mornings, moorings

Yours of 4 novembre poured over, and poured over again. You vixen! Indeed. Nimble quick. No, it's rather plain to see you're not one to stumble around in the half-light for your words. Elspeth is up early when the day herself is a feuille blanche, and particularly disposed to lean in and listen. (Yes, Elspeth today. I've made you a highlander.)  Nothing but a matter of setting down, in ink, the contents of your morning-mind, sans drame ni réserve, hey? I'm so glad of it. Your letter delights me very much, and not only because in your prose sketch of our historical selves, you've made me a Florentine marquise. The notion you've placed yourself in a secular Flemish convent, digging for turnips in nubby linen...! Sacrée Tess. You are a treasure. I'm still smiling over it. What if I were to spread the word at court, what a white witch you are? Would you deign to come with your oils and your potions to live among us? I'm all admiration of the Belgian sisters doin-it-for-themselves, but as ever, I'm ill-disposed to hard graft and would prefer not to have anything to do with getting root vegetables out of the ground. Ah, but they were cabbages you mentioned. Still. Thank you for the masses of roses you've drawn blooming outside my windows, overlooking the jewel of Tuscany. Cela me convient. :)

I feel more and more, every day as my imagination strengthens, that I do not live in this world alone but in a thousand worlds.

Keats said that. Wonderful writing makes it easy to travel. On your recommendation, I've spent a few days early this month in Costal Maine, falling for this unforgettable heroine who would be completely non-plussed by my adoration. God, what a great book. Olive is with me still. Making unnerving eye contact and munching on donuts, thinking me a flibberdigibbet, surely. Hell's bells what is she talking about now, Florence? Thank you for pressing that paperback into my hands when we were in that wonderful bookstore on the rue de Rivoli. You're so right, I respect the fact of her. Immensely. I even sort of love her, but that's beside the point. She's so...undeniable. Undeniable.

And this week, your tale of our medieval avatars has me remembering Romola and George Eliot, and what her life was... then, obvious association time, girls called George, I'm thinking of George Sand and what her life was. Her funny and touching correspondance with Flaubert has me reaching for a book of their letters, and before I know it I'm down the rabbit hole and building a paperback fort in bed, just as though I didn't have an impressive to-do list waiting for me on my desk.  

plein de bisouxxxxxx from Paris, where we're meant to see the sun today. We'd be weather twins, but my app says Providence is going to be overcast. Tea weather, candle weather. Blogging weather, non?  hint hint. 

desk mess. Go time. 

desk mess. Go time. 

Knockout gorgeous

November 2, 2017.jpg

Dear Tess,

I love this idea of leaving little missives for each other on our own blogs.  This is instalment 1.  

I had blogger's block all day yesterday, and in an attempt to get the better of it, I refused to look it in the eyes and hoped it would get bored and peckish and wander off of its own accord. I'd wanted to set down a few lines here for you, but a great many little tasks crowded in to occupy my hours while I was feigning to snub the syndrome de la feuille blanche, anyhow. (Do you ever get it?)

Client emails to answer, printing jobs to chase up for delivery details, calligraphy to digitize for holiday dinner invitations and cartes de voeux. I did take my computer to the park with me when lunchtime rolled around and the day was too dazzling to pass up (deep blue sky, russet leaves fluttering on the breeze, low warm sunshine pooling golden on my favorite bench...An absolute gem of an early-November day, doing her best impression of late-September)...but nope.  No writing happened. It was no good trying to read off the shinyshiny screen of the macbook so I gave up and sketched in the book you made me, on your last night in Paris. I love that book to distraction, I'm telling you. It's the most perfect book that ever there was, for drawing and jotting and journaling. Plus, it reminds me of you. 

What news? Booked tickets yesterday to go Home for the Holidays. Oui, chérie. Michigan calls, and my papa's buying a large bird. I'm overdue to cuddle on the couch with my dad and his dog.  The TV will be blaring. I'll drink wine with my brilliant sister and raid her closet. I'll squeeze my oldest friends and kiss the babies who've happened on the scene since last I was Stateside. I'll surely annoy everyone by going on about how massive the refrigerator is and how I could live comfortably in the drum of the top-loading washing machine, and other pretentious expat culture-shock stuff like that.  

