So, as you know, cooking is not my only passion. I also paint on ceramic. I started painting when I was in High School, and I never stopped, and tried different mediums, going from canvas to ceramic plates. And this summer, B & I went to the Drôme, and spent some time in a village called Dieulefit, known for its traditional potteries. In the main street, a dozen of artisans exhibit their work. We met with several and they agreed to show us around their workshop and tell us about their craft, their passion and difficulties. We’ve done three interviews, and here is the first one. Meet Véronique Roux, of Diouloufet Céramiques.
Walking inside Veronique’s shop on rue du Bourg, Dieulefit’s main street, is like entering a sanctuary. Everything is so delicate you’re afraid of breaking something if you come too close. Ceramic birds are suspended in the corridor of a medieval house, typical of the village. At the end of the hallway, are spiral stairs which we are not permitted to walk up. It is decorated with lucioles [firefly]. These are candle holders that lit the stairs with some kind of magic. And the magic doesn’t stop there, turning right, you are faced with hundred of handmade ceramics. There are turned, which means they are all unique. Véronique’s signature is a lace effect on the ceramic. Actually, it is exactly this, when the clay is still raw and just starting to dry, you can engrave it or print it with shells, lace or with whatever you can imagine. When the surface of the clay takes the appearance of leather, it is time to do your thing. But Véronique will tell you much better about her art than me.
How did you become ceramist?
V: I wanted to be a dancer. I studied in a dance school, but I found out later that I had a genetic problem, and because of my back, I had to stop. I was always an artist, I had painted on copper, fabrics and I was selling what I was doing on Parisian markets when I was 16. Maybe I had it in my blood after all!
And why did you come to Dieulefit?
V: At the time, my father tried to open a factory not far from there. He hired my boyfriend of the time, and I followed him. I left everything to come to Dieulefit.
Can you tell us a bit about your profession, your art?
V: I work on the clay when it’s already turned. When the surface starts to shine, I use tools like shells, lace and jewels to print it. Then I let it dry and dip it in white clay that is more or less dense. That’s the engobe technique.
I bake the earthenware to 980°C.
Then I paint the biscuit myself [this is how we call the ceramic after the first baking]. When it’s dry, I enamel the pottery and bake it to 1040°C.
You need to fill up the oven at every baking. You build the inside of your oven according to the pieces you’re firing. You can arrange tiers and find the right balance to distribute the heat.
You are mostly doing ceramics that are useful, but not only?
V: I am a decorator, I paint every medium. I paint on wood, coton. I recently used the technique of the tempera, a mixture of yolks and pigments.
My work is delicate, but I want it to be utilitarian as well. I don’t want people to buy pieces they are going to hide and dust in cupboards. I want people to use them.
Where do you get your inspirations?
V: Ah, from femininity, and also danse and fashion too. I look at creators working on fabrics, ready-to-wear and collages. I love lace, and colours above everything.
During Winter there are a lot less tourists, how do you sustain your activity?
V: I have a house in Spain where I go to rest, and work on unique pieces. I do busts, great jars. I work in a workshop with some friends. I spend half of the year there.
And while I am not there, my shop remains open. I employ 3 people who turn and enamel for me. But because every piece is handmade, it takes the mark of the person who makes it. It teaches me a lot about letting go.
I also have a permanent exhibition in Spain, in an old factory that draws a lot of English antique dealers. I also exhibit in Belgium or in Paris. My lovely daughter-in-law is handling my on-line activity. I have a stock in Paris and I sell on-line.
What do you have in mind for the future?
V: I want to pass on my knowledge. I dream to find a place in Paris to exhibit, and have a workshop there, and teach. My family lives in Paris, I go there often. I want to come closer to my grandchildren.
I also dream of working on china, but it is extremely fragile. I love Japanese ceramic, I want to travel.
Véronique is one of the last ceramist to work the traditional clay of Dieulefit. The honey colour is the most typical. Shapes as well, like the square plates. The name of her workshop, Diouloufet Céramiques comes from the old name for the village, in the dialect of Oc. The pieces exhibited in her shop are therefore a mix of an ancestral know-how and the work of her creativity, her intuitions about modernity. For her, ceramic is a universal language of tradition, sensitivity and creativity. I was touched by her kindness and her passion.
Find out more:
17 rue du Bourg
26220 Dieulefit, Rhone-Alpes, France
Photo Copyright : Bennett Soundy