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Bonsai ceramics : my destiny ?

I don’t have any background in ceramics, and I don’t have a clue what pushed me to get involved into this craft. I certainly had some kind of artistic sensitivity, but nothing in my daily life could possibly explain my sudden interest in ceramics. Maybe chance, or an urge to try it ? I really don’t know, but I didn’t imagine it was so complicated, senseless, and fascinating to go in this path.

Maybe one must have some kind of sheer madness ?

As I am curious, I got interested in ancient ceramics. From Egypt to China, this craft is very rich both for discoveries made over decades, and for inventiveness of man to develop this art. Basicly, it seems simple : Earth, water, and fire. Primal elements !

But if one reduces ceramics to that, it doesn’t allow to mesure how difficult that path is.

I felt the urge. So I began. In February 2007, without any experience and for sole knowledge, a Daniel Rhodes book « Terres et Glaçures » (Clay and glaze). I bought my first modeling clay. I was so unthinking that I even constructed a gas kiln with Thomas, a friend who was student, and soon to be a civil engineer. My first results were disappointing, and almost worrying : My pots appeared to be made by a young child !

A decisive step was my encounter with Bryan Albright on a bonsai exibition in Versailles. I bought from him a large oval pot for my big maple forest and we had a wonderful talk (with my rather bad English). That same day, My friend Michel Sacal who was organising the exhibition challenged me to create a pot for him, for next repoting season. During the following winter I got to meet Martine, a pharmacist, but above all an experienced amateur poter, fond of chemistry and all sorts of alchemy. Her knowledge of glazes and her sense of pedagogy allowed me to have some success. She always replied (and still do) to my numerous questions about glaze.

« Basicly and many details putt aside, glaze is composed by two constituents : melting agents and oxides. Melting agents are glass formers and they cover the clay. They can include silica, talcum, cray, feldspar, etc. Oxides (iron, coper, cobalt, etc.) are responsible for the color. These elements together are producing glaze. This explanation is very basic as a good glaze asks for an extreme strictness in the process. Each element must be weighted very precisely and a tiny mistake can ruin countless working hours. But the whole process is fascinating.

I fire my pieces at 1250 degrees Celcius. Therefore, they are frost resistent, and this temperature which is always consistent allows great precision in the final aspect of glazes.».

In May 2008 in the city of Lyon, I attended my first exhibition as a potter. I had many little pots made with a mold, and only two or three slightly larger pots. Nothing really to be proud of, but Michel Sacal showed again his support and bought all these 3 « big » pots for a shameful amount. I was daydreaming to become a great potter !

Next step occured in summer 2008. In just a few days, I found all solutions I needed to create almost all shapes. It was a revelation and everything got easier. I invented some new shapes. I was overwhelmed by joy and very exited ! I decided to give up the gas kiln to replace it by an electric kiln, much more reliable for glazes consistency. It took then almost another year to find solutions to my numerous problems, by trial and error, and my ability to fiddle with.

In automn of the same year, I attended the Maulévrier Oriental Park annual meeting, and a great number of my pots were sold. Bonsai enthusiasts were confirming their apreciation for my work.

In 2010, I decided to rationalize my structure because if making bonsai pots is very time consuming, it is not my profession. I have a day job, a family... Well, I have a life ! My goal for next future is to be inovative both in terms of shapes and glazes. I will update this website on a regular basis, but I cannot reasonably imagine to be able to produce more than 100 pots every year.

Nothing of my adventure would have happened without the beauty of other bonsai potters work. They just inspired me.

A man, A tree, A pot.
This could be my motto.