Bisous xx

(Suzanne's my middle name ;)

PS, gentle reader--  The name Elizabeth has about 25 diminutives and today I went with Tess. I may call her something else tomorrow. That's how we do. ;-) Ms Duvivier blogs at Mystic Vixen. 

day off

Try for an on-purpose rest day, after a very busy couple of weeks.

Leave phone on charge in the other room, and re-read the last few essays in Durga Chew-Bose's new book Too Much and Not the Mood in bed with coffee. After finishing the last page, smoosh the book to your face and hug it as you used to do when you were little and not not ready to be separated, quite yet, from the book-world.

Pour a G&T when the late-afternoon brings a spiky stab of anxiety and you worry about tout et n'importe quoi. Skim Mary Oliver's introduction to your new edition of Emerson's Essential Writings. Notice that outside, the sky over Paris has been code-switching all day between a fine but very steady wetting rain, and a cheery clear blue. It's cycled at least three times today, but gently. Comme back to the page. Smile reading of how Emerson was enthralled by Leaves of Grass, but tried earnestly to get Whitman to make it a little less sexy. Flip to his essays on Friendship.

Pad back out into the kitchen for a snack. A friend who doesn't like Americans' way of hugging on everyone has filled your refrigerator with little barquettes of love from a Greek épicerie. Dolmades, caviar d'aubergine, tzatziki, even though you had to flake out on her Thursday and stay home waiting for a delivery all day.  She is a gem.

Think how a walk would be virtuous, but today feels meant for staying in, burying your nose in book bindings, and napping with paperbacks. 


My interview with WEDDING LIGHT EVENTS

WLE Meets: Calligrapher, Joy Fairclough, of Studio French Blue

Last week’s Calligraphy article saw us falling more in love with this trend than ever before.  We couldn’t wait to find out some more, and luckily knew just the person!

Speaking to one of the incredibly talented Calligraphy Artists we’ve already worked with, Joy Fairclough, we got an insight into the world of this beautiful Art.  We chatted about how to incorporate script into a Wedding as well as Joy’s own business (Studio French Blue), her inspirations and how she found working with the team here at Wedding Light Events.  We hope you enjoy hearing from her just as much as we did!

– Hi Joy!  For the benefit of our readers who don’t know you like we do, can you tell us a little about yourself ?

 – I’m originally from Michigan but I came to France 10 years ago,  instantly fell in love with the culture, and have been here ever since.  I met and married my husband 6 years ago, and we are currently restoring an old silk farm in the South. I split my time between Paris and province.

– Your work is always so professionally finished, it looks like you’ve been doing this for a long time!  When did you first get in to Calligraphy, has it always been a passion of yours ?

 – I have to say calligraphy has always been a passion of mine. I was very close to my Grandmother when I was growing up, and she was a talented commercial artist, specializing in illustration, but also lettering. It was she who first let me play around with her stash of art school supplies, and showed me how to hold the pen and form the italic and blackletter alphabets.

– That’s such a lovely, personal story – thanks for sharing it with us!  Can you pinpoint any ways your Grandmother especially influenced your art?

 – Absolutely!  I especially adored her regular, every-day Palmer Method handwriting, which was a graceful, flowing script taught in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Palmer method came out of Spencerian and Ornamental Penmanship, which are flourished, pointed pen script styles of extreme delicacy and beauty. Years of practice are required to execute these styles.


– Wow!  We had no idea Calligraphy was such a complex, demanding process – talk about commitment!  We particularly like the regal, vintage aspect of your Calligraphy style – where does the inspiration for such intricate designs come from?

 – The study of the the script styles I talked about above inform everything I do, even when I’m asked to create unstructured, organic, “modern” letterforms.

– It all sounds very complicated!  How do you manage to incorporate these personal inspirations with those of the Brides you design for ?

– When creating a wedding invitation, for example, I try to get an idea of the personality of the bride and groom, and of their vision for their wedding day. I work with wedding planners to get the details. A wedding ceremony in Provence, with lavender fields as the backdrop and a bride whose Pinterest board shows wedding-day hairstyles like loose braids with wildflowers weaved in them, is not going to be drawn to the same styles in wedding stationery as a bride getting married at the George V in Paris.


