Posted on

Aigues-Vives

I could not have planned my late arrival better.  I had of course gotten myself quite lost a few times on the drive from Arles to Aigues-Vives, so I showed up a little frazzled and very hungry.  Richard and Sylvie Esteban had just sat down to lunch and I was immediately given a handmade plate from his collection, a large serving of rabbit and potatoes, as well as a glass of the town’s red wine.  I felt better immediately.  After the hearty lunch, a cafe and some amazing roquefort cheese (I mean, melt in your mouth and just strong enough), Richard announced it was time for us to go to work.  He led me through the various rooms and buildings of his combination home/workshop and introduced me to the two people he employs.

Below is Cristophe, who works the wheel with a smile, and Katia, who manages the store-room and does some of the intricate design work.

Richard himself does it all.  He started working with pottery when he was 16 years old.  As he explains it, he was planning to be a race car driver, but decided to get a summer job to earn some money in the meantime.  He worked at one of the famous (and no longer existent) a’teliers in Vallauris, where he learned the traditional way of throwing, firing, and glazing ceramics.  Two old women owned the a’telier and they would hobble around on their canes, inspecting the work.  If they saw an imperfection on the wheel, they would smash it with their cane, forcing the artist to start over.  It’s no wonder he decided to start his own business a few years later!   Here’s Richard showing off his work:

I cannot wait to get the pieces I chose home to San Francisco and share them with everyone.  They are incredible: each bowl, plate, and vase has so much personality.  They’re one of a kind expressions of Richard and his team and you can literally see and feel the love that they put into each piece.

Below is one of the tables I filled with pieces for the Emilia Ceramics collection.  It took me all day to make my selections… talk about a hard day of work : ).  Richard stopped working around 7pm, when he brought Katia and I a bottle of wine to celebrate the end of the day.  Pretty soon Cristophe and Sylvie joined us and we toasted to beautiful pottery and our new friendship.

When all the work for the day was finished, we went inside, where Richard (unbeknownst to me) had already begun roasting a chicken over his kitchen fire.  Add cooking to one of his artistic talents!  We enjoyed a great dinner (and more wine) with his three children, who hesitantly practiced their English and laughed at my attempts to speak French.
This will forever be one of my favorite days in this adventure we call Emilia Ceramics!  Thanks for reading!!
Oh and for those of you anxiously waiting to hear about Sylvie Duriez, I will be visiting her home and workshop today.  I’ll keep you posted!