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Brocanting

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

 

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.

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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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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!

French Paper, print & pattern

The French Muse experience antique paper brocante

It’s the weekend and that means we go a – BROCANTE – ing!!

Two of the friendliest, most talented dealers in the Luberon. They always raise a smile even on the dampest of brocanting days – they hit our guests with their quadruple wammy; Gallic charm; seductive French accents; beautiful eclectic collections, and unbeatable great prices – we didn’t stand a chance!

The French Muse experience antique brocante

With yesterdays home sub consciously on my mind – I found myself being drawn to collections, antique crystal carafes; Limoges tea sets…

The French Muse experience antique brocante

Crystal carafe stoppers in a pile, twinkling at us to take them home

The French Muse experience antique brocante

A wonderful stack of ‘Le Petit Echo de Mode’, a weekly French fashion magazine founded in 1880… beautiful illustrations, dress and embroidery patterns and the most amusing advertisement campaigns – a pure joy to pour over.The French Muse experience antique paper brocantepaper brocanteexperience antique textile brocante

After four hours of treasure truffling, we collapsed down into comfortable bistro chairs at one of our favourite off the beaten track restaurants, hearty, warm French comfort food, a hug in a each spoonful of creamy laden ‘Ravioles Dauphiné‘ – the French version of Macroni & cheese.

The French Muse experience french feast

Louis XVI looks like he might like dessert even more than I …. Lemon meringue tart gives just the right amount of sugar rush to tackle this afternoons treat – a private home visit and brocante with ‘Mr Paper’ who collects and deals antique paper & ephemera.

 

The French Muse experience french feast

 

Antique paper is a new love for me, photographs, school notebooks and music books have crept into my heart these last few years, beckoning to me to take them home and love them.

So I was pretty – I mean VERY  – excited to visit the home Mr. Paper (as Corey calls him).

The French Muse experience antique paper brocante

Inside his paper man-cave meets atelier my head spun – I spotted a stack of old wallpaper. It’s always a mystery right up until you roll it out as to what you will find, perhaps it will be 70s clashing flower prints or 80s chintz… but if you are really lucky then you will unravel a roll of hand printed goache French made wallpaper….

Guess what – he had roll upon roll of incredible goache wallpaper, no two rolls were the same. Deep luscious purples and pinks, teal and emerald – vibrant and commanding and utterly contemporary despite their 100 years.

 

The French Muse experience antique paper brocante

Books to make every heart skip a beat; leather bound and embossed music sheet books; marbled paper lining; ribbon and lace sample books with handwritten script desciptions – SOLD!

 

The French Muse experience antique paper brocante
Antique wallpaper and upholstery samplers, each one unique, handprinted and exquisite….how could you possibly just choose one?

The French Muse experience antique paper brocante

Subtle variations for different uses – of course once we had lost our heart to these it felt somewhat a relief to hear that they were not for sale (not yet at least).

The French Muse experience antique paper brocante

I felt a kinship to discover our friend had difficulty bidding goodbye to his most favourite finds. Something so traditionally ‘throw-away’ as paper and yet certain patterns haunt him and he can’t quite bear to part with them. It’s reassuring to realise you’re not the only sentimentalist in the room!

The French Muse experience antique paper brocante

I picked up a stack of incredible school homework notebooks (cashiers de devoirs) from 1894. Wonderful French literature lessons, arithmetic sums, geographical charts and all with the teachers notes in red in the border.

The French Muse experience antique paper brocante

These are the things I find myself most drawn to recently. Perhaps it is because my own son is now learning ‘joint-handwriting’ within the French school system and this connects me with the work of these children.

The French Muse experience antique paper brocante

I would nearly enroll myself in order to learn how to write so beautifully!

IMG_The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

There was something for every taste. Corey has lots of other photographs on her blog so check it out here for paper & ephemera love.

Another day lived passionately and generously. Tomorrow is another day, with untold exquisite antiques waiting for us as we venture to Isle sur la Sorgue.

A demain!

