A former language teacher, Kylee turned her hobby into the successful Lunes Art & Bijoux jewelry and art studio, located in Luc sur Orbieu, halfway between the medieval city of Carcassonne and Narbonne, in the Corbières region of France. She specialises in polymer clay, and husband Andy in silver and barrel art and together produce unique jewellery and art work. We asked Kylee about her experience living in France. What brought you to France? Gosh, life did! A chance meeting, whispering romantic dreams of why not one day and then the reality of marrying Andy (English guy) who at the time could just about pronounce bonjour. Since the age of 10 the department of the Hérault, and in particular Sérignan Plage, was the location for family holiday, teenager romances and then adult life. I introduced my husband to the area and I suppose the rest is history. I taught French for almost 12 years in the UK so I was born to love France. Andy just fancied better weather and thought; why not? We bought our barn in 2003. We moved over here in 2005 to take on the project of renovating the barn and then launching my hobby as a business. What makes your corner of France special? The locals! The climate and the location. We are between Narbonne & Carcassonne, mountains, sea & Spain are all within very easy reach. Tell us about your home. Our barn dates back to 1869 and was used to store grapes after the “vendange”. Part of the building was also used by several groups to celebrate New Year Eve parties, the tinsel stuck to the stone work was a bit of a give away…. we have converted the barn into our home and art studio. We are proud to say we did it almost all ourselves. A labour of love. It’s home, nothing special but very special to us. How did the business happen? I’m a self taught business woman, artist, designer. I used to “string beads” and thought I could turn it into a business back in 2005. 8 years on with a couple of business acreditations / awards to my name we now have a very successful art studio where we specialise in polymer clay, silver and the transformation of oak staves from our local wine barrels into art objects.
How do you spend your days? Immersed in colour, clay and ink! I love it. The studio is open to the public all year around and we now have several international outlets that also sell our designs so it really is a full time job for both myself & Andy. How do you like to relax? Relax? I never stop…but that’s out of choice, I can be floating round our pool and a design idea will come to me! A splash of colour to include or an object worth experimenting with. I doodle, take photos and read but the best form of relaxation is two fold…..the first is with our 6 year old daughter Manon Lily, she is my best ever creation, she makes me laugh every day and the second form of relaxation is a good glass of local wine, good food and company. When you go on holiday somewhere else in France? We go back to Sérignan Plage every year! It’s an hour by car and we have even a static caravan there. Our daughter is now growing up on the beach where I spent my childhood and youth….to me that is very special.
What helped you integrated into the local community? We were in our thirties when we arrived. The locals were very curious as to who the young English couple were. I speak fluent French so the language was never a barrier. We ensured that in our village, Luc sur Orbieu, that we got involved, tried our best to help out at events and then after about 10 months we were invited to take part in an Art & Culture meeting – the rest is history. We live in a French community, there are few English people in our village, we live a French way of life and I know that we are as much “Lucquois” as the “Lucquois” themselves…because the locals have told us this too! Andy is Treasury of the Comite de Fête, I was president of the Art & Culture association. We are part of a great group of volunteers who run social events and as a result the integration came by us giving ourselves to the locals and expecting nothing in return. Was there a moment when you felt …”I made the right decision”? The day we arrived in the village I got out of the car and felt this overwhelming feeling of “I’ve come home”. I’d love to know where I was in a previous lifetime and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if someone said I was here before; Making the right decision was about giving up a highly successful career and status, walking away from a big salary and fancy clothes, car and lifestyle….do I look back? Never! The studio has gone from strength to strength. In 2006 it was awarded the prestigious “Atelier d’Art du Pays Cathare” mark in recognition of their dedication and the quality of their work, Kylee was a finalist in “Stars & Métiers Languedoc Roussillon 2011”, a national competition that recognises and rewards innovative businesses and was recently awarded Artisan d’Art status, and was a finalist régionale 2011 Mention “Innovation au Féminin” at the concours de l’innovation artisanale. Kylee and was inducted to Confrérie des Corbières lors de Promaude 2013. With thanks to Kylee Milner www.lunesbijoux.com