Exhibition : Manon Clouzeau
"Making ceramics has always seen obvious to me. It’s my foundation, my safety; it is what allows me to be. Some say it’s a passion, but really, it’s much more than this. It’s my everyday life."
"I started very young with ceramics, when I was 10. I signed up in a studio for adults because there was nowhere for kids to do ceramics in my town. I liked copying stuff, building and sculpting three-dimensional images of statues and figures I would find in encyclopedias. When I was 13, Brigitte Larcher took me in for a week-long apprenticeship at her home studio near where my grandmother lived. That’s where I learned to throw. It was an incredible experience. I immediately wanted to become a potter. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I also knew I could do it.
Brigitte lent me a small wheel and I started practicing throwing in my parent’s basement. I did that all through high school until I left for university in Bruxelles where I studied ceramics. I studied in Bruxelles, then in Paris, then in Geneva, and after graduation, I worked for two years in a little studio set up in my parents’ garage. I was very comfortable, not far from Paris, and free of rent. I could concentrate on my work and even had enough time for a few exhibitions in Paris. In 2013, I learned that Brigitte was retiring and selling her house. I bought it and moved in a year later. I loved the space and especially the light that poured in from everywhere. Aubeterre-sur-Dronne is a tourist village and the house is located in a nice spot, right in front of the church. Quite a few people pass by.
"I like to observe and feed on every step of transformation: from soft to hard, from rough to smooth, from white to color, from shapeless to shaped, from dream to reality."
For eight years now, I have been working as a full-time potter. Being financially independent making nothing but bowls is still highly surprising, even astonishing to me. There is a form of abundance in what I do. I feel very grateful to possess such know-how, gratefulness that also comes from people around me, from the pleasure they seem to have using the bowls I make.
"Ceramics as an art form stands at the junction of moment, gesture, and feeling. With sensitivity and tenacity, I work so that this know-how can be part of our daily lives."
I made a lot of sculptures and installations during my school years. A lot of things not related to tea, or even to function. But during my last year, in 2012, I focused only on bowls, mostly very small ones. I had in mind to learn to throw better and practice with enamels.
I wasn’t familiar with tea drinking yet, or sake drinking for that matter, and people were asking me but what is it for? Why are you making such small things? I didn’t really know. All I would say is that this is what I wanted to do. Then, one day, this Japanese guy told me my bowls were perfect for drinking tea or sake. This greatly relieved me.
Still during my studies in Bruxelles, a teacher once offered me tea. We did not have a teapot at hand so he took two bowls and made some kind of giant gaiwan out of them. He told me this is how they brew tea in China. That clicked somewhere in my head and I thought one day I will also make gaiwans.
"A good pot touches someone in his or her sensitivity. It is something that makes you feel good and brings you something you need. Beauty, comfort, reflection, or whatever this may be."
I only have one style of ceramics: bowls. Because I deeply like this shape.
My methods are very simple because I like simplicity.
With a bowl, I can make a gaiwan or a pitcher just by adjusting the lines or pressing down with my finger to form a spout.
In 2018, I exhibited gaiwans for the first time in a gallery. After that, everything started to accelerate. It was a whole little universe that opened up for me and today, this universe is part of my everyday life. I meet many people, things, or ideas over tea. Drinking tea and witnessing the pleasure people have using my bowls makes me want to keep progressing, keep becoming better. Tea is a part of my personal development now. This back-and-forth between ceramics and tea is what inspires me to make this type of object.
Lately, I’ve noticed I do ceramics a little like Chinese calligraphers do calligraphy. Meaning I spend a lot of time cleaning, trying to center myself or trying to tune up with my interiority. Once I find myself there, then I will sit at the wheel or enamel some bowls. These very quick and precise gestures are a reflection of my interiority. Simple, quick, precise gestures suit me very well. As does repetition.
"A pot must make you feel good. It should bring function if it is to be used and should allow whoever uses it to feel joy."
For me, hands are closely related to the heart. I firmly believe there is something binding hands and hearth together. When you work with this bond, with the energy it provides, it flows through the objects you make. It’s almost magical. And I am always astonished how easily people can feel that.
I have learned and greatly developed anchoring myself through my work with ceramics. Throwing bowls and drinking tea (which are forms of meditation for me), I learned to ground myself and find sure footing for everything else that I do. Self-confidence also, and although I could already feel that in my first contact with clay, I learned to develop through my work. This is what allowed me to move very fast in many directions. The more self-confidence I build, the more joy I feel inside, and the more I can share it with others. Self-confidence is a great gift.
I have three ways to create variations in my work: changing enamels, changing clays, and changing my firing methods. During my first four years as a potter, I worked with the same firing temperature and the same clay, only changing enamels. I learned a lot of things about enamels. After those four years, I started changing clays. So today, I work with many different clays. I change them and mix them, and I learn to provoke more variations. Every clay has its own character. I like electric firing because it is simple and fast. It allows some free time to focus on other things I need to develop.
I make my enamels myself with only a few raw materials: kaolin, chalk, feldspar, plant ash… I never mix in metal oxides, but I play with those naturally present in clay to create color variations. I also pay a lot of attention to texture contrasts. I have basic recipes to which I add things or blend in other raw materials in a multitude of gradients, each of them marked by a little code on my bowls. I move forwards like this through the years."
"If I had one wish for the future, it would be for everyone who wants to work with clay and make it a profession to find enough confidence within and around to make it happen. I do give a little energy for that. I welcome people here and pass on what I can. It is not much, but I do what I can."
To browse her collection, please click HERE
Photo by Jeremie Logeay