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Provencal village life

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’.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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


At the entranceway to their home


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


Gorgeous textures everywhere


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


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


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




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.


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


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.


Natural Dying workshop


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.


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.




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!


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!


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…


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.


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’.!


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!


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!

Setting the table 

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

…and they were like tasting sunshine!!



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.



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


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.


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.


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!



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.


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!

Tangled up in Blue

Spurred on by the opportunity to learn indigo with Maura Grace Ambrose of Folk Fibers at an indigo dying atelier with the wonderful SCAD alumni Fiber artists a few weeks ago – I knew I had to offer our French Muse guests the opportunity to get the indigo bug. If they were anything like me they would become instant indigo addicts.

The French Muse experience Indigo dying workshop

It seemed only natural to me to bring our ladies to the ancient village lavoir in Lacoste. Once a meeting point for villagers to do their laundry – it has been restored but is rarely used nowadays for laundry.

I noticed an elderly villager drive past us four or five times taking in our activity, as we dipped our white linens in and submerged them in the indigo then hung them to dry on the lines.

My imagination went into overdrive, would we be reported to the Mairie? it was hard to read his expression.

On the fifth turn, he slowed and pulled in. He stepped out of his car smiling. His eyes took in our indigo-tinged hands & feet and the lines of drying linen. He half whispered to us, voice choking with emotion, saying it was the most beautiful thing he had seen in many years.

As he motioned to the drying linens, he did his best to hold back tears as he described how our activity was transporting him back 60 years to when he was first married. He spoke of how his wife would come to do her laundry at the lavoir, expressing both sadness (at the memory) but also happiness in seeing this corner of Lacoste be brought to life once again.

I couldn’t have hoped for a better reaction from my neighbours and am so thankful to have been able to participate in this special moment.

The French Muse experience Indigo dying workshop

“The use of the lavoir was prohibited on certain days, such as the week between Christmas and New Years day, the Holy week, and the ‘octave of the dead’ on November 2, because of the believed presence of souls on Earth on those days. Souls were thought to purify themselves on open bodies of water functioning as purgatories.”*

The French Muse experience Indigo dying workshop

A Lavandiere – the village laundress:

“Lavandieres were said to “read” clothes, underwear, and sheets, compiling information as their main fortune. Known for their uncensored gossip and feared for their knowledge of the townspeoples intimate lives, these women held considerable power among the local populace. Even though they did not have the respect of the bourgeoisie, the lavandieres enjoyed a deep sense of community. When needed, they would hasten to one another’s side, and they knew when discretion was necessary. For a young woman in trouble, the lavoir was the first place to go in quest of solidarity, advice, and moral support since laundresses knew social marginality.”*

The French Muse experience Indigo dying workshop

“Life at the lavoir was bustling with activity and noise. The loudness of the often-vaulted space, saturated in the white noise of flowing water and punctuated by the beating of laundry, led to high volume conversations. The space of the lavoir has been compared to a womans version of the cafe, where men engaged in animated discussions on local politics and village life.”*

The French Muse experience Indigo dying workshop

“The lavoir represented a uniquely feminine space of relative emancipation. “*

The French Muse experience Indigo dying workshop

“Fortune tellers interrupted laundry days, reading the oracle in the flotation patterns of linens.”*

The French Muse experience Indigo dying workshop

“Such a unified community of women was often alarming to the men of the town. It was suspected that decisions were first envisioned at the lavoir, then brought to the privacy of each household where they were infiltrated into the collection consciousness of the voting gender.”*

The French Muse experience Indigo dying workshop


The French Muse experience Indigo dying workshop

The adjoining fountain provides ‘eau potable’ – fresh drinking water for the village. In summer I often see cars stopping here and families file out to fill their empty galon water bottles.

The French Muse experience Indigo dying workshop

**Note – wonderful quotations from the book ‘Lavoirs: Washhouses of Rural France’ By Mireille Roddier


We dyed on a grassy hill just beside the lavoir – so as not to permanently dye the 500 year old cobble stones blue. I didnt get a chance to take photographs as I was elbow deep in a bucket of indigo but if you are tempted to see photos of the dying-rinsing-dying-rinsing process then go on over to Coreys blog Tongue In Cheek for a behind the scenes look at todays indigo fun!

Last of the summers rays

Our friends Josef & Willemijn, aka ‘Our Dutch family’ as we call them, come to Lacoste every summer and ever since they installed their own pizza oven in their outdoor kitchen we relish an invite to come make pizza.

We arrive as the sun is sinking, transforming their forest garden into a mystical place bathed in warm golden rays of evening sunshine.

Life is good when we are surrounded by our favourite people and the smells of baking dough!

 Little hands are taught how to roll dough

Toppings are added, mozzarella and tomato sauce of course but also aubergine, red onions, parma ham, emmenthal cheese, endives and mushrooms

What is not to love about pizza parties?

Their home is tucked away from everyone, in the wild, ‘real’ Provence of Lacoste. Nothing here is pruned or geometrical, rather nature takes over and every inch smells delicious, thyme, immortelle, rosemary and pine warmed by the sun.

Louis’s best friend of summer 2015, artist Michael Birch Pierce. The inseperable duo – even their pizza making is a beautiful choreographed ballet.

And out of the oven they come – sliced up and devoured by hungry, happy people.

Of course it always helps digestion to partake in a little trampoling straight away after

Pizza party, Provence, The French Muse

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!

Une petite façon de faire

I just realised I had never shared this wonderful short film that was made in 2013 by two filmmaking students, Kendall Kiesewetter & Jen Hancock during their term in Lacoste. It features Louis in his first film role and (I know I’m his mother so potentially bias) but I do think he plays a blinder.


