Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Now to more a slightly more serious topic: Like many other countries the recession is affecting many of our trades and pottery is no exception. The pottery industry has long been a major employer in the Midlands especially around the Stoke on Trent area, but sadly now many famous name factories have gone into receivership: Wedgwood, Royal Worcester, Spode etc. Years of heritage are either at risk or lost! Skilled men and women have been made redundant and their skills lost to us, maybe for good - times changed and the pottery trade didn’t always change with them.
For example: In the past many families aspired to owning a complete dinner service, (the staple of many a wedding gift list). In grand English country houses of yester-year these sets were sometimes comprised of dozens of pieces: several sizes of plates, soup bowls, desert bowls, finger bowls, soup tureens, sauce tureens, vegetable dishes, platters, comports etc. Smaller homes would perhaps have a dinner set for six or eight. In today’s family, entertaining friends may involve a pasta set rather than finger bowls. Even our ‘cuppa’ is likely to be taken from a mug rather than a cup with a matching saucer and accordingly tea sets have declined in popularity.
Other changes in life style have also had influence; today’s women are less likely to want to be at home polishing and dusting and perhaps are more likely to work outside the home, so accordingly we have the ‘Ikea’ generation, jealously guarding their leisure by having houses that are easy to clean, less clutter and fewer ornaments.
Sadly England is not alone in losing potteries. Across the channel in France the big faienceries have also suffered: production in Desvres has all but disappeared; only smaller independent artisans remain. Malicorne too has lost one of its faienceries, and in Quimper it is strongly rumoured that HB Henriot is for sale once more, having already shed skilled workers and cut hours…so what will become of the pottery industry? How will future collectors view the first decade of the century? Have the best days of artistry in pottery gone? Where should we look for treasures of the future?

Fortunately in Quimper smaller artisans thrive, we have artists such as
Philippe Lalys, http://www.lalysquimper.com/ )
Olivier Lapique,
Valerie Le Roux, (http://www.valerieleroux.com/)
Marie Toulhoat
and the Taburets so we are already spoilt for choice.
In addition France is beginning to encourage small enterprises in a way it has not before, recently a new regime was introduced: that of auto-entrepreneurs. The French government may have been surprised to have been inundated with applications to register! The mood in France is more encouraging to small business than ever before when stringent rules and regulations as well as the dreaded ‘cotisations’ could discourage all but the bravest.
So……next time you have a shelf with a gap that needs filling, blank walls that simply need pottery to decorate them, or even a gift to buy, please think about current French faience production and smaller artisans – future generations may thank you in years to come.

PS. Some of you may know that for the past eight years I have been a member of an online forum for British people who are moving to France, have a ‘maison secondaire’ or even just holiday in France. One of my fellow contributors to the forum is Tim Hayward who lives in the Vendee
Like many older French properties Tim’s home has outbuildings and while ‘exploring’ one of these he found a pile of magazines ‘La Femme Chez Elle’ dating from around 1911. He has been kind enough to scan the front covers of the magazines and allow me to reproduce the images here through April.
Sadly there are no images of Breton ladies or advertisements for Quimper Pottery – I have already asked!
If you would like to read Tim’s view of life in France his blog is here: http://woolybanana.blogspot.com/
I’ll be listing other blogs at a later date.

This month's guest blogger: Gay Smith.Happy April Fools Day !

First of all thanks go to Tricia for such interesting posts through March. You have whetted my appetite.
For those who may not know I live in England, in the Thames Valley, to the west of London. I should really go to Paris more often, especially now we can do the whole journey by train in just a couple of hours.

Happy Poisson d’Avril or April Fish!

I believe we mentioned this custom in a Quimper Club update last year but just in case you have forgotten : Until the 16th century, France celebrated the New Year as we do today, but they celebrated on April 1st. Pope Gregory changed the calendar to it’s current form in 1562. Hence forth the New Year began on January 1st. Many people either didn't know or ignored the new calendar, and they kept celebrating on April 1st. Other people called them April fools and played tricks on them.

In France children delight in making paper fish and sticking them to people’s backs - when the victim discovers the jest the cry ‘Poisson d’Avril’ goes out!
In the UK we are only allowed to play tricks up until mid day or the joke is on the perpetrator. One notable exception to this was the year that a very serious BBC current affairs program filmed a piece showing the cultivation of spaghetti in Switzerland – on bushes!!!!
Do enjoy the joke: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyUvNnmFtgI in the more innocent 50’s many people ‘fell’ for this and remained convinced it was true years afterward……..

Monday, 30 March 2009

Paris in the Spring

Well, I've just spent the last hour writing a post that vanished in thin air. So much for the autosave feature. A warning to other guest bloggers: if you are previewing your post, do NOT hit the back button as this erases your draft.
so where was I...

