One of the aspects that I miss most about living in the center of Arles is the delight I would feel upon walking out my front door on the rue de la Liberté (Liberty Street!) and seeing all of the shopkeepers with whom I had become friendly over the years. They each have their own fabulous characters - Alex at the Cuisine de Comptoir, Christine Millerin at her eponymous boutique and certainly, the incredibly talented ceramicist, Sophie Lassagne. I held a certain amount of pride about living amongst the les endroits les plus branchés de la ville - especially as they are run by such wonderful people.
Sophie opened up her atelier at about the same time that Remi and I launched our gallery. That is how we met actually. But she had already become well-established in Provence by founding her previous workshop in St. Remy some twenty years earlier. It was a smashing success and yet she - as we did (and do) - believed in the artistic future of Arles and so made the leap to her current space. From what she has said, she doesn't regret the change in the least and has certainly been warmly welcomed by the local community as well as those visiting Arles as her work is - tout simplement - exceptional.
But I will let her motivation speak for itself.
From her artist's statement:
"At the roots of my inspiration stands my childhood, in-between Asia and Africa, where have been woven the opposites. Hands deep in the clay, I have been wandering and seeking for a balance at the heart of their vital energies.
On the shelves of my studio, I have the feeling that I recognize the subtle blend of their singularity, the emergence of a harmony between a useful piece of work and a purely artistic research, between the fluidity and the mineral material, and between the lightness and the colourful density of what I am creating.
These thoughts invite me to follow my path, in a delicate balance between the rigors required by working with the soil, its generosity, and the purity of the lines and the curvy contours of my pieces of work."
Et en français :
"Aux sources de mon inspiration l’enfance, entre l’Asie et l’Afrique où se sont tissés tous les contraires. Les mains plongées dans l’argile, j’ai cheminé à la recherche d’un équilibre au cœur de leurs forces vives.
Sur les étagères de mon atelier aujourd’hui, il me semble reconnaître l’alliance de leur singularité, l’émergence d’une harmonie entre une œuvre utilitaire et une recherche purement artistique, entre la fluidité et le minéral de la matière, la légèreté et la densité lumineuse des couleurs que je crée.
Une évidence qui m’invite à continuer sur le chemin, dans ce lent balancement, entre la rigueur qu’impose le travail de la terre, ses exigences et ses largesses, la pureté de ses lignes et la générosité de ses rondeurs."
Provence is a far more complex region than the clichés lead us to believe and Arles is doubly so. But Sophie passes beyond the obvious...by taking a bit of the brutal sun and the gentle glow of the evening light, a bit of the fierce Mistral winds but also the douceur of a perfect day, the shades of the ancient past and the energy building for the future...then adding it all together and distilling the essence down to something sublimely zen...but never too precious to be used for everyday.
She uses nothing but the most traditional methods, materials and pigments as well her own glazing technique which she developed to bring out a pearly luminescence in her finished pieces.
And yet, despite this elegance, everything remains at prices that are incredibly affordable. "I want it to be so that anyone who wants to buy something can," she admitted to me affably.
And that, along with the variety and gorgeousness of her pieces, is why she has become the go-to source for gifts of all shapes and sizes in Arles.
Such accessibility is also an extension of Sophie's personality. She is nearly always in her atelier, working away...
...the door is usually open and the radio on. At times, she is in the midst of coaching a few lucky students but she will always pause to wave or say Hello.
And blissfully, there is not an overworked cigale or olive motif in sight. No, no, the afore-mentioned clichés were swept out the door long before she lit the kiln for the first time in Arles.
For Sophie is a true artist. One who works to please herself...
...and in doing so, makes a lot of others happy in return.
12 rue de la Liberté
Tel. +33 (0)6 67 09 47 50
A note to my designer friends, while Sophie does not ship internationally herself, she is willing to work with your shipping company.
And to everyone - I hope it goes without saying that this is in no way a sponsored post, I am just delighted to talk about an artist whose work I truly believe in!
PS. Thank you for all of your kind comments and emails concerning my previous post...