– We know how pedantic Brides can be about getting even the smallest details perfect for their Big Day.  Do the people you work with always know exactly what style they want for their calligraphy when they come to you?

 – Not always, but that’s where I come in.  The messy-braid bride, even if she hasn’t yet thought about what calligraphy style will suit, usually prefers simplistic, imperfect, organic letterforms that communicate warmth and spontaneity.  Hand-made papers, watercolor tones, and whimsy. The chic Parisian bride will more often be drawn to very luxurious stationery, engraved or Letterpress, and elegant Ornamental Penmanship script styles. So, there really are types and styles of calligraphy to suit different occasions. A messy organic script looks too informal and out of place in a Belle Époque palace ballroom, just as a gold-embossed and crested invitation suite does not suit a simple country wedding.

That’s easy enough, and beyond that, things get interesting! Sometimes I’m asked for something very chic but also a little rock-and-roll, or something very modern but also soft…  I take inspiration from the couple and from the venue.

– It’s great that you take so much time in order to get things really perfect for each one of your Brides  we believe it’s one of the things that makes your work that extra special.  We think Calligraphy can add a real sparkle to a Wedding and are always looking for new ideas to incorporate it into the Weddings we plan.  From your experience, how can script be used to enhance a Wedding?

 – Most of my clients come to me knowing already that they want a custom made, bespoke wedding invitation set. They want something original, which will set the tone for their big day–and the stationery is so important.  If you think about it, the wedding invitation (or Save-the-Date) is the first thing the guests see, and communicates so much about the event. There’s the basic information–what, where, when–but also the mood and atmosphere, based on the style.  Guests also love receiving the invitation in a calligraphed envelope. Couples I’ve worked with often write to tell me that their friends and family raved about the calligraphy, plan to frame their envelopes, that kind of thing. Of course getting an email like that makes my day!


– It’s true that there’s nothing better to get you excited for a Wedding than a beautiful invitation coming through your postbox.  We were surprised upon seeing the many ways calligraphy can be used to personalise a Wedding.  Do you just specialise in invitations, or do you offer other services, too?

 – Yes, of course!  I often create a logo for the couple which we bring into other day-of calligraphy and signage, such as menus, thank you signs, welcome letters, gift bags, etc. Calligraphy and bespoke design can be used in so many ways to personalize an event.

– And the big question that’s on all of our lips: how much does incorporating calligraphy into a Wedding usually cost?

 – As everything is bespoke, this can be a hard one to answer. As a rule, a couple can expect to budget around 500-600€ for a custom-designed invitation suite, and beyond that the costs are based on printing methods, and number of exemplaires.  For a small elopement, I sometimes create a one-off wedding announcement that can be photographed and shared on social media, or printed and sent out to all friends and family!


– Are there any cheaper options, for brides who are dying to have some calligraphy on show but are a bit tight budget wise ?

 – There are definitely ways around this.  Something as simple as pretty place cards for an intimate wedding of just close friends and family doesn’t cost a lot, but is much appreciated by guests and adds a distinct touch. Wedding signage can be something as simple as a “Merci !” sign, or as elaborate as a hand-painted, gold-leafed welcome sign that takes an entire day to paint and calligraph. What the planner, the couple, and I come up with is always based on the client’s vision and budget.

– We loved the style shoot you did with us, how did you find working with the team here at Wedding Light Events?

 – So much fun! I liked the feel of this shoot. Synie’s does the most amazing cakes and that gorgeous pink and gold leaf creation is one of my very favorites she’s ever done. The classic, pale-pink roses from Une fleur en liberté were perfect with the flowering heather, and Olivier’s photos of the bride and groom with that amazing Carolina Herrera gown and slick blue tux, rolling up in that fabulous classic car from Anciennes de Prestige, were fantastic. Soft pinks and whites were the inspiration but balanced so beautifully with the sophistication of the couple and the gorgeous backdrop of the Ritz.


– We’re so glad you liked working with us as much as we did you, Joy.  Thanks for taking the time to speak with us!

