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We met Richard at his poterie in Aigues-Vives (Gard). This was no coincidence, having researched the art of making pottery, we had come to Richard’s website, and our interest was piqued. A visit was in order.
We spent a good amount of time looking at Richard’s creations. From platters and vases, plates and pitchers, replicas of traditional Provencal accessories, each item catches your eye. Each has a story, and a number of Richard’s creations are also inspired by patterns or designs he saw in museums. The combination of shapes, designs and colors makes for a wonderful experience and has you wanting to buy just about everything.
It is with lots of questions that we approached Richard who turned out to be a warm and engaging artisan. After 2 hours of looking, touching and talking with Richard, we left with a suitcase full of his creations. But it took a second meeting, months later, to really get to know Richard.
Of course, his sunny disposition and accent add to the charm, but his explanations for the various graphics he features got us to ask him if he would work with us. Naturally, he wanted to hear about our project: how we envisioned working with him, and what other artists we were working with. Soon, we were family.
Richard masters the old technique of faïence or earthenware. In the world of ceramics, earthenware is fired at lower temperature.
All starts on the pottery wheel which is used to give the shape of the object, including the hollowing out for vases, pitchers, etc.
Once the desired shape has been achieved, features such as a spout or handles can be added. And it is also when creativity can run free. A variety of tools are used to emboss the clay, adding to the elegance of the finished product. Walking through Richard’s atelier (just ask, unless the showroom is full, he’ll probably take you there, with a big grin), one discovers an infinite selection of tools designed to add to the elegance of the more intricate objects. These can be made of metal or wood, but little stones are also used.
Then comes drying, which can take less or more time depending on the season. After that, the piece is fired in a kiln at about 1,000 Celsius (1,830 F).
While it all appears quite simple, it actually takes years of apprenticeship to master the art.
Sadly, Richard is the only potter still using the traditional earthenware technique in France. But now that we have visited him numerous times, our home is full of his creations and these never fail to prompt questions about where we got them. And of course, Provence finds itself the subject of the dinner conversation. Again.
So next time you are in Provence, do visit Richard, you are in for a real treat.