Monthly Archives: July 2009

Estivales du Chapeau {hat festival in France

Grab your coat, and get your hat.

Leave your worry on the doorstep.

Just direct your feet, to the sunny side of the street.

                                                                               ~Dorothy Fields

(Note: There are many spectacular images capturing the amazing beauty of Chateau Dumas and surrounding villages. Allow time for your computer to load the images so that you don’t miss any. This is the fourth in the series on a millinery masterclass held in southwest France. Won’t you follow along?)

celebrating hat making

Down the hill from Chateau Dumas…around several hairpin curves along a narrow French county road… following  small signs directing travelers through roundabouts… lies the quintessential French village of Septfonds. 

Pot of salvias on window ledge FAV

Septfonds house FAV 2

Septfonds house and grapevines FAV

Septfonds and grapevines FAV1

Septfonds house FAV1

Septfonds street FAV

Complimenting the brillant azure blue Mediterranean sky, gaily-colored straw hats in lime green, fushia, purple and golden yellows hang from age-old balconies and say “bienvenue!” to visitors traveling to this charming village.

hats and balacony FAV

Hats on balcony 2 FAV

It is all in celebration of the 17th- annual Estivales du Chapeau–the Internationally acclaimed summer French hat festival. Septfonds is considered the “cradle of the French straw hat.” Mme. Pétronille Cantecor (1770-1846) has been attributed as the founder of the straw hat of Septfonds, and was the creator of the first hat workshop in 1796. Imagine.

Septfond’s three-day festival is filled with a wide array of merry entertainment, amazing demonstrations, local cullinary fare, millinery fashion show and hat competitions include amazing designs sent from milliners and hatters from around the world. I wonder if we will ever have time to really study it all.

The festival ad is quite clever–the original is made entirely of millinery paraphernalia used for creating the perfect summer straw hat.

Septfonds marketing FAV 1

Septfonds marketing FAV 2

vintage straw hats

Our tiny troupe of lively millinery afficionados–new and old– from around the world are eager for the festivities as sounds of French music merrily draws us closer to the center of the celebrations. The first stop is an exhibition of vintage French straw hats. Amazing. I can hardly control the urge to try on the simply gorgeous hats.

Over 600 vintage hats were bequeathed to Mme. Dany Caussinus. In French, Dany tells how her benefactor told her that she wanted her to look after the straw and velvet hats, never sell them and someday she would know what to do with them. After 20 years of intensive research,  Dany carefully restored each of these historical hats, and now makes them available for displays at special events. Dany’s vintage hat collection has now grown to over 3,000 spectacular designs. It is so difficult to decide which is my favorite…which beautiful hat would you like to wear? They are all so amazing! I think I shall like to make these in a millinery class one day. Dream…again.

Historic FAV27

Historic FAV5

Historic FAV8

(More hats on the video/slideshow below. Just select the “play” arrow button over the photo image.)

hat competition

Reluctantly, I leave for the next exhibition of competition hats. Novice and master milliners and hatters from all over the world submit their one-of-a kind creations for the event. Some of the hats follow a theme–others are a bit more elegant. Certainly, all of the hat entries are amazing. A vote for my favorite is penciled on a small rectangle piece of paper and slipped into the ballot box. I hope my favorite hat wins the competion.

sinemay and straw FAV

gray winner 3 FAV

je t'aime FAV

moi et toi FAV

Vienna FAV

straw fastenator FAV

the festivities

Down the block . . . around the corner . . .  in the village square . . .  are festive white tents filled with scores of hats from designers and milliners from around the world. My companions are off to try on the amazing styles from different sellers.

There is a wide variety of musical entertainment — musicians playing an antique hand-cranked large French street organ to a  trio of Caribbean steel drums. Cyclists riding antique bicylcles circle through the market streets. It is quite lively.

market square

bike riders two women

French woman holding bike FAV2

Father and child bikerider FAV

Caribbean Steel Drums FAV 2

Caribbean Music and Dancing FAV 2

artisan exhibitions

Many local artisans provide exhibition of timeless arts and crafts. The delicate bobbin lacemaking is breathtaking, How can the needleartists’ eyes see the ultra-fine thread and their hands manuever the bobbins into such intricate patterns? The straw broom making is quite interesting. Then, the next aisle features spinning dioramas and demonstrations, wood lathes turning out lovely hat stands of all sizes and handweaving golden braid from fresh-cut, fragrant straw.

