“ We are more genuine today because the trade has changed, and the customer relationship too. Before, one used to become a potter in the pure tradition, making a production of small series in the culinary and the utilitarian tools: coffee cups, pots and glasses of orangeade. It was a real know-how and the result of a real demand with special gifts for all types of events: lunch at the grandmother’s, the wedding of a neighbor or the concierge presents. Today, all customers without exception, want a customized piece, adapted to their needs and personal tastes. They have also become very demanding, willing to pay the price for a piece that pleases them, and it is often a pleasure purchase for oneself or to offer. We are therefore in the tailor-made and co-creation of unique pieces, or at least in small series. The relationship has therefore become more artistic and emotional; This is why we must be true and authentic.
This trade change has consequences on the local economy. There were 130 factories in Vallauris when I started. Today, the city model and the profession are threatened. The craft of ceramist persists but the difficulty is to make itself known and to work beyond the general scope. Creation is the solution and for that, we have to master the craft, much more than in the past. Collaboration with designers is successful because they are constantly on the lookout for trends and new ideas. The profession becomes much more elaborate and exciting for those who are inventive, and give their best in each new project. This is what I like most and the best example was my work with the pyramids of the ages. I did not know if I could do it, but I was the only one who took the challenge; And I had to face all kind of technical difficulties during 5 months, finding solutions with my experience. In the end, it was amazing pieces that summarized all the know-how of a career and a trade. I still have the first piece, the pyramid of Japan, which came out broken from the oven at the time of cooling and I show it as an example to my students.
My view of the consumer society remains optimistic because, although most customers are looking for convenience, there is still a clientele who places value on high-quality products. It is true that there is a loss of value in relation to objects. Many young people no longer attach importance to set the table with their grandmother’s good china for example that they will keep all their lives after their marriage. This tradition is replaced by pleasure in immediacy. But there is also a reversal and I am convinced that great work, like a beautiful jewel, will always find takers. Perhaps this is due to the current economic situation. A unique piece has an invaluable emotional value and will keep it a lifetime. That is why I believe that the world will increasingly invest in authenticity. I made a present recently for a movie actor in the United States. I turned to him a dish that is related to his trade and customized, written on his name and a sentence of Cocteau.
If I am genuine, it is because of my profession. I can’t tell so many hours I have spent here in my craftwork and to make grow this passion, I had to disregard many things to keep only the best and the essential. So today, I feel closer to human value, respect for the person and the relationship, than to appearances and role plays. The clay does not lie. It educates to the humility. I can even say that it teaches you how to lower yourself, regardless of your success and at all stages of a career. All the masters of ceramics claim that and one always has a pinch to the heart when opening its furnace to discover the surprise, good or bad. Even knowing all the parameters perfectly, the clay will always surprise us. And yet we do the same gesture, the same dosage but just an air bubble for example and we have to take it all back.
It is important to recognize the ceramist’s work, especially when it is done with four hands. To me it sounds incredible that all this hard work remains in the shadow, and one forgets to quote the artisan who realized it. This recognition is fundamental, because he chose to serve a project rather than devoting his time to his personal creation. Being respected and recognized will permit tthis type of collaboration to continue and to become an amazing experience, full of success.
My concern today is to convey this know-how and give meaning to all this work. For young passionate people, it is crucial to find a good master of learning, who will believe in their potential and reveal their handmade gift that unfolds in this trade! But I encourage my students to always find the right balance. It is not necessary to do it in big steps and to burn the crucial stages of learning. One must persevere, start again and work hard. And once they acquire the technique in their fingers, they can listen to their desires and express themselves through this art. So, perseverance and passion educate our hands which will become the greatest work tool and will bring a permanent pleasure.
In conclusion, one becomes authentic by producing one-off individual pieces which tell what life is all about, who is the person who makes them and talks about those to whom it is intended. By a trick … of magic! ”
Interview held by Carine Mouradian on July 22, 2017, at Vallauris (Provence Côte d’Azur)