lots of new jewellery has been added to the Rubanesque etsy boutique.

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I’m wishing you only the best for this brand new year ahead. May we achieve our dreams, laugh until our cheeks hurt, and when things get tough, let us be surrounded with love and music and dance off uncertainty!

Ruth

x

Indigo et moi

The French Muse experience

Is there a colour that makes your heart quicken, that makes you feel an aching in your soul?

For me that colour is Indigo.

The French Muse experience

It is the colour of the bluest Provencal sky, the colour of the Atlantic ocean that I remember from my childhood days living by the beach in Donegal.

It is an ancient colour that breathes spirit into my dreams.

The French Muse experience

1800 Uzbekistan Silk Suzani

An Ancient natural dye – its penetrating colour has lasted centuries and is majestic and enduring despite the ravages of time.

Take this incredible 1800s Silk Suzani from Uzbekistan. Each female villager would embroider a section and then it would be pieced together and given as a wedding present to the future couple. The subtle differences in stitching and in the depth of the indigo dyed silk in the background makes it all the more powerful to me.

I think of all the dreams woven into each tiny looped embroidery stitch – hundreds of happy wishes for the future couple, a patchwork of dreams.

This suzani would have hung as a wall covering in the couples tent and travelled with them from one abode to the next until it made its way to the home of my collector friend.

The French Muse experience

Maura Ambrose of Folk Fibers is really to blame, it’s all her fault. She prepared and nourished a delicious vat of organic indigo dye and invited me to ‘dive in’ and so I did. One afternoon was all it took to fall head over heels with natural indigo dying and over the course of hours I emptied my home of every single little scrap of white linen and lace.

It is absolutely and utterly addictive.

I felt alive and intensely connected in a primordial way to the process of dipping the linen into the deep midnight waters and then watching as the air transformed the creation from lightest green to darkest indigo.

If you ever want to know the essence of  magic – try it out!

The French Muse experience

In the days and weeks after my first foray into Indigo dying – I saw the colour everywhere.

A vibrant indigo painted door in Goult. The sky above on a family outing to Roussillon.

The French Muse experience

You see – I wasn’t lying when I said I dyed everything I could get my hands on.

The French Muse experience

Indigo crept delightfully into my jewellery making and I surrended to the glorious colour.

The French Muse Ruth Ribeaucourt

At 6am one morning, far from home at a vide grenier / flea market – I happened upon three rolls of hand woven hemp from 1930s, being sold by the granddaughter of the weaver. The granddaughter had left Florence for Lyon, a newlywed in her early 20s,  now in her 80s she found her eyesight wasn’t good enough to sew so she was giving her grandmothers material away to a new generation of maker.  She told me her grandmother had gifted her with several rolls of this handwoven hemp, as Italian hemp was far superior to French hemp in her opinion. Oh how I love how these European neighbours fight over who is superior.

Thirty nine metres of hemp, folded in two and rolled neatly and kept in her attic for seventy or so years. Upon getting it home to Provence, I washed it thoroughly and then prepared a vat of indigo dye with my friend, textile artist Joanna Staniskis. We took over the square outside her home, inviting her neighbours to go fetch their stained and unwanted linens with a promise that we would make them beautiful.

One wonderful French lady in her 70s arrived down with her 30 year old sons old boxer shorts…. I have never laughed so much.  I imagine he would be mortified to imagine our secret indigo society (aged 30-90) giggling each time his underwear would in and out of the indigo vat.

The French Muse Ruth Ribeaucourt

Indigo hand dyed silk threads woven through this antique 1800s silk tapestry sample from Maison Leclerc in Tours.

The French Muse Ruth Ribeaucourt

Can’t wait to share this wonderful universe with our French Muse retreat guests in May and September – we’ll be doing an indigo and shibori workshop working with antique linens!

If you are coming to Provence this summer and want to host a private Indigo and Shibori workshop with me then please drop me a line

Ruth

x

The threads that bind us

The French Muse Ruth Ribeaucourt

1700s silk – embellished with tiny hand stitched darns.

The dealer laughed when I started taking photographs – she turned the textile over to show me the other side, the ‘real’ side, an incredible Indienne print.

This is the ‘vrai coté” she informed me with a smile.

I was photographing the silk and wool underside of the bed cover, which had been worn threadbare with wear and age.

The French Muse Ruth Ribeaucourt

I can appreciate a beautiful intact antique textile but I’ll choose to fall hard for something worn and darned and falling apart every time.

The French Muse Ruth Ribeaucourt

Perhaps it is in seeing these tiny little stitches – either to embellish or repair something  – that binds me to its maker.

The French Muse Ruth Ribeaucourt

Rather than buy a new designer dress to wear to a party – I will fall hard for a crumbling remnant of a forgotten dream. Fragments plagued by “inherent vice” and “glass-bead disease” ….intrigued you must read more here.

