In Nevers, the dusted heritage of earthenware

By Marie Godfrain

Posted today at 10:00 a.m.

Jean-François Dumont and Carole Georges, in their workshop-boutique, in Nevers, June 4, 2021.

With its greenway which runs along the side canal à la Nièvre and its slightly uneven terrain, Nevers is a city resolutely turned towards cycling. When they are not taking care of their pottery, Carole Georges and Jean-François Dumont take the opportunity to pedal for long hours with their daughters, Suzanne and Lucile.

During one of these walks, they photographed the two children having fun with pear trees in the Loire, their legs protruding from the river… This photograph inspired Poiriers, a white plate with a blue painted decoration, the color typical of the city. Because if he likes to divert it, the couple is part of the history of Nevers earthenware.

Ten years ago, both took over the factory from Carole’s parents to revive, armed with a fresh outlook, this endangered traditional craft. Among their inspirations, the daily life and the great classic themes of Nevers: the city’s cathedral and ducal palace, which they finally abandoned to imagine industrial cathedrals (abandoned factories), design electricity pylons, or modernize the principle of trades, by putting the spotlight on more contemporary professions such as DJs, for example. If the patterns evolve, the tandem has however not touched the ancestral technique. “We have simply freed ourselves from a crippling tradition”, specifies Jean-François Dumont.

Key gestures

This process is organized around key gestures. First, the molding and unmolding of the biscuit, a liquid earth poured into a plaster mold, which will dry and take the form of plates, vases and other containers, before being baked. Then comes the enameling: the part is dipped in a glaze (a kind of coating), tinted or not, to give it its shine, its resistance and its impermeability, before being annealed.

To improve the precision of her gesture, Carole Georges rests her wrist on a wooden stick.  A technique already used by his ancestors.

The production of this “blank page” (or blue, depending on the background chosen) is provided by Jean-François as well as another craftsman. Then comes the stage of brush painting or the installation of the chromo, carried out by Carole and Lucie Grenier-Mignot, formerly gouachist at a jeweler, trained by her new boss in painting on ceramic. Together, they apply a metal oxide powder such as cobalt, copper, manganese or chromium with a brush, mixed with water.

“We use the same gestures and tools as my ancestors, in particular an old wooden stick on which I rest my wrist to avoid shaking and paint with more precision”, describes Carole, her foot on a small wooden stool, another fetish passed down from generation to generation. Quirky patterns, flowery plates, rooftops of Paris, bespoke designs for clients like Alain Ducasse… the Georges Faience factory, carried by this couple of forty-something who converted ten years ago, now attracts a young and international clientele.

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