Every month, we introduce you to an interesting woman living in Languedoc. Curious as we are, we like to find out why she lives in this beautiful region, what she does for a living and some of her Languedoc favourites. This month we would like you to meet Holly Kurzman as Ramoneta of the Month. She runs the beaded jewellery business Hillcrest Studio and is the author of the book ‘Two-drop Peyote Patterns’.
I was born in New York City and lived there until I moved to San Francisco at the age of 28 for love and work. After trying various jobs to find my way, I became a career coach in my 30s. And this profession fitted me like a glove. It was never boring, and I loved every part of it. I continued to work remotely organising webinars on a part-time basis until the end of last year when it was time to retire.
First time visiting the region
My husband and I had previously visited Provence and loved it. However, we wanted to experience something less hectic and touristy. So, when we first visited Languedoc about 15 or 16 years ago, we thoroughly enjoyed it. This region has got a lot to offer without the hustle and bustle of Provence. Another plus of living in this part of France is that there is a strong expat community where you can get advice and information. It made the transition easier for us. Through this network, like the Facebook group Ladies in Languedoc, I had somewhere to turn when I had questions, of which there were many.
Settling in Languedoc
My husband and I moved to France for a variety of reasons. The culture, the history, the food, the climate, the cost of living and healthcare, to name a few. Also, we had a desire to go somewhere new to enjoy the later part of our lives.
We moved to Languedoc in autumn 2011, temporarily renting a furnished house in Pézenas (1 & 2). We used it as our base to search for our new home. However, one day, after having visited many places, we looked at each other and realised that we really felt at home in Pézenas. From then on, we made this small town our priority. Luck was with us, and we found our place through a friend of a friend.
I started my business back in the States about 20 years ago. Ever since I was very young, I have loved handicrafts, and I used to create intricate beaded jewellery for myself. This way, I could make suitable bracelets for my small wrists, fabricating them in any colour I wanted. When people kept asking me if they could buy my creations, I turned them into a business called Hillcrest Studio (3). Now, in addition to selling my finished pieces, I also sell my patterns so people can make their own items. My designs are influenced by the places I’ve lived and travelled in the USA and the world.
A book of my designs was published in 2020. A few friends kept bugging me to publish a book, and I finally got the courage to contact a publisher. Much to my surprise, the first publisher I contacted liked my idea and offered me a contract. The book ‘Two-drop Peyote Patterns‘ (4) contains instructions and more than 20 patterns using a single technique. This way, readers can make their own bracelets. Publishing a book made me learn a lot about the process of getting a book printed. It is very slow! However, it didn’t put me off, as now I am putting ideas together for a second book.
Living in the South of France
The reality of moving here went through phases. In the beginning, it was excitement. Then dismay overtook, partially because it rained every day for the first three weeks we were here. It all felt overwhelming: learning a new language, experiencing a new culture, bewildering bureaucracy, not knowing anyone, feeling unsettled… Once we moved into our apartment and met a few people, life became more settled and back to normal again. I was fortunate to have been introduced to people and resources that helped answer my endless questions. It served as a support network and helped me a lot!
Of course, as with life anywhere, there are the ups and downs of daily life. The biggest challenge was when my husband’s health started failing and his eventual death six years ago. As I already said, my network here was a huge help during this difficult time.
Best Languedoc wine
I love the local rosés and Picpoul de Pinet, especially in summer. I no longer eat meat, so I don’t tend to drink much red wine these days.
Perfect day out in Languedoc
In summer, a trip to the shore with friends, a walk along the beach followed by a light lunch. In winter, if it’s warm enough, I like to take a long walk and then find a sunny spot at a café, chat with a friend and watch the world go by. And of course, I would bead something, like I do almost every day. I can do it for hours and completely forget about time.