It has been 4 years since I happened upon Sylvie Duriez and her artwork at a pottery market in Marseille, France. I remember her as being quiet, tentative to use her little English to communicate with me, and completely modest about the beautifully-painted plates, bowls, and pitchers that I was gushing over. Since then I have emailed and called her a few times a year and visited her twice. While there now exists a nice familiarity between us, Sylvie remains the same shy Frenchwoman and humble artist I met in Marseille.
My good friend Jessica came with me to France this year to act as my French translator. We arranged to visit Sylvie in her atelier in Pertuis, a small town about 15 minutes outside of Aix-en-Provence. It took Sylvie a few minutes to get to the door as she was busy unloading the kiln in the backyard. As Jessica and I began looking around, Sylvie brought in brand new bowls that were still hot to the touch. “Fresh out of the oven” I said and Sylvie laughed shyly, repeating the words in English as she acknowledged that she understood their meaning.
Sylvie had cleared off the same table for me that I had so easily filled with pieces last year when I visited. I spent a few minutes just soaking up the subtle beauty of her work, then decided I needed to dive in and start choosing what to buy. I was smiling ear to ear as I began picking pieces — reminded immediately that this is the best part of my job!
As those of you Sylvie-aficionados know, each one of her pieces is a complete original. She personally hand-throws each bowl, plate, and pitcher, allows it to dry and then fires it. After dipping the piece in a base glaze, she uses a needle-like tool to sketch out an original drawing with women, flowers, birds, cats, rabbits and/or dogs. Sylvie then fills in the sketch with color and fires the piece a final time. Her characters are simply drawn, but full of personality, expressing sentiments of thoughtfulness, loneliness, relaxation and playfulness. As a friend once described them, “Sylvie’s subjects are not historic or monumental, but speak to the everyday and often fleeting moments to which we can all relate.”
I can happily report that Sylvie fans will not be disappointed with the new collection! Sylvie has added to her work a whiter base glaze (the old one has a more rustic, yellow hue to it) that really makes her watercolor-like paintings stand out. I was especially drawn to her new pieces depicting floral bouquets (my favorites are those with iris), fields of wildflowers, and birds happily playing in the branches of flowering fruit trees. In fact, I would describe the new collection as having a more nature-based theme. Don’t get me wrong, I am always a sucker for the languid French women reclining against a tree or in a cozy armchair. But Sylvie’s new pieces have a more earthy quality to them which I love. I feel pretty confident that you’ll love them too!
Check back tomorrow… Jessica and I are headed to the Riviera to visit the famous French workshop Poterie Ravel. I fell in love with their soft glazes and beautifully-crafted pitchers and platters on my first visit to Southern France 4 years ago. I am hoping to add some of these oh-so-French pieces to the Emilia Ceramics Collection.