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Ruth Ribeaucourt

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I grew up in Killowen, a small village in Northern Ireland with the Mountains of Mourne in my backyard, and the moody waters of Carlingford Lough in front. I was very fortunate to grow up surrounded by musicians and artists. Once a month, my mother would host an art opening at her art gallery, TristAnns gallery, in Dundalk and I still remember the palpable excitement of planning and hanging a new show. On opening night I would be called to serve wine to guests and later at dinner I relished being one of the ‘grown ups’, soaking up conversations about the contemporary art world. Many artists would gift me with creative ‘scraps’ to make jewellery with and I especially remember a treasured box of porcelain remnants and bird feathers from Kilkenny artist Marie Foley.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

As a teenager, I had seen only too clearly how it was an often difficult and uncertain path to make a living as an artist, too many unknowns, and even the very talented didn’t achieve the success they deserved…so when it came to choosing a career, I chickened out and went for the ‘safe’ option, to work alongside creatives but not be one. After graduation from Trinity College Dublin, I was incredibly lucky to spend a life-changing summer as an intern with Superior Street Inc., an award winning post production house in Chicago owned by Irishwoman (and my lifelong creative heroine) Maggie Magee.

Working with Maggie gave me the courage to knock on the door of another Irish creative boss lady, Trish Long, who would go on to give me my first ‘real’ job, as marketing assistant for the Irish office of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, the film distribution arm of the Walt Disney Company. It was like winning the lottery! I was lifted up and allowed to soar within a small, tight-knit team, which would become my family during my twenties. I spent nearly a decade working on some of the most exciting films and traveling the world, talent-handling some of cinema’s biggest film stars and filmmakers as part of the International team.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

I could never have imagined that one day I would give it all up and move to the wilds of Provence, but that’s what happens when a charming young French man crosses your path and asks you to marry him.

Our son Louis was born in Dublin in 2010, and when he arrived into our lives something distinctly shifted inside me. The travel that I once relished now separated me from the ones I loved for weeks at a time and I started to imagine what life would be like if I slowed down and stepped off the ladder.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

So in the winter of 2010, I left my career, our friends and family for Provence, which was remarkably much colder and shuttered up than I had imagined. I had no driving license, only a scattering of French and no means of earning a living. I went from breadwinner to full time stay at home maman. After the first four indulgent weeks of teaching myself to cook ‘à la’ the film Julia & Julia, I entered a state of mild panic. What was I going to do with my life, was this it? Would I ever work again? It was a case of “Cherie, I think we have we may have just made the biggest mistake of our lives!”

Ruth Ribeaucourt

So I took each day as it came, heading out for a big walk every morning to blow away the cobwebs with my son strapped across my chest in his baby carrier. Up and down the vineyards I would stride, across cherry and almond orchards, exploring a new and somewhat daunting landscape. If I couldn’t work, I would walk, was my mantra for the first few months. I learnt to focus on living life slower, with my days filled mostly with cooking, making jewelry and learning to use my camera to document my new life in France.

Moving to Provence was in every way a reset for me. Everything I knew was stripped back and it forced me to start from scratch, an opportunity to slow down but also reacquaint myself with my creative side. It wasn’t all rosé, it was mostly terrifying; learning a new language (literally and culturally), getting my driving license and then taking the leap to become a creative entrepreneur.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

On our first fully French Christmas with my French in-laws, I had an Oprah-worthy aha moment when I came to the realization that I had unknowingly married into a celebrated French silk family. They own a 156-year-old company which makes silk ribbons for haute couture houses such as Hermès, Dior, Gucci and Chanel and esteemed and notable clients such as the Vatican. Up until that day, my knowledge of ribbons was limited to beautifully wrapped birthday presents. So when I was gifted a box of antique ribbon samples, small morsels of silk embellished with real gold thread, their beauty changed the path of my life indefinitely.

It was with this glorious understanding that I delved into the world of antique French textiles, of lace, silk, ribbons, and hand-spun linen and hemp and I fell in love. I started a new ritual, setting out early every Sunday in search of treasure at the French brocante (flea market) and it just became this huge all-consuming love affair with history, but also heritage and handmade goods.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

I discovered Provence through its antiques, from naïve handmade folk art and simple linens to extravagant Indiennes textiles and 18th century paintings. Along the way, I made many friends who became my teachers. They taught me how to use all my senses when out exploring flea markets, to touch, to really look closely at the construction of objects, to listen to a fabric when you crinkle it between your forefinger and thumb. Every Sunday brocante is a sublime adventure into French culture and history, better than any museum.

