A little Quimper History
Brilliant artists and turners all played a part in the history of Quimper faience. Around 1690, Quimper pottery inherited methods of fabrication from Rouen know-how then from Nevers Pottery. In 1731, Pierre Bousquet and Pierre Bellevaux, both turners, introduced the style of Quimper pottery. A bit later, Pierre Clement Caussy came from Rouen, brought with him the polychrome decoration highly fashionable in the 18th century.
1870 marked an important date, Alfred Beau artist started a “new collection” featuring quite quickly the famous and well-known “petit Breton.” Breton peasants in particular were featured. A new typically Breton genre was born. Many scenes of their daily life were depicted, including a wide range of Breton folklore costumes from the four corners of Brittany.
In 1874, Alfred Beau also created a school of ceramic art dedicated to local women, a place where poor young women from Quimper could learn. Beau was very involved in depicting daily life in Brittany, folklore, history, habits and memories.
In the second half of the 19th century, HB & Porquier faienceries asked talented artists to collaborate in order to diversify their production ranges, a few of these reknown artists were Yan’ Dargent, Henry Guihénec, Théophile Deyrolle.
In 1884, Jules Henriot inherited of his father’s factory, this small faïencerie employed no less than 21 workers around 1860.
Henriot acquired Porquier pottery in 1913 including all the models, moulds, Biscuits stock…
Even if technology has improved in the last 50 years, the processes of tin-glazed earthenware were preserved and the free course is always left to the creativity of local artists. The firing remains an essential element to the quality of earthenware. Quimper faience is still exporting all over the world.
Quimper Faïencerie has no less than 750 types, 50 decors and 37,500 models. Whether they be Faience workers or painter or turner, after a Four-year apprenticeship, they all knew of all production steps.
At the beginning, the factory sold their potteries at fairs and at local markets, mainly daily life kitchen utensils, as salting pots, water jugs, bowls, bottles, tiles, flower pots, ornate faience snuffbox …
Early 20th century, a few others and talented Artists joined Quimper Faïencerie, as Messieurs Pohier, Méheut, Bouchard, Galland, Maillard.
Why make pottery in Quimper?
It was a naturally great production site. They simply needed water, clay and wood for firing process. Necessary conditions were fully present in the area: Water, Earth and Fire.
What makes Quimper colors so unique?
The chromatic palette always consisted in using violet manganese, cobalt-blue, copper green, antimony yellow pigments; other colors have been added a bit later.
Keep in mind that each piece was and is exclusively handpainted by one single painter. Quimper faience is really about a quality craftsmanship in an industrial context, processes of tin-glazed earthenware are still used, applied on white Bisque or Biscuit before final firing. That requires a great ability from painter (peinteur and peinteuse in french) while manipulating and painting pottery all at once. They are highly specialised with great technical competence and rigorous quality processes.
What about Quimper trademarks?
Due to competition between faïenceries, HB registered trademark in 1882, inspired his main competitor; Mr Henriot who signed his creations HR since 1894 : H for Henriot and R for Riou (maiden name of his wife). Henriot signed his pieces in a way that did cause too much confusion, but he finally signed with his name Henriot…and he did well! Success was around the corner and became quickly a known worldwide Faïencerie.
Note: H.B. Faïencerie means H for Hubaudière and B for Bousquet. Bousquet created the Faïencerie in 1690.
There are many Quimper Faïenceries
Several Faïenceries based in Quimper, not only HB – Henriot Faïenceries.
A ceramics engineer named Victor Lucas Joined Henriot pottery in 1922. Victor Lucas founded his own Faïencerie in 1946 named Keraluc faïencerie. He died in 1958. Several talented artists joined him as Messieurs Pierre Tulhoat, René Quere, Jo Le Corre, Paul Yvain…
Victor Lucas claimed during inauguration of his own Faïencerie :
« In Keraluc Faïencerie, we will focus on a Living Art place, let’s leave behind us “pastiches” and “previously seen before” creations, we aim to let all artists improving their right to express their views, all together inspired by the same Faith , we’ll work with passion and for the love of a well made work.”
That’s very well said!
Unfortunately, Keraluc Faïencerie closed up in 1984. Since 1960s, His son Pol Lucas and sisters dedicated their lives to the faïencerie until 1984. So, HB Henriot Faïencerie purchased Keraluc models, now, they own Keraluc trademark.
Another Famous artist named Paul Fouillen joined HB Faïencerie in 1922 as peinteur. He learnt fast and easy all processes, so that, he finally created his own models, Art Deco style. Paul Fouillen, art ceramist founded his famous faïencerie in 1929. His creations dating from mid-century are still Modern even nowadays. He died in 1958. His son Maurice did take part a lot in the factory since the 1960s.
Keraluc and Fouillen Faïenceries are my favorite Quimper faience artistic creations.
Many “connoisseurs” often argue that the “Most Beautiful” Quimper faience pieces would be part of Museums and of private collections only… Really? I’m not an expert of Quimper Faience, and I’m always amazed to get to know of the wide range of Quimper potteries everywhere, either on the web or on various Breton places we know.
So, considering that each piece is unique handmade & hand painted, I like to think that any Quimper faience objects produced for many years are also beautiful pieces anywhere they are in the World.
UPDATE 7/17/17: This article has been updated to add new links to VintageFindsFrance’s new website – PentyofAmelie.