Handmade brooms FAV

Spinning Demo FAV

straw hat making highlights

The exhibition highlight is the straw hat making. Fascinating. Men and women demonstrate the straw hat making process from beginning to end. The women stitch colorful straw braid together using specially-designed antique sewing machines. The sewing machines are powered by the women’s feet operating two treadles. The steam-fitted metal molds for the hat blocking are left to the men to attend. There are dozens of metal hat molds that are used to make the hat shapes. I am mesmorized by their skill and attentiveness to the art of straw hatmaking.

Demo Straw Hatmaking FAV1

Demo Straw Hatmaking FAV2

Demo Straw Hatmaking FAV3

Demo Straw Hatmaking FAV5

Demo Straw Hatmaking FAV4

Demo Straw Hat blocking FAV1

Demo Straw Hat blocking FAV2

There is an announcement in French–the millinery fashion show is about to begin. The show highlights the designs of the International sellers at the festival. Lovely designs are modeled for nearly 45 minutes on the vintage wood runway. The colorful mistress of ceremonies is lively and humorous — the crowd frequently roars with laughter.

Milliner Fashioner Show FAV

 Colorful Fashion Show MC FAV

the perfect hat

At the end of a long row of vendors, Mme. Alexandra Marks from Liguria, Italy proudly displays her gorgeous creations. Each beautiful hat is unique and handcrafted from vintage hand-braided Italian straw. Many of the embellishments are vintage, too. Alexandra tells me that most of the straw is at least 6o-years-old. Time to find a perfect Italian hat. It is terribly warm and the hat will be cooler. It is so hard to decide…they are exquisite!

Italian Milliner-Alexandra FAV

Italian Straw Sunflower FAV

Italian Vendor Hat 1

Blue Italian Straw FAV

Italian Big StrawFAV2

Michelle, a travelling companion, discovers a small treasure off to the corner next to the church–a vendor who makes custom hat boxes. Just what I need for the large Italian vintage straw sun hot (see photo above). Mme. Estelle Fontaine makes lovely hat boxes for festival treasures. We animatedly chat back and forth about the box requirement for the new hat–mostly in French, but a bit in English. Estelle carefully measures the hat. We discuss options for the handle and trim for the box. The hat box will be ready in two hours.

Hat box sign

Hat boxes FAV large set

Hat boxes FAV1

Hat boxes small set FAV

Lovely hats are everywhere. I wish we wore them more often in the U.S. A couple of my new European friends enjoy their new hat festival finds at the end of the day. What a lovely end to an amazing day. . .!

Naomi's Festival Hat FAV

Kathy's new hat FAV

More about other lovely sights of  a millinery dream trip to France in the days ahead as they unfold.

à bientôt mes amis!

Read more at French Dreams at Chateau Dumas.

Read more at Inspiring Beauty at Chateau Dumas.

Read more at Creativity at Chateau Dumas

You may want to take a morning walk over at The Southern Daydreamer for more Outdoor Wednesday posts, or read about living a beautiful life at The Inspired Room.

I am hooked on French hats lately. Find out what others are hooked on at Hooked on Houses.

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Creativity at Chateau Dumas

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry,

and see a fine picture every day of his life,

in order that worldly cares may not obliterate

the sense of the beautiful

which God has implanted in the human soul.
                                                             ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

(Note: There are many spectacular images capturing the amazing beauty of Chateau Dumas. Allow enough time for your computer to load the images so that you don’t miss any. This is the third in the series on a millinery masterclass held in southwest France. Won’t you follow along with me?)

looking upward

Discovering  Chateau Dumas in the tiny village of Auty, France is a study in creativity, beauty and inspiration. My travels to Chateau awakens my slumbering senses with panoramic views of the French countryside and villages. The colors, fragrances and rustic beauty of this Mediterarean region are mesmorizing. It is hard to take it all in.

chateau northeast side fav

Arrival at the 18th-century chateau feels as if I am tranformed into a French Impressionistic painting. My spirit is renewed with the expansive vistas, tranquil gardens and the country elegance of Chateau Dumas. How I wish I could linger long into the night in the gardens.

Everywhere there is a vignette, art or indoor and outdoor beauty that makes me pause and catch my breath. This journey to Chateau Dumas is what is needed for reflection and the rediscovery of creativity that has grown fallow.

Even the 300-year-old marble stairs to the second floor are amazing. I leave my sandals off at the bottom of the stairs and feel the cool, time-worn marble underneath my feet as I climb to the second floor. I wonder if horses raced up the stairs during the upheaval of the French Revolution or the Napoleonic Wars.

main with shoes3FAV

main with shoes fav

The elegant second floor hallway is stunning and is accentuated with several examples of neo-classical trompe l’oeil–a style of painting that gives an illusion of reality. I look several times above the doorway as the corbels appear nearly realistic and three-dimensional. Wait. Do the doors appear as if they are paneled? It is amazing how the contrasts of light and dark create an illusion of something that is not.