 

 

 

Textile treasure trove

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

We left early, and missed the correct exit on the autoroute finally arriving three hours deep into the belly of a beautiful gorge  in the Cevennes. A few weeks prior I had been invited to come to the home and warehouse of one of my favourite brocante dealers. The chance to step inside the real world of an antique textile collector was much too tempting to turn up and so we set a date and brought our French muse invitees on an adventure.

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

Our host houses her vast 30 years in the making collection of antique & vintage textiles collection – appropriately you might say –  in an old factory that once made silk stockings in the early 1900s. 

You couldn’t get more off the beaten track and we were all giddy with anticipation at the heavy promise of textile gold.

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

I stepped through the door of her atelier and literally felt my head spin. Boxes upon boxes overflowed with pattern; 8ft high folded piles of antique piqué reminded of the most sumptuous millefeuille pastry, one blanket more beautiful than the next.

Everyone’s head was spinning.

When there is no apparent order to the glorious contents of hundreds of boxes it is overwhelming to know where to start.

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

I couldn’t talk, I had to just focus on one box at a time.

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

Pattern but also silver and gold, and buttons, and lace, and millinery flowers, and thread….hold on I can’t concentrate.

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

So much beauty, slices of happiness in each handful.

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

An assortment of Autumn inspired patterned antique textiles that have been pulled out for a more seasonal stock at the flea market.

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

…but of course I forgot I also found some steel beads and jet embellishments

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

…and an incredible Aubusson tapestry belt that alas was too expensive for me to take home

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

…I did take these beauties home though, silk embroidered panels and 1920s art deco lamp beading fringe

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

…and this deliciously moth eaten 1800s indigo piquée – pretty much devoured but achingly beautiful – Sold!

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

It was exhausting, happy work and we were glad when a plate of fresh French pastries was presented – and swiftly demolished – especially those crispy caramelised almond bits – they didn’t stand a chance!

Sacristains and Palmier – trop bon!

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

Tiny cardboard boxes filled with dress remnants, tulle and glass beads.

Sold!

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

Altar silk and bobbin lace – oh yes – we’ll take that – MERCI!

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

Patterns from the 1800s right up until the 1990s

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

Our friend who has touched & traded the most incredible textiles over the last 30 years shared her private collection with us. What makes her heart sing and which items will she never part with? Anciens ‘Blouses’ – workers clothes such as these trousers… Turn them inside out and behold a tapestry of mending stitches, layers of history and a tangible link to the human story behind a garment

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

The initalled monogram surrounding the ‘coeur de la Vendee’ which has been hand stitched into the back of an indigo wool cape from 1790’s, worn by a Vendean Rebel, The War in the Vendée (1793 to 1796; Guerre de Vendée) was an uprising in the Vendée region of France during the French Revolution. Our host found this in an abandoned caravan and had to soak and soak and soak it until it came clean.

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

She also shared photographs of her all time favourite items – such as these darned pairs of knee socks.

The French Muse experience antique textile brocante

Unforgettable, emotional and something for every textile taste, a happy day of discovery indeed!

Making a home

The French Muse,  First house, interior design vignette

I’ve been very quiet here, I know those that follow me on instagram are in on our exciting news but I forgot to write about it here.

We bought our first home!

The French Muse,  First house, interior design vignette

Antique fil de fer baskets and bauhmann stools

Buying a home in France is a tense, overdrawn, paperwork-heavy process which calls on every pinch of patience you have stored up. Thank god I have a French husband as I think I would have packed the whole thing in five months ago…but the bank said yes, our house owners agreed to a price and after the obigatory three month wait period (during which the Towns ‘mairie’ can swoop in and buy the property from under you if you are unlucky)  – we got our keys Monday!!!

The French Muse,  First house, interior design vignette

Thonet chair and one of my favourite paintings

It finally feels real.

The last few weeks have been a dizzying race to take measurements, get estimates, design a kitchen (change the room and redesign the kitchen all over again), fill boxes and being utterly ruthless when deciding what stays and what goes to our new home.