Une Petite Façon de Faire from EndAll Productions on Vimeo.

Last house standing

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste, Photo credit Patrick Bepko

It has been a tough week, emotionally and physically. We helped a friend box up 60 years of memories, a home where he has spent every summer since he was ten years old.

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste, Photo credit Patrick Bepko

In between filling boxes and sorting furniture we heard stories of Henris first kiss, an unrequited teenage love affair, memories of his father throwing moonlit ceremonies to cast away succubus, afternoons spent sculpting with stone from the Lacoste quarries, and summers as an adult watching his children play on the same terrace of his childhood.

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste, Photo credit Patrick Bepko

He was on his own to decide what was to be discarded and what to keep.

His daughter asked if she could have the tiny ancient bell that sounded everytime the front door opened. His son wanted to keep one of his grandfathers straw hats.

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste, Photo credit Patrick Bepko

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste, Photo credit Patrick Bepko

Henri took a beautiful sculpture his father had carved. I couldn’t stop thinking about the sculpture and how it was such a tangible connection to his father, stone that had turned under his hands, a transfer of energy that had created something beautiful, more than a piece of clothing or photograph. Stone that had absorbed the rays of Provencal sun over the years.

I lay in bed last night and felt that sculptures presence. The female  stone goddess guarding over Lacoste from her high perch just inside Le Portail de Chevres. One of Henris fathers sucubes.

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste

His mothers sewing machine lay gathering dust in the corner.

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste, Photo credit Patrick Bepko

Little caves untouched in the last 60 years, I discovered a cache of oak barrels and dusty bonbonnes, a set of iron letters that spelt ‘Pharmacie’ and an 1800s altar chair buried under broken tiles.

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste, Photo credit Patrick Bepko

Raphael invited a SCAD photography student, Patrick Bepko to document the process, his images capture perfectly the beating heart of this home and the immense sense of sadness in having no choice but to leave it behind.

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste, Photo credit Patrick Bepko

One of Henris fathers hats on its perch.

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste, Photo credit Patrick Bepko

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste, Photo credit Patrick Bepko

 Harvest – souvenirs of summers past

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste, Photo credit Patrick Bepko

Mismatching cups and pottery that didn’t find a new home.

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste, Photo credit Patrick Bepko

After a morning spent moving boxes and furniture, we sat and broke bread, a heavy unspoken sadness weighed on every ones mind.

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste, Photo credit Patrick Bepko

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste

Friendship, it doesn’t matter the years that seperate you in age.

It is to reach out and let someone know they are not alone.

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste, Photo credit Patrick Bepko

To view more of Patricks beautiful images visit his instagram gallery

Lacoste wins best dressed village

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste

Open Studio – formally known as ‘Vernissage‘, is a quarterly event where local people are invited to step inside the studios of the European study abroad program for  Savannah College of Art & Design. For eight weeks, students get the chance to live in the heart of our village, work and sleep in beautifully renovated ancient buildings and soak up the light and atmosphere that makes this place so special.

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste

This term welcomed a class of Fibers students, under the guidance of my friend Prof. Jessica Smith. One of the tasks they undertook was to learn to dye fabric using locally sourced plant dyes. All of the beautiful  flags and bunting you see in the photographs is their work. If only we could keep these beautiful creations up all year round!

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste

Even nature collaborated with the village to create powerful explosions of colour.

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste

Fibers alchemy …. Maddow root (creates reddish purple to reddish orange), Weld (creates yellow), Onion (creates gold) and Olive leaves (creates tan).

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste

Louis discovered this little guy clinging on to an ancient wall face, hoping no one would notice him.

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste

Look how pretty the street is!

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste

I loved this work and the photography students gathered around a camera in the background.

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste

My favourite building in Lacoste – the original bakery or boulangerie

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste

A local character who majestically struts up and down the street demanding adoration from passers-by.

The French Muse, Life in Lacoste

The flags and Mistral perform a little dance


The French Muse, Life in Lacoste

Can you spot the incredible poppy fields below?

This is one of the most breathtaking views in Lacoste, a private terrace that SCAD owns and opens up for Open Studio receptions!

Polish – Provençal Easter party

Polish Easter traditions Saignon, The French Muse

A belated posting about a fabulous Easter fête that I was invited to by my friend, artist Marie Ducaté. High above the town of Apt, nestled into a cliff is the breathtaking hilltop village of Saignon (pronounced Sen-yon), surrounded by a patchwork of vines, lavender, cherry orchards and olive groves and inhabitated by a wonderful mixture of local paysans and creative souls.

Polish Easter traditions Saignon, The French Muse

Behind the doors of a majestic Maison Bourgeois, called Un Chambre avec Vue, lies a magical space. A rambling maison de Maitre, this is home to Pierre & Kamila Regent and it functions as an art gallery, artist residency and chambre d’hotes (b&b).

Polish Easter traditions Saignon, The French Muse

Every corner of this home is pulsing with creative energy and although this was my first invitation I had heard all about the famous Polish Easter traditional party that hostess Kamila (originally Polish) throws every year.

Polish Easter traditions Saignon, The French Muse

The wonderful sounds of an accordian coaxed us outside into a beautiful orchard. A hidden garden oasis in the middle of Saignon where we bathed in the first rays of warm spring sunshine – even the Mistral died down for a few hours.

Polish Easter traditions Saignon, The French Muse

Colour, glorious colour …. and cake!

It seemed a shame to cut into the incredible almond topped cakes – but my inner gourmande decided otherwise and the risk paid off – trop bon!

Polish Easter traditions Saignon, The French Muse

 An excellent spot for some Easter Sunday people watching – if I do say so myself!

More images tomorrow from inside the home! A bientot!