Contrasts in shape and texture abound on the second floor. The gorgeous striped French linen ticking frames the double French doors at one end of the hall and  luxurious, elegant red silk drapes the paned windows on the east side. Subtle nuances of pattern continuance mingle throughout the hall–the highly polished antique terra cotta floor tile laid on the diagonal, the illusionary diamond-shaped panel inserts on the doors and the antique flax linen heart with red embroidery set on a diagonally-placed terra cotta marble plant stand. Brilliant. The hall so creatively reflects balance and order that it feels quite tranquil.

second floor hallway FAV

tile floor second floor FAV

hallwayfav2

above door second floorFAV

linen heart on marble table FAV

There are four guest rooms on this section of the second floor–each unique and beautifully appointed. My breath is taken away by the beauty of these rooms. The guest room that I have is superb with a dramatic black chandelier, black marble fireplace, cameo-inspired border, gorgeous khaki green silk drapery–like a fine lady’s ball gown–that  frames the extravagant views of the French countryside in the valley below. A lovely antique French chair in the corner is tailored with finely-crafted handspun flax linen. There is a tasteful white French writing desk in the other corner. I think I shall become a permanent guest in this room–at least for the remainder of the summer…then into fall…or perhaps, until Christmas. Dream.

handle and key2

 bedroom view FAV

writing desk bedroom 1

writing desk bedroom 2

Bedroom Window FAV

bedroom window and view fav

An ensuite bath is the perfect ending to the day with the deep-soaking claw foot tub set on a golden marble floor. Windows to the east let in the early morning sun, and the customized chandelier designed to look like rain drops provides subtle lighting in the evening. What more could a woman want?

Bathtub FAV

Bathroom chandelier FAV

curtain finial FAV

Bathroom window FAV

Additional guest rooms are to the north on the second floor, too. The circular stairs to the third floor leading to more individually appointed guest rooms is exquisite. The wood banister amazing. I wonder what kind of wood was used on the banister.

Third floor stairs FAV

third floor stairs close FAV

millinery atelier

Across the manicured gardens is the Chateau’s expansive coach house–the second floor of the west wing is the dedicated millinery studio. The north lower level of the carriage house features a lovely little Chateau shop filled with vintage French linens, white-on-white embroidered sheets, pieces of machine and handmade lace, antique fine cotton night dresses/slips and rustic linen shirts, aged-silver and many other vintage French items. Local artisans’ jewelry, lavender sachets made with vintage ticking and linen, and fine French bath products are beautifully displayed throughout.

Carriage House FAV

carriage house climbing roses

carriage house shop FAV

Exterior wall hugging stairs provides one entrance to the millinery atelier. Under the portico is another example of neo-classical trompe l’oeil opposite the teak garden bench. Clever.

carriage house north wing FAV

carriage house window FAV

west entry to carriage house

carriage house through portico to east carriages FAV

portico with teak bench FAV

portico trompe l'oleil

potico trompe l'oleil FAV 2

southeast carriage house stairs FAV

I sneak a peak at the upstairs studio to catch a glimpse of what is to come in days ahead as we learn under the expert tutoring of Dillon Wallwork–a Royal Milliner– in a millinery masterclass (hatmaking). My anticipation for the masterclass grows–there are inspiring sample hats on display on four to five foot high antique carved wood hat stands, black and white striped hat boxes for our creations, sewing machines old and new, wood hat molds for crowns and brims and hatmaking supplies.

green hat

straw hat

studio hats

 cupboard with hat box FAV

Frister Sewing Machine FAV

Fister Sewing Machine Close FAV

Singer Treadle FAV

Hat molds FAV

Hat brims FAV

Hat molds and feathers FAV

straw hats materials FAV

Off to the right on a display table is a brochure about the International summer straw hat festival held in nearby Septfonds–Estivales du Chapeau. Tomorrow. Septfonds is the heart of French straw hat making.

Hat Festival Ad FAV

More about the millinery masterclass, one of the world’s great Estivales du Chapeau, a visit to a 1824 French hat factory and other sights of  a dream trip to France in the days ahead as they unfold.

à bientôt mes amis!

Read more at French Dreams at Chateau Dumas.

Read more at Inspiring Beauty at Chateau Dumas.

Today I am hooked on everything French. Find out what other people are hooked on.

Visit The Inspired Room for others’ inspirations about creating a beautiful life.

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Filed under France, Gardening, Sewing, Travel, Vintage

Inspiring Beauty at Chateau Dumas

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,

places to play in and pray in,

where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. 