My arms are aching, muscles I forgot existed are crying out with exhaustion after two long days of painting and hauling boxes and furniture….but it is a blissful, joyful thrill of an ache…to finally be laying down some roots.

The French Muse,  First house, interior design vignette

1920 Antique rotin chaise longue which we inherited from one of the oldest homes in Lacoste

We have been renting for so long that it is taking quite some adjustment to know we can create exactly the home we want. Paint the walls whatever colour suits us, hang curtains and paintings and antique light fittings… I really can’t wait to share the plans as they progress.

The French Muse,  First house, interior design vignette

A bientot!

Textile style in Provence

The French Muse, Textile Brocante

Michel Biehn artwork

Imagine one day you strike up conversation with a stranger and happily discover you share an addiction to collecting antique textiles – kinship over old threads – love it!.

This new friend, Anna, confides that she is in the process of downsizing and is building her very first ‘new-build’ home.  It turns out she just so happens to have boxes upon boxes of antique textiles; ticking; linens; tapestries; 1800s fabric, antique Provencal piqué and boutis in storage and would love to find a way to sell them without having to drag them around from one antique fair to another.

I mention I have a group of kindred spirits coming to Provence for the French Muse experience and the idea for a private textile brocante sale is hatched.

The French Muse, Textile Brocante

I went to visit her a few weeks before our retreat and as I stepped over scaffolding and into her beautiful home it became very obvious that Anna has an incredible eye, even in its unfinished state, there was a delicious marriage of pattern, texture and light, I was ready to move in if she invited me to!

….Somehow she had forgotten to mention she has been featured in many quintessential books about Provence and interior design…. I remember the heat of a blush forming when I realised my new friend was a pretty big deal…. and I was literally stepping inside the pages of one of my favourite interior design books – ‘Textile Style’.

The French Muse, Textile Brocante

Anna brought me to a little sideroom and started to open up random cardboard boxes to show me what she had put aside for sale for our private French Muse brocante…. my textile taste buds salivated and I lost a good part of my heart in that little room pouring over the contents of these boxes.  For nights afterwards, I dreamed of the patterns, of the little rips in the timeworn fabrics lovingly repaired with delicate tiny handstitching, the tattered silks, even the smallest most throwaway cuttings whispered to me to make, to create, to take them home.

I would wake in the morning and write to Anna to tell her so – I’m sure she thought I was a crackpot…

The French Muse, Textile Brocante

One of Annas creations, a miniature iron day bed with antique textile upholstery

We saved our visit to chez Anna to our last full day of the French Muse experience. The morning of our visit, I rose earlier than planned, too excited to sleep with all that we had planned and I couldn’t wait to share Annas vision and creativity with our guests.

The French Muse, Textile Brocante

An incredible textile artwork caught my eye, a one of a kind creation made by my hero, the inimitable Michel Biehn – whose book, La Conversation des Objets, is my go-to book for inspiration.

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Just off the living room, Anna brought us into a beautiful guest bedroom with William Morris wallpaper and a family heirloom portrait.

The French Muse, Textile Brocante

Annas home has textiles and art from all over the world, an ancient African tribal ceremonial skirt hangs opposite an antique Swedish gold leaf mirror. A side table covered with a patterned Provençal antique piqué sits beneath a very contemporary sculptural artwork. It is beautiful, understated and intuitive.

The French Muse, Textile Brocante

An 1800s portrait of Annas mother as a child, the background is gold leaf and absolutely mesmerising.

The French Muse, Textile Brocante

Antique tapestry with original tag handsewn…be still my heart!

 The French Muse, Textile Brocante

Morning light streamed in through the living room illuminating one of the stacks of antique French ticking that Anna had chosen to part with.

The French Muse, Textile Brocante

Michel Biehn detail

The French Muse, Textile Brocante

A once in a lifetime experience that I am so grateful for.

Thank god for the Irish gift of the gab!

Now to start planning our September French Muse experience!