Need some ceramic inspiration? Looking for a place to hone your skills while immersing yourself in the culture of the French countryside? Well, then I have a place for you…..

Are you looking for a place to refresh your pottery skills?  Learn more while immersing yourself in local French culture?  What about all of that while staying in beautiful accommodations in the Loire Valley?  Well, if this sounds like a good way to spend some of your summer or, if you have time during year, then I would like to introduce you to Christine Pedley, the person who can make this dream of yours come true.

I met Christine while I was attending the Third European Wood Firing Conference in La Borne, France, last August.  Christine Pedley was one of the key organizers of the weeklong event and one of a small number of local potters who helped get the new contemporary art centre built after two decades of negotiations.  As one of the longest resident ceramists in this village of potters, Pedley is an inspiring instructor who offers courses at her studio in La Borne.  And that is precisely why I am including Christine in today’s blog.  There are many places to go and learn ceramics, but it is rare to find someone whose roots go back to the studio pottery movement in Britain and who are individuals who connect to the modern movement in clay in La Borne.  For lessons, cultural tours, visits to wineries, well…I cannot recommend anyone better than Christine.

Christine Pedley studied studio pottery at the Harrow School of Art in London, England before apprenticing with David Leach in Devon.  She spent a sabbical year touring Japan in 1973-74, three and a half months of which was devoted to working with a traditional potter, Takeo Sudosan, in Mashiko.  She also studied with Jean Claude de Crouzax in Switzerland and Antoine De Vinck in Belgium.  It was the time she spent in Japan, however, that gave her a special view of the world.  She says, “My time in Japan was an eye-opener to a world with no limits, only the ones we give ourselves, and with this new inspiration my work and my life goes on moving forward from the ‘source'”.

Today, she continues to create objects for daily use out of porcelain and stoneware.  Some are lightly salted to further enhance the effects of the wood firing.  Christine’s “raison d’être” in La Borne is her strong interest in the 4-century old tradition wood firing techniques and the excellent local stoneware clay which is a pleasure to throw.  She says, “I am fortunate to feel that live in my element and connected to the abundant nature which surrounds La Borne”.

If you are looking for that special place for inspiration, look no further than Christine in La Borne.  For information on pricing of accommodation and classes, please visit Christine’s website:      Chris-pedley.eu

Use Google Translate if you French is not so good.

ExtérieurAtelierAtelierCoupe montée au colombinEnfournement, four à bois                                  images

Third European Wood Fire Conference in La Borne, France, continued

La Borne has been home to potters since, at least, the beginning of the 17th century.   The oak forests around the village were planted to provide wood to build the navy vessels for King Louis XIV’s fleet.  Today they supply the potters and their kilns and are carefully managed.  For the most part, the potters use the wood found on the floor of the forest and that from the ‘thinning’ management.  One informative talk during the conference was precisely on the history of the forest and its management, something that is not a normal topic in Manitoba because we have so little available wood in comparison.  Indeed, one of the reasons for building the new Bourry Box kiln is to be able to continue wood firing at the School but also, to conserve the amount of wood used in these firings.

The shape and type of kilns built in La Borne has evolved with economic and social changes in the country.  The early, extremely colossal kilns, often known as ‘whale kilns’, were used to fire storage jars for transporting and storing food.  In the 20th century, demands by the local farms for pottery slowly declined because of new manufactured products that served the same purpose but were cheaper to purchase.  After World War II, there was a shift in the type of work made in the village.  Up until this time, the pottery production in La Borne was entirely for domestic uses related to the storage, cooking, and serving of food and drink. After, there is the arrival of the first individuals trained in art school, many of whom worked in creating clay sculpture.  Jacqueline and Jean Lerat were two such ceramic artists.  Their son gave a superb talk about their work and the change in the type of production in La Borne at this time.

Today, the kilns in La Borne are much smaller, suitable for the production of one or two persons.  They range from the Sevres style with a  one cubic metre ware chamber that belong to Atelier Dominique Gare-Roz Herrin and the same style of kiln to Jean and Claud Guillaume.  Dominique Gare has  a six cubic metre noborigama while Svein Hjort Jensen fires a three cubic metre anagama.  Included with the Bourry Box styles and the Asian kiln types are also a number of kilns based on the designs of Fred Olsen.  Sylvie Rigal has a one cubic metre train kiln while Dominique Legros fires a 300 litre Four Dragon kiln.  At the end of October, these kilns will be lit, most at the same time, for the firing festival known as ‘La Borne senflamme’.  It has been an annual event since the 17th century.  This event and the Third European Wood Fire Conference has brought many outsiders to this picturesque village, some 40 minutes from Bourges.  It is hoped that the village and its potters continue to prosper in the centuries to come.  If it is, there needs to be a way to bring more youth to the village to establish their own studios. Indeed, there were many young people who attended the conference so there is hope!

I am grateful to all the members of the Association Ceramique La Borne for all of the events they organized.  It was difficult to decide which talk or workshop to take from the descriptions on line.  This was so unfortunate.  But, like everywhere else, choices had to be made.  The conference took advantage of local resources and the beauty of the Loire Valley.  There was an excursion to the Decorative Arts Museum and St Etienne in Bourges on Thursday and tomorrow there is a trip to Sancrette.  Of course, having time to catch up with acquaintances that you haven’t seen for four years or meeting new friends and having discussions in between the formal events really is what these events are about.

And a correction.  There are three countries interested in hosting the Fourth European Wood Fire Conference.  They are Latvia, Belgium, and Spain (Barcelona).  It had been anticipated that the next host would be announced today but, each of the venues has asked for more time to consider their resources in relation to the hundred attendees (the average of the paying guests during the first three conferences).