As you know, I love one of a kind ceramics, pottery, candles and glassware particularly those from so-called carefully curated concept stores. Here’s one I’ve more recently discovered and I can honestly say I covet all of their wares!
Benoît Astier de Villatte and Ivan Pericoli met while students at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where their taste for still life clashed with the dogma of the day that declared figurative art to be dead.
Everyone was wanting to do contemporary art, and we wanted to paint and draw.
Astier De Villatte create their charming, one of a kind ceramics, pottery, candles and glassware in an antique Bastille workshop in Paris once used by Napoleon. Best known for their exquisite collections of white tableware – ceramic follies that for the most part seem teleported out of an imagined pre-industrial age, or from the decadent tables of a European aristocracy now falling into ruin.
Drawing inspiration from the history of decorative arts, folk art and abandoned objects their team of Tibetan artisan ceramicists create their charming, one-of-a kind ceramics by hand. Using traditional techniques passed down through the generations, everything in their exquisite range is totally unique. Sculpted out of black terracotta, each ceramic is then finished with a milky glaze to emphasise the character and imperfections of the clay. No two Astier de Villatte products are the same.
While the pieces are not replicas, their look is loosely informed by tastes of France’s former ruling class. In designing the ceramics, Mr. Pericoli said:
We are inspired by anything from the past, any period, starting from the Neolithic.
The pair choose to work with black terra cotta, a material more common for sculpture, rather than porcelain. In the style of ancient Romans, the clay is pressed into shapes with plaster moulds, then a bright white glaze is applied. Finished ceramics show the artists’ hand in their uneven forms and the faint glimpses of terra cotta peeking through their smooth finish.
The brand’s ceramics has grown to include all manner of tableware and other decorative pieces like pendant lamps, which are now made by some 70 artisans. While everything is meant to be used, practicality is not a guiding principle.
We like function, but No. 1 is beauty. And if it works, it works.
The white, minimalist core offerings have been supplemented with more fanciful pieces from collaborations, including with the French sculptor Serena Carone, who has made cups with handles shaped like cocktail rings; the Japanese painter and ceramist Setsuko Klossowska de Rola, who has created a teapot in the form of a pawing cat; and the American decoupage artist John Derian, who sources antique imagery and drawings that are transferred onto pieces such as those pictured above.
Building a lifestyle brand
Four years after they started their line, Mr. Pericoli and Mr. Astier de Villatte opened a flagship store on Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris. A second location in that city opened in 2016, and a third opened in Seoul. In addition, their goods are stocked globally in upmarket department and homewares stores, and in their online store.
From the outset, they wanted to stock the stores with notebooks, candles and ceramics from other makers in addition to their own pieces. The two approached a number of companies including Diptyque and Santa Maria Novella, which declined to wholesale their products. So they began to produce an Astier line of paper goods as well as dish soaps, lotions, scents, incenses and candles.
The company’s headquarters in 13th Arrondissement has also expanded to include a lab where their products are formulated.
The founders see few limits as to where the brand might go. Mr Pericoli said:
We could embrace anything — why wouldn’t we do a hotel or a bicycle tomorrow? But no matter what comes next, I think our backbone will always be ceramics.
All images courtesy of Astier De Villatte