I arrived in Paris on March 21st with my mother, sister, and 13 month old nephew in tow. None of them had ever been to Paris before and I was finally able to convince my mother to get on a plane that crossed over the ocean.
My sister's college roommate is from Montpelier in the south and now lives in Paris with her family. TaTa Trisha (french familiar form of aunt) was a bit naive regarding the complexities of traveling with an infant but all in all we had a great time.
Though the calendar indicated it was spring, no one told the weather as it has been cold and blustery. Paris is still waiting for March to go out like a lamb.
My mother enjoyed tea at Laduree and the lovely breakfst pastries and little Ethan enjoyed the playground at the Luxembourg gardens all bundled up against the cold. I enjoyed having my family finally get to see the city I love so much.
As for faience, Paris really is not the best place to shop but lets be honest, we come to Paris for the food and the fashion.
The Puces des Paris are located at opposite ends of the city and occur every weekend. The Puces St. Ouen are actually just outside Paris proper in the north and are made up of a number of permanent markets.
Most of the faience is found at the Marche Paul Bert/Serpette and the Marche Vernaison. There is a great little cafe in the outside poriton of Paul Bert that serves a wonderful hot chocolate with a generous bowl of whipped cream a la Angelina's without the price and the wait. It is a great consolation if you don't find any Quimper and a little celebration if you do.
Most of what you will find though is Malicorne and Desvres, some HR and the occasional piece of HB and Porquier Beau. Much of the Quimper is of recent vintage and just not that attractive or attractively priced.
At the opposite end of the city is the weekend puce set up on the sidewalks outside of the Porte de Vanves metro station. Here again you will find mostly Desvres and Malicorne with lots of other really fun things for your house.
This weekend, I found a set of 8 cute animal knife rests from Geo Martel and Fourmaintroux Corquin, some unmarked Malicorne plates, and a large panier form Fourmaintroux Freres. I also saw a painting with a large Quimper pitcher on the breakfast table and other Breton things.
From there, it was off to the Square de Batignolles in the 17th arr. for a week-long fair that is held annually. These are the types of fairs I like the most in Paris as the quality of the dealers is usually quite good and they have the best fair food I've ever encountered. One of the best is the twice yearly Brocante and Foire de Jambon held at Chatou just outside of Paris. This is one Ben loves to go too as he gets to gnaw on some gigantic piece of pork while I shop.
Le Chineur magazine has a small cover article this month on Quimper and is a good source for the brocante calendar.
are other good sources for brocantes and such all over France.
If you love Paris, macaroons, and pastries in general, Carol Gillot's blog "Paris Breakfasts" is a lot of fun. She is a watercolor artist who paints out her obsession with Paris and pastries.
A bientot

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

A little secret crush...

Many thanks to all of you for your sweet comments regarding my last post. I plan to be in Dallas with bells on and hopefully Ben in tow! The little tidbits I've heard about the collections we will be visiting have me drooling and I can't wait to see all of the other wonderful QCI members again.

I told you all a little bit about why I like Quimper faience in my last post. The more that I learn about Bretagne, the more I appreciate how well the faience captures that spirit and Breton personality. The way that the faienceries kept current with the modes of the time and also recognized the best artists that Bretagne had to offer in all mediums really impresses me. To think that they recognized the best sculptors and painters of the time and asked them to create new faience works really says a lot about the craft. Its just not something that you see on British transferware for example. And the pieces by the Porquier-Beau faiencerie are really outstanding, a class unto themselves.

But yet, despite all of that, I must admit that it is really the Malicorne pieces that get my heart aflutter. Now the purists will say that is scandalous, "They're forgeries after all!" and the more forgiving will call them copies but I think that one hundred years on we can appreciate them for their own artistic place in the world of French faience. And the bit of legal history between Porquier-Beau and Pouplard-Beatrix just makes them all the more interesting. There just is something about the deep red clay, crackled glaze and intense, matte colors that really speaks to me. Somehow they seem more handcrafted, more organic than their more perfect upmarket cousins. My absolutely favorite stop at the 2007 QCI meeting was the collection that Alain Champion had arranged for us to see. It was the cutest fairy tale home filled with some of the best Malicorne I have ever seen. If like me, you have a little sweet spot for Malicorne, you will certainly enjoy Alain's book "Leon Pouplard, faiencier a Malicorne" and a must see is the Malicorne museum in the town of the same name.

My favorite piece is a plate that I bought in the South of France of all places, from a dealer who didn't quite know where the "tres belle" piece came from. The center of the plate is of a couple possibly in the beginning stages of a courtship. He is holding her hand and gazing into her eyes, she is nervously twirling the tie on her apron. You wonder what she is thinking. Should I really let him hold my hand? Is he being sincere or is he just too suave? It seems as if she will blush at any moment. Or is he proposing and her heart is pounding with nervousness? I admit, it was a piece that I truly hope wouldn't sell as I coveted it for my own collection. Was it the most valuable piece I had, no, but it spoke to me. Really, isn't that the true essence of collecting?

