Friday, December 9, 2011
Wondering how they make the famous blue porcelain of Sévres? Join me for a behind-the-scenes tour of the factory.
After jotting down lots of facts during my visit to Sévres - Cité de la Céramique, the one that remains foremost in my mind is that the factory, which rose to pre-eminence under the patronage of King Louis XV and madame de Pompadour, supplies all of the French Embassies and Consulates with their distinctive porcelain. So, if you clumsily break a bread plate while dining with Mme L'Ambassadeur Bermann in Beijing, no problem. Someone on her staff will contact the porcelain factory in Sévres, where their extensive library contains records of all of the different patterns, and they will produce a new one. While all of the pieces are handcrafted, those with a blue background, painting and gilding require more time because they are fired at least eight times, at both high and low temperatures.
Want to know more? Then join me on this photo tour of the workshops. Please click on any of the pictures that you would like to enlarge.
Each of the 130 state ceramicists are trained for three years at an in-house training center.
25% of porcelain production is for the major government complexes (Elysée Palace, Hôtel Matignon, etc.).
When asked if his work dries his hands, this ceramicist said that it's the water that does the damage. He reminded us that clay is used for facial masques, etc. and is good for the skin.
If you look closely, you'll see a porcelain statue next to the kiln. Most unexpectedly, there were many such pieces to be seen throughout the factory.
Marks on Sévres porcelain indicate when the piece has been shaped and decorated, the kind of paste and the workers. Signatures of contemporary artists also appear.
Wondering about the price of the bread plate that you broke in Beijing? A mere 210 Euros. If you would like to start your own collection, porcelain may be purchased at the boutique in Sévres or in Paris at 4, place Andre-Malraux, 75001 Paris.
The Sévres - Cité de la Céramique compound houses the factory and the National Porcelain Museum, which I plan to visit another time. Many thanks to Véronique Kurtz, the Art History Director of WICE, for organizing the tour of the workshops. As always, it was excellent!
Sévres - Cité de la Céramique
2 Place de la Manufacture
Metro: Pont de Sévres on Line 9 or T2 Musée de Sévres