To Be by the SeaSeptember 29, 2017
We spend the day with the artist and mother, Jessica Ruffie, and her daughter in the picturesque French coastal town of Cap Sizun.
Choosing where to live can often feel like anything but a choice. You’re tied to the right school for your children or the proximity to where you work. You want to be close to family and friends. Sometimes, you live in a place simply because you were born there.
For Jessica Mignot Ruffie, and her photographer husband Max Imrie, the choice to move somewhere new was a very real one. “We chose to live in Brittany because we love it. It was this simple,” she says in her enviable French lilt. “The way we live…it’s a choice. And we really thought about it. Before moving here, we considered lots of places: Long Island, New York, Newport – all places that would have been good for our businesses and careers, but those places didn’t inspire us. The wildness of the landscape here has done so much for us.”
Born to a family of nomadic creatives (or as she describes it, ‘a tribe’), Ruffie spent most of her childhood living between Paris and St. Barts in the Caribbean. Until recently, with the arrival of their daughter, Saba, her family unit would move around every few months. “Max and I grew up like this – moving from place to place. My parents and grandparents traveled all over the world by sea. It’s what I’ve always done. But we’re trying to simplify things – we used to move more – but we want to spend our time between two places rather than three, four or five.”
Daily life in this little-known region of Brittany consists mainly of cliff top walks, endless sea views, friendly locals and the beautifully salty air. “There’s a smell, a freshness I love here,” she explains, “We take Saba to the beach every day. Even if it’s cold, or raining, to get that fresh blow of air and feel the sand on our feet. Living by the water gives you an excuse to be outside all the time. To see that big body of water and see it change with the seasons …it’s a good life.”
Dressing for life in rural France (and motherhood) has its challenges, but Ruffie has focused on looking her best, despite the changes – in part because her husband is never far away and usually with a camera in his hand. “I wear a lot of dresses – simple dresses that are easy,” she says, “Having a child gives me less time to think about clothes, but having a husband who is a photographer means I have to think about them still – it’s nice and pushes me to make the effort. I’m happy to be reminded that I’m a mother but also a woman. Just because you start being a mother doesn’t mean you stop being a woman.”
So, has becoming a mother changed her? “It’s changed me, but in a way, it’s just reinforced who I really am. I used to make so much effort to be super social. Now I’m not as social but that’s been an easy change for me. I like the comfort zone I’ve found in this stage of my life. I can honestly say, I’m very happy.”
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Photographed by her husband, Max Imrie.