Hidden Talents
Living France|May 2020
Hidden Talents
Moving to France enabled these three expats to switch off from busy careers and in turn discover new creative talents, says Gillian Harvey, who counts herself among them
Gillian Harvey

From science to art JULIE NORTH, MAYENNE

Although a scientist by profession, I’d always had an artistic side. I used to enjoy pencil drawing, sewing, calligraphy and other crafts. Then in 2011, my husband Edward, 57, bought me a weekend course in linocut. There, I really found my niche!

At the time, art gave me respite from my very stressful job. At weekends, I could lose myself in my printing. Still, my day job came with a lot of pressure and I realised I wanted out. When Edward was offered voluntary redundancy from his job in computer software in 2015, it seemed like the right time to make a change.

One of the reasons we chose to move to France was the amount of property and land we could get for our money. Coming from a small semi in Selby, North Yorkshire and viewing detached properties with land for a similar price was amazing. We looked at over 60 properties over three separate trips before settling on an old farmhouse that needed TLC but not full renovation.

We spent six months bringing it up to scratch, then Edward built a studio for me in the barn. Now I spend time there almost daily, while he works as a freelance estate agent. As well as making my prints, I now have the space to run workshops and retreats for those wanting a break with a bit of artistry thrown in.

When exploring the local town of SteSuzanne in 2015, I came across a lovely gallery and got chatting to one of the artists inside. She offered to look at my work, but it took two years for me to take her up on it.

Once I had my studio in place and had produced a new body of work, I went back. My work was accepted and my first exhibition took place in December 2018.

But the biggest opportunity that came my way was through Facebook. Back in the UK, I’d been able to connect with other printmakers locally, but living in rural France, linking up was more difficult.

I came across a group called Linocut Friends – with a worldwide membership of 25,000. Like other members, once in a while I began posting pictures of my work.

Unbeknown to me, one of the people who began to follow my work was actually the director of printmaking in the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris! In spring last year, she got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in submitting some work for consideration for their annual exhibition, held at Carrousel du Louvre in Paris. I jumped at the chance and was amazed when my work was selected by their expert jury.

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May 2020