A morning visit to Aurelie Dorard’s studio
In the heart of creativity
PHOTOGRAPHER: JUDITH VIBERT-GUIGUE
2016 already sounds exciting and full of rich and fun adventures for nous.
Today we have an appointment in the outskirts of Paris with Aurelie Dorard in her lovely workshop. At the very moment we enter her house, we are immersed in her universe and time suddenly stops. We feel somewhere else, in some undefined place where creativity and artisanal work are at the hear of every thing. Time literally flies during our two hours visit. With a sincere permanent smile and passionate sparkling eyes, Aurelie answers our questions while finishing on-going pieces and guiding Andrea who assists her in the workshop.
How did you get to ceramics ? Would you tell us your story ?
I’ve always been a handy person. First I wanted to work in animation, make scenography and interior designs for movies. After my studies I immediately found a job in a big agency, quite randomly actually. It was a lot of fun but after some years I felt I had driften too much away from my first desires as a student and I was all day long on a computer ! Then another life began, as I had a book shop specialized in graphic design, for 8 years !
We had three spaces, many employees. It was a great adventure. I did that with my boyfriend, then he started up an agency that started doing really well. I had to deal on my own with all the issues a company can have : management, employee turnover, logistics… It was crazy ! We were young and had two kids and we would never stop working. We were passionnate. Then I started feeling I wanted to get back to something much more creative and to work with my hands again and be in a workshop.
Had you worked in ceramics before ?
While we had the book stores, I started taking ceramics evening classes for several years. When I could take a week holiday, I attended a workshop. I immediately loved this discipline and it became my life project.
We stopped the book stores business, I worked part time selecting books for big agencies and aside I could get a full time training in pottery and ceramics making.
We had moved in this house so I knew I could have a workshop at home and it was a great thing. But I would have become a ceramist and made it a living anyway. I knew it. After that, I had to find how.
I started giving classes in a kids association. It is very interesting but it is very different from creating. It’s another relation to the earth. Time stops you really are here in the present time, sharing the moment of creativity.
So you decided to start up your own company, your brand, making functional potery ?
Yes I really like this idea to make something utilitarian. It’s what I wanted to do. I started making my own tableware and I enjoyed it. I think it’s great to have handcrafted objects around you every day, objects with a story. I find that magic actually.
I make functional pieces but they are still unique. I put a lof of myself and emotion in what I do. Sometimes I even don’t want to let them leave the workshop to be sold !
The magic of Instagram makes it easier now,because I can capture my pieces right before they go away, and later on I see them live in other peoples’ place. I love it ! I think it’s amazing. It is a true reward to see my pieces in other peoples’ home. To see that they are there, that they are useful.
“There is something new in ceramics nowadays. People want to have things that are handmade. They want small productions, limited series. We also care more and more about the origin of what is in our plates and by extension of where our plates come from. The desire for handmade objects is very strong nowadays I believe.”
“To have nice plates and dishes plays an important role I think. It makes you hungrier ! And enjoy more what you have in your plate. It is about coming back to things more essential, rather than mass consumption. It is a kind of an antidote against the virtual era. It’s reassuring because it’s there and stays there. Ceramics go through time.”
How would you define your work? Your style? How did it come to you?
My style came naturally. I get inspired by a lot of things and I believe that my pieces resemble me. It can be divided in different parts. I started with ill ustrative and figurative things, things that tell stories. And the more I’d discover the material, the earth, the more I would go towards simple things, where contrast and texture can reveal things about the earth, where you can actually feel it with your hands. I try to create things that free an emotion and magical feelings.
I create delicate and dreamlike things. Through simple and rough contrasts in the materials, the pieces tell a story without being necessarily figurative.
I like that we feel the marks of hands, that we feel it is handmade. I think this is what defines best what I do.
Could you tell us the story of your pieces?
Sure ! So Calypso for instance, was born with the idea of the rough sandstone material meeting the glossy glaze. My first inspiration is nature. Always. Here it is the earth meeting water, stones and the shine of a river. It started like that.
And how does it start? Where does inspiration come from?
It’s a tough question! I don’t know really. I draw a lot. And sometimes you just think things over and over and suddenly you wake up a morning and you know what you’re going to do. It is a solitary job so you spend a lot of time together with you self, thinking while making pieces. And then I know my materials, I have a canvas, I know what I like and then I try to see what these materials evoque to me, how they make me feel, how I can mix them together or create a shape that will evoque this or that. Here I found amusing imagining the sky with the earth. The clouds with the earth. And the night falling over the earth.
With the Polen it was different. I wanted to do something different, something that didn’t really exist as such. You can always make new shapes, new glazes and colors. Here it’s different. I wanted to have this rough powder and contrast it with the shine and whiteness of porcelain. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, what I had to find was how to do it. So I did a lot of research and tests and I have to say I’m very happy with the result. It’s quite unique. It’s not dripping, it’s something else. I could almost do just that. There are ceramicists who do the same pieces (or variations of them) their whole lives. It is very interesting because you push the limits of one technique.
Maybe in ten years I’ll choose to use just one mud and to explore one process. Earthenware is a discipline that pushes you towards that. Exploring and go to the end of things. Because there are no limits in earthenware, you can imagine everything, that’s what I find very exciting. Some people just work with sandstone or porcelain. I love them both, I couldn’t choose between the two. They both have extraordinary complementary and reveal things very different but as beautiful.
To get back to the Polen, I can’t tell you exactly how I do them, it’s a secret ! But I lay oxyde powder on the pieces and then what I love it that the result is completely random. When I make a piece and open the kiln there will always be the surprise of discoveringg how the blues and yellows are positioned. It is something I can’t control and I find this random characteristic really fascinating.
“You are never done with ceramics. You can learn your whole life. I could keep exploring every single day.”
We feel a lot of excitement and joy in the way you describe things. Also you use the word “surprise”. Which aspect of the creative process do you enjoy most? When I open the kiln ! It’s magic ! It’s like freshly baked hot bread coming out of the oven and smelling so good. I often burn my fingers (and I believe I’m not the only ceramicist to) because I’m so impatient and eager to check the lower layers and see how things come out. It is a real surprise every time.
We feel a lot of excitement and joy in the way you describe things. Also you use the word “surprise”. Which aspect of the creative process do you enjoy most?
When I open the kiln ! It’s magic ! It’s like freshly baked hot bread coming out of the oven and smelling so good. I often burn my fingers (and I believe I’m not the only ceramicist to) because I’m so impatient and eager to check the lower layers and see how things come out. It is a real surprise every time.
What are your projects for 2016 ?
I have so many projects ! I’d like to make new pieces. Have more time to draw, do research, and create. But most importantly, to be and remain an artisan. Not just an entrepreneur. I know it is a company I’m running but I really have at heart to remain an artisan, keep my hands in the mud and make sure that it is the main thing of my every day life.