Janine Marsh talks to Anita Tuttel, a graphics artist who lives and designs in the Seven Valleys area of Pas de Calais about moving to France from Cornwall in the UK…
Jervis and Anita Tuttel moved to the little village of Fontaine L’Etalon, near Hesdin, northern France when Jervis became redundant from his job in Cornwall as an art director in the publishing world. Their two grown up daughters stayed behind but their son who is now 16 went with them to France.
Anita says that she and Jervis initially searched for a holiday home in Normandy which they loved, having had some great holidays there, but they decided to find somewhere closer to the UK and moved their search to the Seven Valleys area of Pas de Calais. At just an hour to Calais for train and ferry connections to the UK, Anita found it was so much easier to get back and see family and for family to visit them. What’s more says Anita, they discovered “that the Pas de Calais was even nicer than Normandy”.
Their search in the area of the Seven Valleys yielded rich rewards and Anita says “We couldn’t believe what we could get for the same money as a tiny Cornish fisherman’s cottage – our French house has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a garage, a barn and other outbuildings plus the usual good-sized garden and drive. As the house was at first intended to be just for weekends and holidays we chose one that had already been renovated but still had scope for improvement. We’ve knocked down walls and had a loft conversion done since we moved here, plus rebuilt the chimney after a (fortunately) small house fire and we refurbished the roof”.
When they decided to move to Fontaine L’Etalon, population 126, they took the decision to keep their London home and rent it out for income. Anita, who worked as a freelance book designer as well as a designer of craft projects for books and magazines, found that she had plenty of time on her hands for new ventures.
Being of a “craft-y” nature she had plenty of scope to indulge her love of sewing, painting and mosaic and says “We have a craft club in our village – it is a great way to meet new friends, learn new crafts and practice French. I also go to French lessons once a fortnight which is great fun”. On top of this she has a dog and cat, keeps chickens and has a much loved canary. In the summer the brocantes – the flea markets and boot sales that are a national past time in France – keep her happy as she sources material for craft projects from vintage fabrics and colourful pottery to unusual beads and ribbons.
Anita says the “the neighbours are lovely and so welcoming, lack of traffic and parking wardens, cheap wine! Having the space both physically and mentally to get on with projects in the house like sewing, crafts, garden – it really is the good life for us in so many ways”.
But it hasn’t all been plain sailing as Anita admits “We moved to France shortly before the start of the financial crisis and my publishing work dried up almost completely”. She had hoped to continue working from home albeit in a different country as a freelancer. As for many, the recession hit and plans had to be changed. Anita reveals that “having more time on my hands I started to produce one-off cards for family birthdays based on my observations of life in France and the cultural differences I’d noticed here”.
Her family and friends loved the humour and quirkiness and urged her to start selling the cards on line and Franglais Cards was born. Anita says that as she already had skills in desktop publishing and Photoshop it really helped her when going for this career change. Her advice to anyone else starting off from scratch is to do as much research as possible before hand and to accept the need to start small and grow bigger.