                                                                                                                   ~John Muir

(Note: There are many spectacular images capturing the amazing beauty of Chateau Dumas. Allow enough time for your computer to load the images so that you don’t miss any. This is the second in the series on a millinery masterclass held in southwest France. Won’t you follow along with me?)

outward beauty

The 18th-century Chateau Dumas is totally enchanting on scales grand and small. There is so much to see and take in on this breath-taking estate in the small village of Auty, France. The late summer afternoon interplay of color, light and texture of the Mediterranean region creates dreamy illusions of French Impressionism. I marvel at and feel priviledged to spend several summer days in such a superb setting whilst learning from a master English milliner and designer in the days ahead.

chateau dumas 3 under portico fav

I am a bit weary from the long travels. The magnificent gardens are beckoning me to sit with them awhile.

Would you like to select  a garden hat from the basket in the foyer and stroll in the gardens with me?

hats in foyer FAV

Monet-inspired weathered teak garden benches strategically placed throughout the Chateau Dumas gardens provide opportunity to reflect and soak in as much of the beauty as possible. The teak benches and French metal chairs provide numerous invitations for varied perspectives of the gardens and vistas. I am quite taken in by the setting, and am totally mesmorized by it’s beauty. I pause frequently along the garden paths, sit and try to absorb all that I see into my memory. The beauty is stunning. I am starting to feel refreshed in my soul.

Curved Teak Dumas FAV

French chairs and table

teak bench and lantern carriage house3fav 

french metal chair west side of carriage house2

Bench with lichen FAV

Blue stripe metal chair

Blue Stripe metal chair 2 FAV

The garden benches and chairs are bekoning me to sit awhile and reflect. I can’t resist–the tranquilityand depth of “old-soul” in the gardens are drawing me to linger under the French sky.

Won’t you sit awhile with me, too? There is room for both of us on the bench . . .

moss covered garden bench 2

My worldly concerns and weariness from the travels begin to dissipate with the warmth of the Mediterranean sun. I am feeling soothed from the intoxicating lavender oils perfuming and lingering in the garden air. Listen. The song birds serenade the garden repose with their afternoon revelry unlike those heard at Rose Cottage.

There is so much to see within the gardens…butterflies and bees dizzy from endless visits to the lavender blossoms, sweet soft pink and white roses reaching for the sun and rewarding the gardener for her caring efforts, and window boxes and clay pots with trailing pink geraniums–all with enough fortitude to withstand the warm, dry summers in southern France.

Lavender and Bee

climbing roses pink dumas

climbing roses white close dumas

climbing roses close dumas

The gardens at Chateau Dumas are a living and breathing tapestry of texture. The whisps of the lavender fronds provide the feather stitches between patterns of trimmed coniferous hedges, roses, speciman plants and the sweeping views of the patchworked valley just beyond the terra cotta brick walls and iron garden gate.

carriage house studio facing east2

Lavender and front of Chateau  fav 1

 chateau allee fav

gardens4

Formal Hedges Facing South

gardens southeast

inward beauty

Feeling refreshed from garden lavender, vistas and bird choirs, I explore the Chateau. Guests usually enter the foyer through the double French doors that are flanked by large blue wood shuters. So French. Gorgeous gold gilded mirrors, a large foyer table, a grandfather clock, antique settee and chairs, woven market baskets and assorted vignettes accentuate the welcoming, but massive foyer. My footsteps echo on the large square tiles.

Painting of Dumas in foyer FAV

market basket FAV

foyer books7FAV

Through the foyer and past the stunning centuries-old marble staircase, is a light and airy dining room with expansive southern views capturing the pictureque valley and countryside. The black, white and red antique tile floor creates energy and lightness, and brings the outdoors into the Chateau. Simple–but stunning–vignettes throughout the room carry nature’s elegance even further.

eggs and bowls FAV2

Dinning room3

Dinning room4

dinning room tile

dining room chandelair FAV 1

Through another large set of double French doors is the outdoor dining terrace.  Off in the distance is the unmistakeable hum of combines and other farm equipment as hay and straw is baled from sections of the golden patchwork near the misty Mediterranean horizon. Other than the distant sounds of French farmers at work and the merrymaking of songbirds, no other distractions are heard. It is heaven. . . Fellow adventurers linger for hours after sharing meals while marveling at the incredible country setting.

terrace

terrace2FAV

Terrace View FAV

Terrace lingering

Christopher  and Naomi's antique mold

The moderate-sized–but efficient kitchen–is off of the dinning room for easy access for refreshments throughout the day. A lovely view of the valley is framed by pots of fragrant herbs at the bottom of the kitchen window. I am convinced that dishwashing would never be a chore with spectacular views such as these, and with the cheery serenades of the bird choirs! Please, may I help with the dishes?

