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Richard Esteban

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Richard Esteban is a pretty big deal… at least in the ceramic world of Southern France. He became an apprentice at the age of 16, throwing pottery at Foucard-Jourdan, a traditional workshop in the famous ceramic town of Vallauris. He says the two old ladies who owned the workshop would walk around inspecting the work of the potters. If someone made a mistake on the wheel, the women would use their canes to crush the work, forcing the potter to begin again. Richard quickly learned precision on the wheel, but also developed an appreciation for the charm of slight imperfections!

Next Richard became an apprentice in Cliousclat Sourdive with Philippe, one of the few potters at the time to maintain the tradition of glazed pottery. It was there that he learned about using rich mineral-based glazes and firing in a wood oven, developing his uniquely whimsical style of decorating ceramics.

Inspired by both his teachers and visits to regional museums, Richard Esteban opened his own workshop in his home in the small town of Aigues-Vives. He continues to do everything the old way — using the rich red clay of Provence, he throws each piece by hand, dries them in the sun and fires them in an antique kiln.

While his work is definitely influenced by tradition, it is infused with a lighthearted and spirited charm that is totally unique to Richard Esteban. His beautiful workshop and storeroom is packed full of colorful works of art, along with about ten bird cages full of chirping songbirds. Every corner of his home, garden, and workshop is inviting, with the rich colors of red earth, lush plants, and warm pottery glazes. Needless to say, I consider it pottery heaven!

The first day that I came to Aigues-Vives, I was immediately invited to join Richard and his wife Sylvie for a hearty lunch of rabbit, potatoes, and the town’s red wine. Richard then gave me the grand tour and introducing me to his two employees: Arnaud, who works at the potter’s wheel (pictured here goofing around with a recently thrown bowl), and Katia, who manages the store-room and does some of the intricate design work.

I believe Richard’s kindness and enjoyment of life is infused into his work. Each bowl, pitcher, and platter is a one of a kind expression of Richard and his team — you can literally see and feel the love that they put into each piece.

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