Today I visited the workshop (atelier) of the Faïence Bleue house in Nevers. It was my first time witnessing the process of fabrication of a piece, from start to finish (minus weeks of drying and oven time, which required a “here is one I prepared earlier” piece) and I thoroughly recommend the experience. There is something special in being in the very street where, for centuries, as many as 12 faience manufactures worked and produced exquisite pieces for the local and international market! Although the first faienciers came from Italy to practise their art in Nevers, in the 16th century, soon many French faïenceries were created and began to flourish, so much so that by the 17th century Nevers was crowned “capitale francaise de la Faïence“! As can be seen in the beautiful “Musée de la Faïence de Nevers“, their art was not limited to decorative items (vases, plates, bowls, etc), but also boasted political, revolutionary pieces. Fascinating! Well worth a visit, not only for the magnificent building, but also for the rare and vast collection of Italian and French pieces. A little film explains the manufacture process too, as you start your visit.
Sadly today only 3 (2 soon) factories remain, but all three have their atelier in town, that can be visited during special open days or by appointment, as well as beautiful shops. The wares are not cheap, as each unique piece requires a special clay mix, expensive paints, baths, ovens and of course the hours spent drawing and painting each piece by hand. Nevertheless, these are not just collectors’ items, people in the area are still attached to the tradition of offering a piece from the well-known Bernard, Montagnon or Georges houses, for weddings, retirement parties, and other special celebrations. Besides, most faienceries, although they have respectfully preserved and reproduced the century-old patterns depicting the main historical buildings of Nevers -le Palais Ducal, la cathédrale, la Porte du Croux- along with flower motifs, they now also offer more modern and sometimes wearable (rings, earrings, necklaces) wares.