kitchen shelves FAV 1

kitchen shelves FAV2

kitchen windowFAV1

view from kitchen window FAV2

Totally charmed by the hospitality, kindness and care of the Chatelaine de Dumas, I dream of  lingering at Chateau Dumas indefinitly.  I really won’t be much bother. Really.

lizzie

My stay at Chateau Dumas is everything dreams are made of…the beautifully appointed Chateau, gorgeous gardens, rooms with spectacular views, lovely song bird symphanies throughout the day, and the millinery atelier in the fantastic carriage house–all is a invigorating, sensory feast in every way! I am delighted to have arrived.

We live in a wonderful world

that is full of beauty, charm and adventure.

There is no end to the adventures that we can have

if only we seek them with our eyes open.
                                                                           ~Jawaharlal Nehru

More about the Chateau’s amazing trompe l’oeil, upper floors, millinery atelier, one of the world’s great Estivales du Chapeau, a visit to a 1824 French hat factory and other sights of  a dream trip to France in the days ahead as they unfold.

I would love to know what you think of this amazing adventure using the comment link below.

à bientôt mes amis!

Read more at French Dreams at Chateau Dumas.

Visit The Inspired Room for others’ inspirations about creating a beautiful life.

You may want to take a morning walk over at The Southern Daydreamer for more Outdoor Wednesday posts.

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Filed under France, Gardening, Home, Travel

French Dreams at Chateau Dumas

 The future belongs to those who believe

in the beauty of their dreams.

                                                              ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

(Note: There are many spectacular images capturing the amazing beauty of Chateau Dumas. Allow enough time for your computer to load the images so that you don’t miss any. This is the first in the series on a millinery masterclass held in southwest France. Won’t you follow along with me?) 

bonjour!

The dream trip of learning a new skill and living the country life of a French woman has come true this summer! For a brief time, I am alongside eight other travelers from Germany, Spain, England and the U.S. as millinery apprentices in the atelier at the superb 18th-century Chateau Dumas in Auty, France. Our adventures will be amazing in the days ahead!

map

the dream begins

The technicolor images of the southwest French countryside are breathtaking as I make the hour-long journey from Toulouse — La Ville Rose (the Pink City) — to the tiny village of Auty with about 150 residents. Antoinne, my driver, talks about various points of interest along our journey–in French, of course! I nod frequently and comment with “oui’” and “très beau” — keenly and painfully realizing how dormat my French has grown. 

Vast rolling fields are filled with vibrant golden sunflowers turning their faces towards the warm rays of the sun, stately stalks of corn and trained ancient grape vines neatly trail along guided wires. Hundreds of acres of apple trees are covered with a white airy cloth to project the fruit from the Mediterranean summer sun. Irrigation in the fields is commonly seen in the fields.

Names of towns on small signs, such as “Montauban” and “Caussade” point the way northwest with the frequent turns on the round abouts–Chateau Dumas lies just past Caussade. The centurian houses in the small villages have gorgeous authentic terra cotta tiled roofs. Most of the centuries-old buildings are made of a soft rose or warm golden brick or stone, and are accented with rustic blue, green or brown wood shutters.

Fields of round golden hay bales, brillant sunflowers and manicured grapevines are now a common sight. The warm summer air smells of fresh mown hay, earth and lavender co-mingled together under the vibrant azure blue sky. All my senses have awakened from their slumber!

Then…around a corner and up a hill…down a long, country gravel driveway flanked by ancient groves of plum, fig, walnut and other trees…Chateau Dumas!  Be still my heart! The spectacular beauty of this setting makes me feel like it is a dream. Please don’t wake me! How can I be so blessed to have such a beautiful and dreamy trip?

chateau dumas 5

chateau dumas 2 under portico

chateau dumas 1

Front of Chateau - Early Evening

chateau 3rd floor roof window

Perched high on a hill admidst 22 wooded acres, Chateau Dumas has spectacular vistas overlooking patchwork fields, a lake, wooded grooves and rustic farmhouses that have stood the test of time.

gardens4

stairs to pool2

to south garden2

bedroom window and view fav

Won’t you follow along over the next several days as we embark on this amazing millinery masterclss at the lovely Chateau Dumas in southwest France?

dumas sign 5

à bientôt mes amis!

I will write more tomorrow! What are your dreams of beauty today?

You may want to take a morning walk over at The Southern Daydreamer for more Outdoor Wednesday posts.

 

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