The French Muse Ruth Ribeaucourt

The further down this rabbit hole of antique textile discovery I delve – the more intrinsically connected I become to the humanity behind the textile; to the hands that once sewed; embroidered; mended; dyed; worked the loom; and darned.

The French Muse Ruth Ribeaucourt1800s workers trousers… Turn them inside out and behold a tapestry of mending stitches.

And woven into the fabric is life itself, the makers dreams; love stories; layers of history; frivolity; a story of colour, heritage and knowledge….a tangible link to the human story behind a garment

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A time machine.

A love letter.

An accidental work of art.

The French Muse Ruth Ribeaucourt

An embroidered indigo cape worn by a Vendean Rebel in 1700s

A vessel for lost dreams, for battles fought and won and lost again.

The French Muse Ruth Ribeaucourt

Best of all – I’m not alone, I’ve met so many wonderful kindred spirits – some are even more nuts about the tiny stitches than I.

We share a joyful secret. We are all connected by these threads.

I always like to ask my favourite dealers, women who have been collecting for 30-40 years, what makes their heart flutter. Their answers always differ and fascinate me. For some it is embellishment, beading and lace, for others white-on-white intricate boutis and then there is Francoise who loses her mind over workers garments (socks, long-johns, shirts) – turned inside out they reveal their true selves, each year a different mend, using a different colour of thread until they all fuse to create a symphony of stitches.

Here is to making 2016 a wonderful journey of discovery. A year of  beauty, friendship, passion,  kindness and love.

I have so much more to share with you here and on Instagram – so do follow along on our journey in 2016

xx

Chateau Pattern & Texture

 

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

I’m not going to add many words other than to say – the photographs speak for themselves.

Love and care and incredible attention to detail went into making this château a magnificent, adorned creature. The last 15 years have not been kind, no heating, no running water, a leaking roof, and various robberies which have left behind gaping holes where fireplaces once stood.

 

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

The next French Muse Experience is in May 2016, we have two places left. Or if you have a group of four and want to come any other time, please contact us.

We are truly thrilled with the outpouring of support and interest.

Let us show you our France and let the French Muse Experience inspire you!

You can also follow us on Facebook and on Instagram

Treasures within

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

Have you ever suffered from Chateau fever?

Symptoms are insomnia, palpitations, severe sensations of extreme excitement and a fierce desire to get up at an ungodly hour, in the dark, and drive for hours until the gates of the chateau are once again in sight.

Yep – we all had it bad!

We forgot any best laid plans to follow what the heart desired – another chance to discover what treasures lay within – this time with daylight on our side

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

It called for fearless rummaging… no trunk could be left unexplored

…and believe me every single trunk, stacked at times five high was filled with goodies.

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

An incredible 18th Century altar silk, with sumptuous silk embroidery – incredibly intact after all these years.

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

A nondescript flat wooden box revealed itself to be a complete set of early 19th century school stamps

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

Paper lovers out there – you would have fainted if you’d seen the rolls of old maps and stacks upon stacks of letters, newspapers, ledgers and leather-bound books.

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

I fell hard for these crumbling jewellery displays, the black lacquer glaze on one flaking off and revealing silk underneath – simply delicious.

As you can see many of the rooms where still quite dark and it lent an unmistakable magic to the hunt.

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

We opened an unusual looking trunk to discover this beautiful ‘grisaille’ hand painted wallpaper lining….

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

Another dark mysterious room with the most incredible wallpaper and a stack of old painting frames stacked up against the wall

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

Lace and trims poured out of antique hat boxes – I felt like I’d stepped through a portal and into a 1900s costume designers atelier – I felt vastly under dressed surrounded by such finery.

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

Dissolving beaded dresses – remnants of a deeply more glamorous age.

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

Baskets piled as high as the ceiling.

The French have names for every single different type of basket. I spotted a ‘panier de filature’; a ‘panier aperitif’; a ‘panier de couture’;  a ‘panier de pain de boulanger’ and a ‘panier verseur’. There were baskets for everything you could think of – wine bottles, walnuts, letters…

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

 Even torn, age eaten silk is undeniably beautiful

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

An 18th century toile was unravelled to reveal a trio of beauties

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

Take me home and make me whole it called

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

A little emerald corner of loveliness to rummage through

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

Broken glazed Provençal pottery – I couldn’t resist bringing them home no matter how damaged they are

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

A handmade lace masterpiece still attached to its original salesman card and ready for framing.

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

 A pair of beautiful tole bird-cagesThe French Muse experience private chateau brocante

A 1900 baby toiletry set with silver comb, brush and cup

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

The French Muse has exclusivity to brocanting (and visiting) this spellbinding castle (and we are also planning for another ‘vide-chateau’ later in 2015) so if you want to organise a French Muse experience or a private buying trip with friends drop us a line for more details.

Losing your heart

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

I didn’t know it was possible to lose your heart to a château – but now that I am 300km from it and looking back at my photographic memories – I am aching to be back there walking its halls.