Each find was a piece of historical poetry to me, life stories woven into the warp and weft of ancient linen, carved and gilded in wood, and pressed into the crumbling glaze of Provençal ceramics.

Today I love transforming flea market treasures into one-of-a-kind jewelry for key boutiques including HP Deco in Japan and The Paris Market in Savannah, Georgia. I also collect and source very special antique textiles (lace, ribbons, linen and silk) for key couture clients including Alexander McQueen, Dries Van Noten, Zimmermann, Love Shack Fancy and Alice McCall and for key film and television costume departments such as Game of Thrones, Outlander, Penny Dreadful and the New York City Ballet.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

It is crazy to think of the fork in my life, the what-if’s. And I know so many people who don’t have the courage necessarily to just drop everything and start from zero but who perhaps need to dip their toes in the unknown, to soak up the beauty of Provence, to slow right down and connect with like-minded creatives. This is how my idea of The French Muse came about.

I have witnessed a generational shift towards experiential travel, with many of my clients today offering each other experiences and not physical objects as gifts.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

For me the most exhilarating part of travel is the human connections we make. The unique, intimate experiences where you go off the beaten track and are invited to experience life as a local. Treasure hunting with a fifth generation truffle hunter; being invited in for aperitif in a 15th century home turned artists’ atelier; the simple pleasure of dining in a locals-only bistro (what the French call their ‘cantine’); to playing a game of petanque and sipping pastis as the sun sets.

I love the Henry Miller quote “One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.” So much of our lives now are ‘curated’ to look so perfect, happy and aesthetically pleasing to fit with an algorithm, but essentially I feel we are becoming even lonelier.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

So I felt this need to create a more authentic and exclusive travel experience, which was focused on nourishment, creatively and physically. To bring people together from different generations and backgrounds, somewhere where it is really about meaningful human interactions and connecting.

Twice annually, I create very special retreats called Forage Feast Photography, celebrating foraging, gathering, creativity and photography. In the past I have invited mentors from across the globe including Aimee Twigger, Kate Hill, Valeria Necchio, Valentina Solfrini, Zaira Zarotti, Annabelle Hickson, Gillian Bell, Olivia Rubie and Elodie Love. My goal is to not only to create beauty, but to create something about heart, about community, coming together to cook and nourish one another. Imperfections are celebrated and risks taken.

For my French Muse Experience, a bespoke week-long retreat, I only take small groups (a maximum of six) and I craft the itinerary based on the interests and passions of my guests. I think the ultimate luxury is having someone not only taking care of all the details and finding niche experiences but also being there personally to guide and act as the conduit.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

I really believe that to get to the beating heart of Provence, you must explore the beautiful villages and towns through its people. I will always choose to visit a very special artist in their home or atelier space; it could be a ceramicist, a painter, a plumassiere, a textile artist or a photographer—the fun is in creating chemistry between artist and guests.

For those craving a special antique textile or looking to source something for their home, I’ll call up my favourite antiques dealers and we’ll have a private buying appointment in their home. We visit what I like to call ‘anti-museums’—the homes and personal collections of passionate collectors where we can get up close and personal with beautiful objets d’art and witness firsthand how to live and decorate with antiques, textiles and art.

We want to travel deeper, seeking thoughtful and singular journeys that get to the heart of a place and its culture.

We taste our way through my favourite off the beaten track villages on market day and I often organize an intimate cooking class with a wonderful chef who creates simple, clean dishes using only the freshest of seasonal ingredients. I take care of all the meals and create a mix of classic French restaurants, luxury picnics and charming foodie gatherings and tastings in makers’ homes and ateliers, as well as wonderful home-cooked meals at the French Muse bastide.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

Bathing travelers in beauty and distilling the true essence of Provence is ultimately what I aim to do at every French Muse experience.

Taking guests deeper into the heart of Provence, beyond the shallow tourist traps to create transformative interactions—sustenance in all senses of the word.

Through handmade, heritage and history, connecting guests with just the right artist, maker or collector, and bringing you inside very special homes, spaces and ateliers—so that even if it’s just for one week you feel like you have lived like a local.

Ruth Ribeaucourt
Photo by Valentina Solfrini

Since 2017, I have been very proud to be the European contributor for Where Women Create and have relished each opportunity to share the stories of the female creatives who inspire me and create so much beauty in my life. I am absolutely thrilled to be guest editing two very special issues of What Women Create this summer and fall of 2020, sharing the stories of nineteen phenomenal international women whose work and heart inspire me immensely.