Paris Romantic

A recent editorial shoot with the most talented stylists and professionals in Paris.  For this project with the wonderful photographer Audrey Neracoulis of Le Secret d'Audrey, I spent a beautiful afternoon writing out famous love letters (from Anaïs Nin to Henry Miller, entre autres) on vintage stationery that I picked up from a French flea market near Montpellier.  

Gown by GALIA LAHAV, Flowers by LILY PALOMA, Calligraphy by JOY of STUDIO FRENCH BLUE , Hair and Make Up by SANNI SORMA Film Lab CARMENCITA

brume cévenole

view from one of the bedroom windows 

view from one of the bedroom windows 

It's been so beautiful lately--sunshine and flowers--but this rain is bienvenue anyway.  Water for the rivers, for the waterfalls.  It's lovely when the mist and clouds cling to the mountaintops this way.  Back to the studio for me, now.  I'm working on some wedding signage for a 1920s-themed event next month in Burgundy.  


This one has been an exceptionally beautiful November, so far.  Rounding twisty mountain roads in my car, I routinely happen upon scenes of such startling autumnal beauty--fiery reds, bright golds, cerulean blue skies and those purple mountains in the background--that I am moved to shout expletives to myself in my little Citroën, and sometimes to pull over the car.  Si possible.  



It's always at this time of the year, as any trace of sunkiss that summer left has faded out of my complexion (save for the freckles; they don't forget), that I begin thinking that I ought to have been born a redhead.  I must have only narrowly missed it -- there's a lot of red hair on my Dad's side of the family, and I certainly got the skin tone.  

Every fall,  just as I see the trees turning, I start dreaming of a turning a gorgeous shade of russet, too.  I kind of forget that I've done it -- twice.  And while I could have passed as a real ginger, I didn't feel like myself.   And getting it back out of my hair and to my natural blonde was a nightmare, both times.  I'm a pretty light ash blonde, and the sun brings me up even lighter and whiter in the summer.  They call it blonde suédoise in French.  Those red haircolor molecules are the most stubborn of all, and during the transition period back to blonde, I'm left with a rather unrealistic brassy yellow that won't let go.  Not to mention the fried texture.  Sigh.  

Though... Pinterest has lots of strawberry blondes to tempt me again.  Auburn waves would probably be too dark.  I begin to be seized by the conviction that I've exactly the natural, um, pallor to pull off titian.  Pre-raphaelite.  It could be perfect.  Here's my current inspiration:



Copper penny red.  So soft and dreamy.  I, too, could dress in floaty ivory and gold paillettes and rock the brown mascara.  White skin looks so perfect on redheads.  With red hair, I'd probably be less tempted by the sun.  I'd be better about wearing sunscreen.   

But it will happen again...  I will want to wear red lipstick and it doesn't work on me with red hair... no matter how becoming it is to Joan Holloway.  I have an awful lot of pink and raspberry and red in my wardrobe, none of which will look good anymore.  And I'll just feel...  different.  Which is kind of the point, but still.  

If I do it, I'll post pics.  Maybe I should hold off for now, because there is another change coming anyway.  I finally saw an eye doctor, which I was told to do about 8 years ago during a routine exam for my French identity card.  I've been prescribed glasses for the weakness in my left eye that makes it hard a little hard to read road signs, and may account for me feeling that I need to hunch over my calligraphy just a little bit.  Glasses.  Here they are on another blonde suédoise to help me feel inspired.  

Maybe not too much change all at once.  Fall will come around again before I know it and I'll have many more chances to make like autumn leaves.  

Nîmes, la ville antique

Montpellier has my heart, but I dream of beautiful Nîmes.  I captured this image around the end of October, a few years ago.  Everything golden-- the leaves, the warm low sunshine, the soft glow of the limestone architecture, as I walked along the Canal du Quai de la Fontaine.  

Nîmes.  Canal du quai de la Fontaine.  

Nîmes.  Canal du quai de la Fontaine.  