How did we come to find ourselves brocanting in a crumbling chateau?

When one of your favourite antiques dealers utters the words, “Would you like to visit our Chateau, I have stored a lot of my antiques there” – you know an adventure is afoot.

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

The haunting hole left behind from a fireplace stolen last winter

For the last fifteen years it has lain empty; family feuding for its future.

As each year passes it falls into disrepair, an echo of its former self.

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

We found our way to the château late on Monday evening with our French Muse guests – undaunted by the eery purple sky and heavy, darkening clouds which promised a storm.

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

The air was electric; with tension; anticipation; promise; and as we stood inside the chateau, the rain came bucketing down.

No-one uttered a word – ‘wow’ just wouldn’t cut it. It was a sacred moment with an undefinable magic in the air.

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

Every room was lit only by the dimming sunlight so we tiptoed around seeking out shadows. I made out 1920s glass light shades on top of apiano; boxes of antique wooden kitchen tools; 1800’s shop mannequins with tiny wasp waists; floor to ceiling stacks of old papers, ledgers & music sheets; a mountain of antique trunks filled with velvets, lace and passementerie….we had definetly stepped through a portal to a different universe.

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

Every wall was decorated with intricate handpainted details, peeling and flaking, disolving over time.

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

The house felt alive – it cried out for love and attention. To be saved and salvaged and restored.

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

On the upper floors the light was a little better and we could see out across the incredible grounds, to the forests that stretched beyond the immense basin which once served as the reservoir for the village.

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

We dicely inched up the stairs eager to explore, “stick to the sides – they should be safer”, I translated from French to our guests.

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

My favourite room filled with a row of silk and velvet armchairs, stain glass windows and painted cameos.

hall2

I found myself imagining the furniture coming to life at night, a silly smile spreading across my face.

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

This looks a lot more ‘haunted’ that it felt.

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hall

We reluctantly left the chateau with the promise to return the next day to explore (and buy antiques) in the daylight…..

Here is a tantalising teaser before I bring you inside – the umbrellas (antique of course) are drying after a night of heavy rain.

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

The French Muse experience private chateau brocante

You can experience what it felt to be inside the castle as the rained poured down outside in this video here

If you just can’t wait for sneak peeks I have been adding images of our trip on instagram

Note: The chateau is currently for sale and has a pigionnier and a church (in ruins) as well as extensive grounds. It is crying out for an owner!

The beauty of curators & collections

The French Muse experience antique brocante

To walk through the antiquaries boutiques in Isle sur la Sorgue is to be surrounded by beauty. There are certain boutiques whose owners just have that very special something, a gut instinct for enchantment, often pulling together unexpected items to form magnetic spellbinding vignettes.

Their eye and unique touch picks out objects – the ones you’ve walked past a thousand times and never thought to touch – and elevates them to greatness. I am in awe  of their alchemy!

The French Muse experience antique brocante

Odile of La Petite Curieuse is one such magician. Her space is always changing and yet still remains very personal, feminine, playful and is take-your-breath away beautiful. She is an artist who creates scenes of wonder with all that is pre-loved, from simple beaded flowers to 18th century Trumeaus, slices of hand printed wallpaper to silk ribbon samples, her expert touch is transformational and humbling.

The French Muse experience antique brocante

The French Muse experience antique brocante

A set of four doors with an incredible patina – sold to a very lucky antiques dealer for her home in Texas.

The French Muse experience antique brocante

Oh to have brought this pair home, ‘Mouche’ and his buddy ‘Trick’.

The French Muse experience antique brocante

Colour and texture are king, broken rules make for the prettiest tablescapes at Isle sur la Sorgue

The French Muse experience antique brocante

Two frames of antique hand carved cameo moulds, with gold leaf surrounds.

The French Muse experience antique brocante

Always open every box and look under lids as often treasure lies within!

The French Muse experience antique brocante

The French Muse experience antique brocante

Chanvre and linen and fabrics galore at one of our Antique textile havens….each of these boxes is filled with gems, just utter the magic words and Laurence will make your textile dreams come true!

The French Muse experience antique brocante

The French Muse experience antique brocante

Two more vignettes from Odiles boutique. I love her use of indigo and ochre to accentuate displays in her space.

The French Muse experience antique brocante

Who can resist a stack of old photographs? I sure can’t!

The French Muse experience antique brocante

These aren’t just shops in the traditional sense, they are carefully crafted magical universes contained within 20 m².

The French Muse experience antique brocante

The French Muse experience antique brocante

The French Muse experience antique brocante

Collections of antique truffle jars, deep dark sensual green on wood. Pure bliss.

The French Muse experience antique brocante

The French Muse experience antique brocante

The French Muse experience antique brocante

A very civilised way to shop antiques – accompanied by a glass of crisp fresh rosé.

If you wish to book a private antique & vintage buying tour please just drop us a line with your dates; the size of your group and your key interests and we will work our magic!