La Ramoneta of the Month – Ruth-Ann Ivory

Ruth-Ann Ivory
© Ruth-Ann Ivory

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 the colourful Ruth-Ann Ivory. Over tea, she explained everything about her upholstery and upcycled furniture business, Le Petit Escargot Bleu.


Growing up in Bedford, England, I finished my illustration study in 2008. As a backup plan, I also got my teaching degree, though, and I started as a textile teacher in Nottingham. Then I met my partner, Jo, a French man working as a rugby coach in England. When he got offered a job in Narbonne (1), South of France, I decided to join him. Although we hadn’t been together for a long time, I thought I’d give it a try and go on an adventure. That was ten years ago…

First time visiting the region

I had visited the Languedoc-Roussillon before when travelling by train through France with a friend. We were passing through, though, so it wasn’t until my move to France that I truly visited the region.


Settling in Languedoc

As I moved to France because of my partner’s work, we already knew where we were going to live. I had to finish my school year teaching back in England and sell my house. In the meantime, Jo had found a flat in Narbonne, just along the Canal de la Robine (2) in the heart of the centre. It was great to start off, but after three years, we were ready to move to another place. Also, because I was pregnant with my oldest daughter.

After searching for houses in the region, we found a beautiful one in nearby Sigean. Being the parents of now two daughters, this village life suits us perfectly. Plus, our house represents the work I’m doing. I’ve made a lot of the furniture, done some upholstery, and made all kinds of decorations, curtains, and cushions. Just like my parents: my dad is a furniture maker, and my mum is a traditional upholster. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Le Petit Escargot Bleu

When moving to France, I started waitressing. However, my creative heart was still alive and beating. So, when somebody on the Ladies in Languedoc (LIL) Facebook page asked for someone to make cushions, I replied. From there on, the requests kept coming in and the jobs became more complicated. Up until the point where I decided to create my own business, Le Petit Escargot Bleu (3 & 4). And now, I know how to upholster a chair from nothing more than a wooden frame! But I keep continuing to learn new techniques. Crochet is a new passion. And I started to create my own fabrics, combining upholstery with my illustration skills.

As the French cannot pronounce my name ‘Ruth’, I had to come up with a different name for my company. So, when I gave it a thought, I wanted the name to have something to do with a home. As a trained illustrator, my visual mind was thinking of a little snail- escargot in French- carrying his house on his back, and that’s how Le Petit Escargot Bleu was born.


Besides creating work myself, I also like to teach. I love watching people achieve things that they thought they couldn’t do. Therefore, I like to give sewing and upholstery classes. In collaboration with Angela Saunders from Inspiré Gallery in Narbonne, I also organise workshops at her gallery. The latest addition is called ‘After Work #Art’ and is a relaxing evening art session where you produce your own version of famous artwork. Materials and refreshments are included, of course, and for 45 euros, you’ll have a fun night out.

Setting up a business in France

I was quite lucky to set up my business in France, as my partner is French. Through his rugby network, I found many people who could help. Having small children can be challenging to run a business, though, so I take it gently. Now that the youngest is almost going to school, I have more headspace to think about where I want to go.

Le Petit Escargot Bleu
© Ruth-Ann Ivory

Living in the South of France

In the beginning, I felt a bit lonely and isolated. You have to be ready to put yourself out there. Thanks to the aforementioned LIL Facebook group, I met many people, mainly through the meetings they organise in real life. And I have found the French very welcoming. But I made an effort to meet them. It helps that I speak French. I learned by first taking classes, but I made the most progress through my waitressing job.

And now, I really appreciate the pace of life here. It’s so much slower, and it gives me the chance to work around my children. We’re living a small and simple life, however without being isolated. Sigean is a great and central location; we don’t have to go far to be in a completely different environment. Within 1 to 1.5 hours, we can visit many interesting places like Montpellier, Perpignan, Toulouse, and even Spain. Also, we are very close to the beaches of Port-la-Nouvelle, Vielle la Nouvelle and Franqui (5). We have the luxury to choose the beach that best fits our mood. I am definitely spoilt living here, and even after ten years, I am still discovering new things.

Best Languedoc wine

Anything from the Fitou area, and we’re lucky to live very close. Every year for Christmas, we bring their wine to our dinner with my parents-in-law. I like buying it at Domaine Maynadier, although my family-in-law also likes the sweet muscadet near Perpignan.

Favourite restaurant

I’m an English girl and I do like different flavours now and then. That’s why I like visiting our village’s Thai restaurant, Le Banthaï. They serve real, authentic food that makes me travel from home.

Perfect day out in Languedoc

In summer, I like to bring a picnic and take the girls for a dip in the river somewhere in the Corbières (6). The water is so refreshing and it’s a great day out. We also love to walk, although we are a bit limited due to short legs… I buy the walking guides published by the Midi Libre, which give us so many ideas. One of our latest walks was at the Site de Fourques et Saint-Rome, which brought us to an old iron mine and was very interesting.

Ruth-Ann Ivory

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