I grew up in Killowen, a small village in Northern Ireland with the Mountains of Mourne in my backyard, and the moody waters of Carlingford Lough in front. I was very fortunate to grow up surrounded by musicians and artists. Once a month, my mother would host an art opening at her art gallery, TristAnns gallery, in Dundalk and I still remember the palpable excitement of planning and hanging a new show. On opening night I would be called to serve wine to guests and later at dinner I relished being one of the ‘grown ups’, soaking up conversations about the contemporary art world. Many artists would gift me with creative ‘scraps’ to make jewellery with and I especially remember a treasured box of porcelain remnants and bird feathers from Kilkenny artist Marie Foley.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

As a teenager, I had seen only too clearly how it was an often difficult and uncertain path to make a living as an artist, too many unknowns, and even the very talented didn’t achieve the success they deserved…so when it came to choosing a career, I chickened out and went for the ‘safe’ option, to work alongside creatives but not be one. After graduation from Trinity College Dublin, I was incredibly lucky to spend a life-changing summer as an intern with Superior Street Inc., an award winning post production house in Chicago owned by Irishwoman (and my lifelong creative heroine) Maggie Magee.

Working with Maggie gave me the courage to knock on the door of another Irish creative boss lady, Trish Long, who would go on to give me my first ‘real’ job, as marketing assistant for the Irish office of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, the film distribution arm of the Walt Disney Company. It was like winning the lottery! I was lifted up and allowed to soar within a small, tight-knit team, which would become my family during my twenties. I spent nearly a decade working on some of the most exciting films and traveling the world, talent-handling some of cinema’s biggest film stars and filmmakers as part of the International team.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

I could never have imagined that one day I would give it all up and move to the wilds of Provence, but that’s what happens when a charming young French man crosses your path and asks you to marry him.

Our son Louis was born in Dublin in 2010, and when he arrived into our lives something distinctly shifted inside me. The travel that I once relished now separated me from the ones I loved for weeks at a time and I started to imagine what life would be like if I slowed down and stepped off the ladder.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

So in the winter of 2010, I left my career, our friends and family for Provence, which was remarkably much colder and shuttered up than I had imagined. I had no driving license, only a scattering of French and no means of earning a living. I went from breadwinner to full time stay at home maman. After the first four indulgent weeks of teaching myself to cook ‘à la’ the film Julia & Julia, I entered a state of mild panic. What was I going to do with my life, was this it? Would I ever work again? It was a case of “Cherie, I think we have we may have just made the biggest mistake of our lives!”

Ruth Ribeaucourt

So I took each day as it came, heading out for a big walk every morning to blow away the cobwebs with my son strapped across my chest in his baby carrier. Up and down the vineyards I would stride, across cherry and almond orchards, exploring a new and somewhat daunting landscape. If I couldn’t work, I would walk, was my mantra for the first few months. I learnt to focus on living life slower, with my days filled mostly with cooking, making jewelry and learning to use my camera to document my new life in France.

Moving to Provence was in every way a reset for me. Everything I knew was stripped back and it forced me to start from scratch, an opportunity to slow down but also reacquaint myself with my creative side. It wasn’t all rosé, it was mostly terrifying; learning a new language (literally and culturally), getting my driving license and then taking the leap to become a creative entrepreneur.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

On our first fully French Christmas with my French in-laws, I had an Oprah-worthy aha moment when I came to the realization that I had unknowingly married into a celebrated French silk family. They own a 156-year-old company which makes silk ribbons for haute couture houses such as Hermès, Dior, Gucci and Chanel and esteemed and notable clients such as the Vatican. Up until that day, my knowledge of ribbons was limited to beautifully wrapped birthday presents. So when I was gifted a box of antique ribbon samples, small morsels of silk embellished with real gold thread, their beauty changed the path of my life indefinitely.

It was with this glorious understanding that I delved into the world of antique French textiles, of lace, silk, ribbons, and hand-spun linen and hemp and I fell in love. I started a new ritual, setting out early every Sunday in search of treasure at the French brocante (flea market) and it just became this huge all-consuming love affair with history, but also heritage and handmade goods.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

I discovered Provence through its antiques, from naïve handmade folk art and simple linens to extravagant Indiennes textiles and 18th century paintings. Along the way, I made many friends who became my teachers. They taught me how to use all my senses when out exploring flea markets, to touch, to really look closely at the construction of objects, to listen to a fabric when you crinkle it between your forefinger and thumb. Every Sunday brocante is a sublime adventure into French culture and history, better than any museum.

