CERAMICS

Astier de Villatte

CERAMICS

Astier de Villatte has been making handmade ceramics in Paris since 1996

Astier de Villatte has been making handmade ceramics in Paris since 1996, following in the tradition of the great 18th century Parisian ceramic studios.
The most famous Parisian manufacturer, Pont-aux-Choux, produced thousands of ceramic pieces between 1743 and 1788, right in the heart of the Latin Quarter. Other ceramic studios subsequently prospered in the Paris region, notably the Creil and Montereau studios in the 19th century, and the pottery makers of Choisy-le-Roi, whose workshops closed in 1938. Successor to these famous manufacturers, Astier de Villatte is now the one and only major studio to keep the tradition of artisanal ceramic production in Paris alive. 

The Astier de Villatte designers draw inspiration from the history of decorative arts, folk art, and abandoned objects found in skips. They long to create new and original pieces that appear to have always existed: imaginary witnesses to a Paris of dreams. Artisanal production gives each ceramic object a unique aspect. Handcrafted and left to dry naturally, each piece differs from the rest. The white enamel unpredictably exposes bits of brown clay, and the occasional bumps, indentations, transparencies and small holes are considered qualities that breathe life and authenticity into each unique ceramic piece.

The production process has been developed by the Astier de Villatte creative team, updating ancestral systems of moulding and stamping that had fallen into disuse. The technique, primarily used in sculpture, was passed on to the designers by their professors at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. Each ceramic piece is handcrafted from a sheet of clay that is placed onto a mould. The clay is sourced from quarries in the Paris basin. Even the clay sheet is handmade, which is especially rare as most artisans prefer to use a slab rolling machine.

Once removed from the moulds, the different elements making up a cup (for example) are then put together and shaped by hand before being fired for the first time.
The terra cotta piece thus obtained, known as biscuit, is enamelled using a technique specific to Astier de Villatte and then fired for a second time. The enamel contains no lead or cadmium in accordance with European legislation.

The production process is very intricate and time consuming. Each artisan is specialised in the manufacture of certain pieces, and makes them from start to finish. The only requirement is to make a beautiful object, and so the production time is consequently rather lengthy. Drying times also must be respected between the various stages of the process. It therefore takes about two weeks to make a cup. Each piece is engraved with the brand signature, an interlacing A and V, as well as the initials of the artisan who made it. 

Designers of furniture, tableware and ceramic objects for the home, as well as scented products, Ivan Pericoli and Benoît Astier de Villatte founded their company in 1996. Without knowing anything about tableware, they started the little company with a group of siblings from the Astier de Villatte family and friends from the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. Together they imagined and made ‘objects of dreams’: furniture inspired by bits and bobs found on the pavement at night, by items unearthed at Emmaüs charity shops, the Vanves flea market and thrift stores. Adapting the sculpting techniques they had learned at the École des Beaux Arts, they had fun creating everyday ceramic objects to decorate the table and home. The result was entirely original and exhilarating. The first collections were concocted with the Astier de Villatte family, in the parental home of Alexandre and Benoît Astier de Villatte. Before long, they moved to a basement studio in avenue Daumesnil. Ideas burgeoned, creative talents collided (sometimes fiercely), but the adventure had begun. They set up their first stand at the ‘Maison et Objet’ show in September 1996 and it was a mad, souk-like event. Orders flocked in from all over the world. Thereafter, Astier de Villatte pieces were sold directly from the studio and in a few ultra-Parisian stores.

Little by little, the group disbanded. From then on, Ivan Pericoli and Benoît Astier de Villatte were to steer the company’s destiny. With no advertising strategy, its reputation was built by word of mouth.
In 2000, they finally came across the shop of their dreams on the rue Saint-Honoré, close to the Palais Royal and the Louvre museum. Immediately afterwards, they left the constrictively small Daumesnil studio and moved to an enormous production space with natural light on boulevard Masséna in Paris. There, they could manage all the orders flowing in. No question of leaving the city or moving toofar from the boutique. At the time, there were about twenty artisans to work on client orders coming in from across the globe, under the leadership of furniture maker, Alexandre. Ivan Pericoli and Benoît Astier de Villatte then enlisted two associates and friends: stylist- designer, Emilie Mazeaud; and webmaster William Simon, who was to develop the website to reflect their style.

Then, in 2008, the novelty scented dishwashing liquid (made for fun and sold in the thousands) propelled them into the magical world of scented products. In collaboration with their associate, Emilie Mazeaud, and Françoise Caron, star perfumer at the Japanese fragrance company Takasago, they launched their Eaux de Cologne, hand care products and the first collection of scented candles, which took on the enchanting theme of an olfactory journey around the world. 

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