Beautiful People

Marion Graux

Wednesday 9 February 2022

Photograhies : TIMOTHÉE CHAMBOVET

Ever since she was a child, Marion Graux has had a taste for festive tables. The pleasure of the preparations, the joy of choosing among the crockery, deciding which plates her family and friends will use for a convivial lunch or dinner. These very rituals led her to ceramics, which Marion sees as useful and practical. She trained with country potters in the village where she spent her summer holidays, in the Drôme Provençale. A rural apprenticeship in which rigour and humility prevailed. And emotion, too. Chefs were quickly captivated by the values and principles emerging behind her creations. A meeting with Marion in the heart of her Parisian workshop.

Ceramics came into your life twelve years ago; how did that come about?
It was a winding road at first: I studied drawing and fashion initially, but I didn't have an academic enough approach to design, which prevented me from translating my ideas properly. So my first professional experience was in styling and writing for the specialised press, notably for Elle magazine; then, I collaborated with the Merci boutique at the time they were opening, right at the beginning of the project. But once again, I didn't feel as if I quite fitted into these various jobs. My way of working has always been to look for the place where you feel comfortable, where you feel it's right for you. In the end, it was in Dieulefit, a potter's village in the Drôme Provençale, that I discovered both ceramics and workshop life, and I immediately understood that this was the path I wanted to follow. It was both a choice of profession and a choice of way of life. Ceramics imposes a compelling rhythm, and it's one in which you take your family along with you. It's also a tough job, very physical. Not to mention the uncertainty you have to accept, the clumsiness you must master, and the enormous patience you need.
Your beginnings were immediately marked by collaborations with the world of catering and hospitality, can you tell us more?
Once the choice of ceramics was made, the tableware came naturally and was the obvious way to go. Simply because I'm very much connected to food, I feel perhaps I belong even more to the "food" environment than to the craft. I really like the idea of participating and thinking about the meal. The rural training I received in Dieulefit anchored me in this very humble practice of country pottery, which consists quite simply in making a plate that endures over time, in making a modest object that exists through its function and that is beautiful because of the action, repeated and mastered, which is at its origin.
Was there a collaboration that particularly influenced you or encouraged you to move in this direction?
Not particularly, I always enjoy working with chefs, especially women, who are less numerous in the profession. So supporting them is important to me.
Your studio is located in the 9th arrondissement of Paris and is adjacent to your apartment: how do you organise this workshop life that you dreamed of?
We found this space three years ago, it was a flower shop then, and it was love at first sight. The place was very easy to transform into a workshop, with its large counter, its florist's bins, and its tiled staging. Behind the shop was the apartment, and we renovated it in a country house style, with a wooden floor. For me, this is ideal. In the morning, after taking care of the children, I start my day as a ceramist at nine o'clock. The first thing to do then is to get a firing going to save time and meet the deadlines. Then I turn everything that was thrown the previous day before the clay gets too dry. After that, I throw new pieces or make glazes for firing in the kiln the next day. Of course, there are customer appointments, packaging, shipping and administration, and so on in the middle of all this!
What kind of clay do you use in your workshop?
The body I use is a mixture of clays, mainly from Burgundy. I have three sources that have been the same for years, and I only work with them. True choice comes when you have as few materials as possible. That way, you come to know and master them to a very high level and can achieve the maximum variation in the glazes.
As a mother of three children, how important is it to you to pass on your expertise?
I think I adapt the practice of ceramics to my children; I widen its scope to convey more a state of mind than technical skills and expertise. I make it more about the desire to work with one's hands, to make things oneself, with awareness, pleasure, involvement and application. And I'm very interested in the plastic arts myself, so I suggest painting activities, for example, to my children every weekend. Through these creative activities, I always teach them to be guided by intuition, ease and fun, and not necessarily by the idea of the result or attractiveness, prompted by the child's usual question, "Is it beautiful, Mum?" I try to replace these questions with others, such as: "Did you have a good time? What do you think about it? Did you enjoy drawing this picture?" That way, a huge playground opens up for us...

The piece you created for Sessùn's "Floraison Créative" carte blanche says something about family life, how did you imagine it? 

I thought of it as a five-piece family portrait in bas-relief with the primary intention of evoking or representing the balance between the people that make up my family. The idea was to question how we all relate to each other in equilibrium (I'm laughing to myself because this is really my everyday issue). So I represented and symbolized with shapes and colors my own depiction of each of us: Constantin, our three children and me.

How did the production of this piece turn out? 

At the first firing, I already had the impression that what I had thought of as the initial arrangement was perhaps not the most graceful. So I wondered if there could be another way of placing us in relation to each other, in our daily lives as well, and I came to the conclusion that the interesting part was that these pieces were not fixed, that their arrangement could change according to one's desires and moods, and that this mobility was perhaps even a solution in itself.

Then, at the color stage, one piece didn't come out the way I wanted it to and another one - supposed to introduce me - came out of the kiln broken. I redid both to be safe, but I wanted to keep the one that represented me with a crack. 

Then, looking at the whole, I felt like adding another bas-relief, which changes the narrative of the project and questions the role of this new element: a ghost being, who is no longer part of this family perhaps?

What will you remember about this carte blanche project?

The process of creating this piece and the challenges I had to face show how much aesthetics influence the mind and the story we had told ourselves. All of this is intertwined. I enjoyed the fact of not having complete control over the story and of letting the initial idea evolve with things that I didn't necessarily see coming!

Discover Marion Graux's look !

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