Mov­ing to France has cer­tainly opened doors for me­chanic-turned-metal artist Dar­ren Ind, who, to­gether with his wife Kate and their two chil­dren, is en­joy­ing a new flex­i­ble life­style in Vi­enne, says Gil­lian Har­vey

Living France - - CONTENTS - pe­ri­ouxmet­a­

Read how me­chanic Dar­ren Ind de­vel­oped a ca­reer as a metal artist com­pletely by chance

The beauty of France has been a source of in­spi­ra­tion to artists through­out the ages; whether the sun-drenched fields and vine­yards cap­tured by Van Gogh, or the bustling Parisian idyll painted by Renoir, France has a lot to of­fer in terms of in­spi­ra­tion. How­ever, for me­chanic Dar­ren Ind, 34, who moved here with wife Kate, 30, and their chil­dren Noah (six) and Abi (three) in 2015, dis­cov­er­ing Dar­ren’s artistic side came as a sur­prise to all the fam­ily.

Hav­ing set­tled in the ham­let of Le Vigeant in Vi­enne with the in­ten­tion of run­ning his car re­pair busi­ness, Dar­ren now teams his more or­di­nary car re­pairs with a blos­som­ing metal-art en­ter­prise.

“I wouldn’t have classed my­self as artistic in the past,” he ad­mits. “I can’t draw at all!” Nev­er­the­less, when he found an old weath­er­vane in one of the out­build­ings that came with their prop­erty, shortly af­ter mov­ing to France, Dar­ren thought he’d use his weld­ing skills to re­pair it. “The weath­er­vane was badly bro­ken, so in­stead, I made one,” he says. “When Kate posted a pic­ture of the fin­ished piece on Face­book, lots of peo­ple ex­pressed an in­ter­est and I found my­self mak­ing a few more for friends.”

In­spired by the pop­u­lar­ity of his work and the nat­u­ral flair he seemed to have for melt­ing metal into beau­ti­ful shapes, Dar­ren be­gan to ex­per­i­ment, draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from his sur­round­ings and the space and time af­forded by his new ex­is­tence. “I used the ex­tra time I had out here to play around with mak­ing things out of metal,” he ex­plains. “Af­ter mak­ing weath­er­vanes, I re­alised that lots of the pieces I’d cut out re­sem­bled birds’ feath­ers. I stud­ied some pic­tures of owls and thought I’d try mak­ing one.”


Wife Kate no­ticed how much Dar­ren seemed to en­joy cre­at­ing his sculp­tures and en­cour­aged him to con­tinue. “I al­ready knew Dar­ren was tal­ented – he’d built his own rally car from the ground up in the past. The sculp­tures were some­thing com­pletely new, but when he started work­ing on them he had a real spark about him,” she says. “It was lovely to see him so an­i­mated.”

Sur­pris­ingly, two years ago, the thought of mov­ing to France would have been an alien con­cept to the cou­ple. “My par­ents had de­cided to re­tire to France; and my dad passed the fam­ily busi­ness in Berk­shire to me,” ex­plains Dar­ren. “Kate, who had given up work to look af­ter our young chil­dren, came to France dur­ing this time to help my par­ents with the search. She joked that we should find some­thing nearby and join them on their ad­ven­ture.

Then, af­ter a bit of thought, we fig­ured – why not? It was quite an im­pul­sive move.”

One of the rea­sons for their de­ci­sion to try la vie en France was their be­lief that it would of­fer their young chil­dren a more or­ganic start to life. “My par­ents, Brian and Teresa, were at­tracted to the area we’re in be­cause of the coun­try­side and the space,” Dar­ren ex­plains. “There were lots of bri­dle­ways for my mum – a big horse lover – to ride along. She’s owned horses since her teens, so it was a real pri­or­ity for her. Talk­ing about the space and fresh air, Kate and I be­gan to imag­ine Noah and Abi run­ning in the gar­den and liv­ing an out­door life, and it seemed to make so much sense.”

“Since mov­ing, we’ve had so much more fam­ily time, which has been won­der­ful,” adds Kate.

Charmed, too, by the lovely vil­lage school, the fam­ily chose to pur­chase ad­join­ing houses with nine acres to house both horses and chil­dren with am­ple room. “You might think liv­ing so close to each other would be dif­fi­cult,” says Dar­ren. “But we don’t ac­tu­ally see each other as of­ten as you’d think. We live in­de­pen­dent lives, but it’s lovely to be so close, and it’s great for the kids.”

While charm­ing, the prop­er­ties, to­gether with their col­lec­tion of ram­shackle barns and the pig­gery that has be­come Dar­ren’s work­shop, have be­come a con­stant project for the fam­i­lies. “The main thing we had to get sorted was the heat­ing,” ex­plains Dar­ren. “Once there were no leaks and we’d sorted out the wood­burn­ers, we knew we could take our time with the rest – it’s not per­fect, but we have a lovely home and there’s no rush.”