Another thing that I love about faience in general is the various forms that it comes in. No settling for the flat surface of a plate for the French. Several years ago, I purchased a sweet little Malicorne quintal vase from Judy Datesman that I hold ready for the season's first camellias. On the walls of our living room, we have a collection of PBx plates with Breton figures and the lovely leaf and acorn border. I enjoy comparing the figures to the engravings by Lalaisse trying to decide where they would have resided in Bretagne. On our little writing desk, there is a beautiful double scallop shell server with a leaf handle from Formaintroux Freres in Desvres along with a recent Quimper lamp and inkwell (though my decorator would die if she knew I was showing you my temporary tiebacks on the drapes). Faience will fit into any decor, even the most modern depending on the artist and era which you choose. Don't be afraid to mix things up a bit. If you love it, use it!

So what is your favorite piece? the one you secretly love the most? How do you display your collection or use it in your everyday life?
A bientot,

Friday, 6 March 2009

At home, with lights, finally...

Bonjour all. Many thanks for your patience as I muddled through the snow and lack of power. The car was extracted from under the tree on Monday afternoon and the lights finally came on Tuesday morning, giving me just enough time to do a quick load of laundry in order to pack my suitcase for a business trip to Nashville. I'm finally on-line and at home and looking forward to my turn as guest blogger for the QCI.

For those of you whom I haven't had the pleasure of meeting, my name is Trisha Johnson. Maggie asked me to put together a few things about myself so here we go:

My husband Ben and I are bonafide Francophiles and I get a bit antsy if I don't have my next trip to France already planned. French films, French cuisine, French faience, French everything! I am also a complete foodie who lives to eat, loves to shop for food, read about food, cook, the whole nine yards. I've never set foot in the Louvre after all these years but I can tell you the best food spots in just about every quartier in Paris. One of my favorite French films has to be the documentary "Etre et Avoir." The children in the film are so sweet and innocent and they have as much trouble conjugating French verbs as I do! My most recently read book about France is "Suite Francaise." The novel captured so well the chaos of war-time France and how people's base desires drive their behavior. The author really captures the internal conflict that the French were going through as the war began. Though the theme sounds quite heavy the book is really a fun read.

I love French faience because it captures the essence of a region so very well. Quimper faïence in particular captures the very nature of the Breton people and records village life in such a lovely way. Every piece has its own story not only of who made the piece but also of the people and culture depicted on the piece. My first Quimper purchase was from the HB Henriot store in Alexandria and it was a banette tray in the Ajoncs decor for my husband to commemorate our first anniversary of meeting (we had not yet married). That Christmas, my mother purchased the matching teapot for Ben and commented that she never imagined she would have a son-in-law who would want a teapot! From there I discovered the antique faience and it was love at first site. At first, the only thing I had access to was antique Desvres faience and since it fit so well with the Provencal decor of our home, I began to buy it regularly. I joined the QCI in 2006 when I began dealing in antique French faience part-time as a respite from being a poultry veterinarian. Though I was quite surprised to hear a very ill chicken at the Annual QCI dinner in Philadelphia last year, only to turn around and find out that it was really Susan Cox! She does quite a fabulous chicken imitation. BE sure to ask her about it the next time you see her...

I must say that I was quite nervous that first club meeting. For some unknown reason, I was afraid that everyone would be pretentious and that they would look at me as some young upstart posing as an antique dealer. Well, for those of you who have never had the pleasure of attending a club meeting, I can assure you that my fears were the farthest thing from the truth! What we found was a warm, witty group of women who embraced us like old friends. And even the husbands were having a great time rather than looking as if they had been drug along against their will. My lovely but introverted husband even had a grand time and was joking with the group by the end of the trip. So if you haven't decided about Dallas, sign right up! Rest assured that you won't find a warmer welcome anywhere and newcomers are embraced.

So what are my plans for this month on the QCI blog? I thought we might chat about decorating with faience and how to enjoy the Quimper that you own. Since I am headed to Paris on March 20, I also thought it might be fun to spend some time talking about where to hunt for faience in Paris then a few posts celebrating that wonderful and beautiful city that Paris is. My mom, sister, and nephew are going with me this time so it will be fun to see Paris through their eyes as well. I might even throw in some things about my favorite places in Brittany. Write a note in the comment section and tell me what you would like to read about this month.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Sunday, 1 March 2009

March Guest Blogger, Trisha Johnson.

Well, our guest blogger for March and newest member of the QCI web committee is snowed in at home after the worst snowstorm to hit the State of Georgia in 30 years dumped 9 inches of heavy wet snow in just 3 hours Sunday afternoon.
Trisha was in the middle of hosting a baby shower for friends when the snow arrived but ended the day with a slumber party instead!
The power went off around 4.30 pm and as of Monday morning had not been reconnected.
Trisha hopes to be on the blog within 24 hours and I'm sure will have a great story to tell us all.