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Richard Esteban: A French Ceramics Superstar

Richard Esteban is not only a fabulous ceramic artist; he’s also known throughout the small town where he lives as a kind, warm-hearted, and generous father, neighbor, and to top it all off, a great cook! His playful ceramics capture this spirit and have thus extended his fame beyond the locals in Aigues-Vives, making Richard Esteban a big deal in the larger world of French ceramics.

An apprentice at age 16, Richard learned to throw on a potter’s wheel at Foucard-Jourdan in Vallauris, the last traditional ceramic producer in a town famous for its ceramics. Perhaps his precision can be traced back to this time, as the owners would walk around to inspect the potters’ work. If they saw any mistakes, the work being done would be crushed by their walking sticks as they passed by.

Richard’s next step was apprenticing with Philippe Sourdive at Cliousclat Sourdive. Working so closely with one of the few potters maintaining the tradition of glazed pottery, Richard learned about glazes and firing in a wood oven. He also developed his unique, whimsical style that is the hallmark of his ceramics.

In 1979, Richard struck off on his own and la Poterie d’Aigues-Vives was born. Influenced by both his apprenticeships and his walks through regional museums, the studio is a harmonious blend of tradition and innovation. Richard’s method stays true to the old ways of Provencial pottery: from the rich red local clay to hand-throwing every piece to firing in an antique kiln. His workshop is small, but the work is painstaking and simply stunning.

Richard Esteban’s work definitely draws on influences from all over France, both in form and designs. In 2000 he even opened a museum to display his massive collection of glazed French pottery from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. He is certainly not a “copyist” though. Many of Richard’s original designs and pieces have garnered both national and international attention. If you read French, you should enjoy looking at the extensive press section on his website.

Obviously I’m a huge fan of Richard Esteban and his work. His playful polka dots, fantastic hanging lanterns, whimsical animal designs, and rustic glazes are just a few of the reasons I am so attracted to French pottery in general.