When Emily asked me to join her for her 2011 France buying trip, I quickly said “Oui! Oui! I’ll figure out how to get the time off, I’ll find a cheap ticket, I’ll move a couple mountains, but YES, I’m coming.” (I sadly had to miss her trip last year, and spent the week painfully longing for France while reading her blog and seeing her lovely photos, and just couldn’t miss out again.
So, I knew we’d see lots of beautiful pottery, and I’d get the chance to make my French useful talking to the ceramic artists for her. I also knew there’d probably be lots of croissants in the mornings and lots of wine in the afternoons. These were all accurate assumptions. What I didn’t anticipate was how much I would adore the artists.
Patrice, who has a little pottery workshop and store right next to his home in the little town* of Gordes, was like a character from a French film. (Which admittedly sounds cliche, especially since this is how I’d describe everyone we met—expecially the old man having a smoke and beer at 10am at a cafe with a little dog on his lap.)
*Note: This little town, like many in the region (including our hotel) has no street address. The business card just shows it as a dot off tiny little highway between two towns. This made for interesting arguments with our GPS.
With a dog named “Tina Turner” who liked to lay, back down and frozen, begging to be pet on her belly, Patrice invited me into his workshop to take photos (“If you want photos, you take”) while Emily chose pieces from his shop. He explained to me how for his square shapes, he turns each plate, partially dries it, and then trims the sides to make it square rather than round (if I understood him correctly). He was patient with me as I asked questions about his work. He’s been a potter for 33 years. First near Lyon, and now here in the country. His business’s name is Herbes Follies, which means “crazy grass”, which Emily and I guessed was because his place was in a very unmanicured area. Though really, even the most unlandscaped scenes in France seem to be picture perfect. We loved smelling the lavendar in the front yard.
Next, we drove to Aigues-Vives to see Richard Esteban. Em had told me we’d be staying in his guest room, which it turns out is a guest house in a dreamy backyard just a few meters from the pottery and store. Quite the compound.
Richard, another character from a French film, or more aptly from the book A Year in Provence, was so pleased to see us. With his big grin, little round glasses, and three kisses on the cheek, I knew we’d be happy there for the next day.
Even happier to see us was Arnaud, the other potter at Richard’s shop, a young cutie with a warm welcome:
“Vous voulez du cafe?” (Do you want coffee?)
“Oui, merci. Si ce n’est pas un problem” (Yes, please. If it’s not a problem”)
“Vous avez traverser la monde pour nous voire, je peux faire du cafe.” (You traversed the world to see us, we can at least make you coffee.”
Arnaud showed us how he makes the scalloped bowl edges with his fingers. It was incredible to see him whip together several bowls on his wheel while talking to us. (Em got a video of this she’ll share later.) We also met Katia, who also works with Richard to manage the pottery shop and helps with some of the more decorative pieces. So so nice. And beautiful.
The shop was impressive. SO much beautiful pottery, so well displayed, with birds chirping in sweet cages here and there. I wandered the shop for hours helping Emily ask Richard questions and serving as a sounding board when she was deciding between colors and styles.
That evening we enjoyed an incredible meal with Richard’s family (wife and three kiddos) and Katia. The kids practiced their English. I practiced my French. It was lovely. And we ate right off the plates made just meters away. C’etait parfait.