The sec­ond pri­or­ity was, of course, sort­ing out a source of in­come. With 17 years of ex­pe­ri­ence, Dar­ren was able to reg­is­ter as a me­chanic af­ter at­tend­ing a five-day course. “It’s a re­quire­ment of reg­is­ter­ing as a mi­cro-en­ter­prise that you at­tend a week-long course, which is all in French,” he says. “As my French was still very ba­sic, it was quite chal­leng­ing. There’s also an out­lay of about €250 to get your­self reg­is­tered and set your­self up with a reg­is­tra­tion num­ber (SIRET).

Thank­fully, once reg­is­tered, Dar­ren found that his skills were in de­mand. “Most of my cus­tomers are Bri­tish,” he ad­mits. “Even when your French is quite good, peo­ple of­ten find it much eas­ier to ex­plain me­chan­i­cal prob­lems in their na­tive language.” As his metal-work busi­ness be­gan to at­tract more at­ten­tion, Dar­ren and Kate also be­gan to look for out­lets for his sculp­ture. “We found a café-restau­rant in nearby Con­folens called Arthé – a play on the words ‘art’ and ‘ thé’ (tea) which dis­plays orig­i­nal works,” he says. “I got in con­tact through email and the man­ager said he’d take a look. We went over for din­ner, took some pieces and it went from there. It was re­ally thrilling to have my work on show. It’s early days, but I’m get­ting my name out there and in­creas­ing my foot­fall.”

Dar­ren is also build­ing up in­ter­est in his work through his Face­book page Pe­ri­oux Metal Art, and has be­gun to ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of lo­cal art and craft fairs. “We tried a Christ­mas mar­ket last De­cem­ber,” he says. “As well as mak­ing some sales, lots of peo­ple came over to have a look and chat about my pieces, which was great.

“In terms of sales, the bread and but­ter stuff is the weath­er­vanes, as they’re af­ford­able and I can cus­tomise them for in­di­vid­ual cus­tomers,” he says. “The big­ger sculp­tures are mainly for peo­ple who want some­thing in their court­yard; hang­ing bas­kets, signs, or a con­ver­sa­tion piece.”

While con­vers­ing in French is still a bit of a chal­lenge for Dar­ren, who took French lessons in Eng­land be­fore mov­ing, the chil­dren have picked up French with ease. “It’s amaz­ing to hear Noah chat away in French,” he says. “And even Abi’s now

“Our life is much more flex­i­ble and our time is our own; that’s one of the rea­sons why com­ing here was the right move”

singing songs from school – I haven’t got a clue what they’re about.

“Kate’s language is bet­ter than mine, but I can get by,” he con­tin­ues. “But it’s some­thing I’m re­ally go­ing to keep work­ing on, espe­cially as I’m hop­ing to even­tu­ally open a shop and sell my art on a larger scale.”


Along­side the art and his work as a me­chanic, Dar­ren is also work­ing on build­ing the kind of idyl­lic old-fash­ioned life he’d hoped for his fam­ily. “Now Abi’s at school, we’ve got time to cul­ti­vate the land,” he says. “Kate’s work­ing hard on the gar­den, and we’re hop­ing to grow all our own veg­eta­bles next year, which is re­ally ex­cit­ing. She might even open a nurs­ery and farm shop even­tu­ally.”

“We’re also hop­ing to get chick­ens soon, and I’m booked on a bee-keep­ing course in the new year.” says Kate. “It’s a world away from the of­fice work I’ve done in the past and I can’t wait.”

As for their wider fam­ily, while Kate’s par­ents and sib­lings still live in the UK, they’ve al­ready been to visit sev­eral times, and the cou­ple have also made the trip back to the UK to visit Dar­ren’s el­derly grand­fa­ther. “We have lots of rea­sons to visit the UK, but no de­sire to stay,” says Dar­ren.

The cou­ple are still get­ting used to some of the quirky as­pects of life in France: “We’re still not used to the open­ing hours and the two-hour lunch breaks,” laughs Dar­ren, “And it took a while to con­vince Abi that the fact that she’s told to go to bed af­ter lunch at school doesn’t mean she’s in trou­ble!” But there’s no doubt that all gen­er­a­tions of the fam­ily are thriv­ing in their new lo­ca­tion. “My mum and dad love hav­ing the kids so close by,” says Dar­ren. “We’re also go­ing to be run­ning a gîte, so al­though they’re re­tired, there’s no chance of them get­ting bored.”

“We’ve opened up so many doors al­ready since mov­ing here,” adds Kate. “Our life is so much more flex­i­ble and our time is our own. That’s one of the rea­sons I know that com­ing to France was the right move.”

Top left: Dar­ren and Kate Ind with their two chil­dren, Noah and Abi Above: Dar­ren dis­cov­ered a new pas­sion for cre­at­ing art pieces from metal when he moved to France

Above: Dar­ren and Kate moved to Vi­enne, a calm, ru­ral part of France; Top right: Noah and Abi go to school in France Be­low: One of Dar­ren’s metal art pieces

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