In 1998, after 15 years in sales working for a software developer, I decided to quit my job. I was tired of 12-hour days and being on a plane almost every day. I quit at an airport and called my partner Bruce. Most partners would say, "What!" But mine said, "That's great!"
Soon, we were traveling and climbing all over the world. Our first trip to Europe was in 1999. We visited Mallorca, Spain for a month. Still, with all the adventure and new exciting places we went to, I knew I needed to get back to work. But, the idea of working full time again was not appealing. But what to do? I was stumped.
At the climbing gym where Bruce had worked teaching children and adults, there was a very strong and successful kids program. So one day in the car, as I was agonizing over the work issue, Bruce blurted out, “Why don't we teach art to kids?” Bruce had experience working with kids for over 10 years and was wonderful with them. He has drawn and painted his whole life, becoming most passionate when he was a Junior and Senior at Brentwood School in Los Angeles and then again at the University of Arizona where he studied painting. He is an amazing artist, so I said O.K.
The next day I started developing a business plan and one week later found an amazing studio to rent. We decided on the name Art-Works Studio, and in 2000, we opened the studio in Culver City, Calif. Art-Works has become a very successful business, teaching the fundamentals of painting and drawing to children ages 6-17. I ran the business, and Bruce taught all the classes. It was a perfect match. In 2002, I decided to find my creative self and took some pottery classes. It was love at first throw, and I was good at it too. I set up my studio in our garage and sold my work through the studio and at some select stores in Los Angeles.
But, as our business grew, another inspired idea was taking seed.
In 2002, we took our first trip to France, and our love affair with the country began. As Art-Works grew, we'd still find time each year to run away for a few weeks to explore another corner of France. In France, we felt free, at home, and relaxed. We both knew that we would live in this beautiful country someday. In October 2008, we finally felt ready to take a sabbatical, and we left the business in the hands of others and packed up our dogs, and bikes, and headed over to the Averyon department in the Midi-Pyrenees region of southwest France. Spending the year in a 200-year-old farmhouse, one mile from our nearest neighbors, we unplugged, slowed down, created art, and learned how to just be. We learned what the French have known for centuries: the art of living.
After our year sabbatical, we returned to Los Angeles, but we couldn’t wait to get back to France and start a new life. Then we got lucky. In May 2010 (in the middle of a recession), we sold Art-Works to a current client, and began a new chapter of our lives by following our hearts and moving back to France. This time we packed up our dogs, bikes and our home. This wasn’t going to just be another year sabbatical, we were moving to France!
Our time in France was life changing and has made us truer versions of ourselves. Things didn't matter in rural France. Nobody cares what type of car you drive, or what label your jeans are. It’s all about quality of life and living every day to it's fullest. We knew we wanted to share this amazing place with others, especially youth. We wanted to open some eyes and change some lives. And so we started Raison d’Art. Raison d’Art offers unique art camps to kids ages 12-17 during the summer. We only take 12 students per two-week session, and we all live together as one family in our 150-year-old farmhouse in the country. Our goal is to inspire young people to slowdown, unplug from the chaos of the modern world, and learn the art of "being." Students paint and draw every day, and we also visit outstanding museums as well as one of the few remaining prehistoric art caves open to the public. Our goal is to provide a deep and meaningful experience, full of inspiration and growth. We also have started offering culinary retreats to adults. A professional chef teaches five hands-on cooking classes in southwest French cuisine, and we are the tour guides. We visit beautiful ancient villages, open markets, vineyards, and goat cheese farms.
We live a very simple life here and can’t imagine returning to the craziness of Los Angeles. Everyone tells us we are “living the dream,” and they are right. We followed our passion and took a chance, never looking back.