I'm searching for silk ribbon for a calligraphy project today.  I'll start in Montpellier but maybe I'll end up in Nîmes.  Only 20 minutes away...  the Rome of France.  


glory glory

Another from the ether-- Spring, 2013


On my way to yoga this morning at 6:30, the sunshine was backlighting all the acacia in bloom on the mountainside, and everything was wearing a golden halo, even me.  The proof:  I flipped on la radio as was shooting the shoots (that's how I think of a bit of extra twirly, curly road that dips down steep past Lasalle), and it was too good to be true...  Django Reinhardt playing Bach.  My tummy floated up up up, and tickled my heart, like it will on a swingset.  Nary another little Citroën on the road, just me and my little grey lemon and gypsy baroque, and sunshine yellow, and sky blue.  


Reposting a blog entry that got lost from my archive when I linked Studio French Blue to Tumblr.  There are just a few that I intend to fish back out of the ether for posterity, but I'll be posting them here in the next few days as I try to motivate myself to write more regularly.  


The funny thing about living among Brits in France is all the opportunities I am afforded to mess it up right proper in three languages (English, French and 'murcanbien sûr). I'm like an study-abroad chick who, on the phone to her American family, talks about watching "films" and discussing my plans for "these holidays".  Well, in more 30-something fashion, fielding questions from adolescent Franco-anglais stepsons who want to know where I've stashed the new pack of toilet roll.  This delights my family to no end in the U.S., as they think it's all hilarious and weird, and they swear up and down that I sound just like Mary Poppins.  It's not only vocab; my vowels appear to have migrated.   

To my English expatriate husband I sound just like Alabama Worley from True Romance. Shhh, don't tell him he's waaay off, and that my native Michigander nasal could never sound like a Southern drawl.  We won't be too hard on him; he's been living in France for almost 20 years.  His memory of the Queen's speech is probably no less murky than his ear for Yankee.  Nevermind that some kind of odd French syntax has crept into my speech, and like Paul and the boys, I end up spitting out such weird constructions as "I must be falling sick, today at yoga we told me I look fatiguée, quoi ."  That kind of mess doesn't even raise an eyebrow at the dinner table.  

These kids say "do the math" and not (obviously!) maths.   All three of them put toMAYtoes on their quesadillas (yes, with an American step-mother they are being brought up to revere the corn tortilla).  They have cell phones, not mobiles.  They watch American tv.  They don't wear trainers.  They don't go to the TOILET, thank god, but to the blessedly vague bathroom.  They've pretty much given over to calling their "trousers" pants, without giggling.  In effect, they seem resolutely American to all the U.K. diaspora in France.  The lady at the British Tea Shop swears that Luke sounds and looks exactly like me.  

At home we speak a pidgin that works for us, no matter how odd it sounds to the truly French, or the truly British, or the truly American.  We are hybrids.   

Once I leave the home-sweet-home, though...  Eh.  Sometimes it's very obvious that I've left the city and am now spending all my time in the country, hors de la société, much less of the time engaged in Pure French conversation.  I make mistakes; I forget obvious things.  

Par exemple : the other day, I sallied in to the quincaillerie--i.e. the builder's merchants--i.e. the hardware store (can you see how many translations I have to process these days, just to talk on the phone to my mom about my quotidien?), in search of some paint stripper.  

Décapant = paint remover.

Décapotant = condom remover. 

Which one do you suppose I clicked up to the counter to ask for, with my sunglasses perched on top of my head, flashing my best "give me customer service" smile, and wearing a sassy little summer dress and platform sandals?  

I need to get out more.   


I am a featured artist in the July 2014 issue of Dasherie Magazine!  A publication devoted to lettering arts and papeterie événementielle.  Pleased as punch.

A peak at one of the real weddings shown in my feature spread.  

Thrilled to have been part of this!

Honestly one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve seen in a long time.  The bride is truly beautiful in her 1930s-inspired gown—radiant and glowing—and the groom so debonaire.  Shot in rich color and depth by the talented Noa Azoulay of FeatherlovePhotography, with calligraphy by me, StudioFrenchBlue.  Magnolia Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina.  

More photos to come.  

Afternoon in Cassis to see an old friend. No work happening today. 😚 (à Cassis)

Afternoon in Cassis to see an old friend. No work happening today. 😚 (à Cassis)