Each find was a piece of historical poetry to me, life stories woven into the warp and weft of ancient linen, carved and gilded in wood, and pressed into the crumbling glaze of Provençal ceramics.

Today I love transforming flea market treasures into one-of-a-kind jewelry for key boutiques including HP Deco in Japan and The Paris Market in Savannah, Georgia. I also collect and source very special antique textiles (lace, ribbons, linen and silk) for key couture clients including Alexander McQueen, Dries Van Noten, Zimmermann, Love Shack Fancy and Alice McCall and for key film and television costume departments such as Game of Thrones, Outlander, Penny Dreadful and the New York City Ballet.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

It is crazy to think of the fork in my life, the what-if’s. And I know so many people who don’t have the courage necessarily to just drop everything and start from zero but who perhaps need to dip their toes in the unknown, to soak up the beauty of Provence, to slow right down and connect with like-minded creatives. This is how my idea of The French Muse came about.

I have witnessed a generational shift towards experiential travel, with many of my clients today offering each other experiences and not physical objects as gifts.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

For me the most exhilarating part of travel is the human connections we make. The unique, intimate experiences where you go off the beaten track and are invited to experience life as a local. Treasure hunting with a fifth generation truffle hunter; being invited in for aperitif in a 15th century home turned artists’ atelier; the simple pleasure of dining in a locals-only bistro (what the French call their ‘cantine’); to playing a game of petanque and sipping pastis as the sun sets.

I love the Henry Miller quote “One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.” So much of our lives now are ‘curated’ to look so perfect, happy and aesthetically pleasing to fit with an algorithm, but essentially I feel we are becoming even lonelier.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

So I felt this need to create a more authentic and exclusive travel experience, which was focused on nourishment, creatively and physically. To bring people together from different generations and backgrounds, somewhere where it is really about meaningful human interactions and connecting.

Twice annually, I create very special retreats called Forage Feast Photography, celebrating foraging, gathering, creativity and photography. In the past I have invited mentors from across the globe including Aimee Twigger, Kate Hill, Valeria Necchio, Valentina Solfrini, Zaira Zarotti, Annabelle Hickson, Gillian Bell, Olivia Rubie and Elodie Love. My goal is to not only to create beauty, but to create something about heart, about community, coming together to cook and nourish one another. Imperfections are celebrated and risks taken.

For my French Muse Experience, a bespoke week-long retreat, I only take small groups (a maximum of six) and I craft the itinerary based on the interests and passions of my guests. I think the ultimate luxury is having someone not only taking care of all the details and finding niche experiences but also being there personally to guide and act as the conduit.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

I really believe that to get to the beating heart of Provence, you must explore the beautiful villages and towns through its people. I will always choose to visit a very special artist in their home or atelier space; it could be a ceramicist, a painter, a plumassiere, a textile artist or a photographer—the fun is in creating chemistry between artist and guests.

For those craving a special antique textile or looking to source something for their home, I’ll call up my favourite antiques dealers and we’ll have a private buying appointment in their home. We visit what I like to call ‘anti-museums’—the homes and personal collections of passionate collectors where we can get up close and personal with beautiful objets d’art and witness firsthand how to live and decorate with antiques, textiles and art.

We want to travel deeper, seeking thoughtful and singular journeys that get to the heart of a place and its culture.

We taste our way through my favourite off the beaten track villages on market day and I often organize an intimate cooking class with a wonderful chef who creates simple, clean dishes using only the freshest of seasonal ingredients. I take care of all the meals and create a mix of classic French restaurants, luxury picnics and charming foodie gatherings and tastings in makers’ homes and ateliers, as well as wonderful home-cooked meals at the French Muse bastide.

Ruth Ribeaucourt

Bathing travelers in beauty and distilling the true essence of Provence is ultimately what I aim to do at every French Muse experience.

Taking guests deeper into the heart of Provence, beyond the shallow tourist traps to create transformative interactions—sustenance in all senses of the word.

Through handmade, heritage and history, connecting guests with just the right artist, maker or collector, and bringing you inside very special homes, spaces and ateliers—so that even if it’s just for one week you feel like you have lived like a local.

Ruth Ribeaucourt
Photo by Valentina Solfrini

Since 2017, I have been very proud to be the European contributor for Where Women Create and have relished each opportunity to share the stories of the female creatives who inspire me and create so much beauty in my life. I am absolutely thrilled to be guest editing two very special issues of What Women Create this summer and fall of 2020, sharing the stories of nineteen phenomenal international women whose work and heart inspire me immensely.