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How Ceramic Has Charmed the Cool Kids

A young generation of skilled artists have been bewitched by the ancient art of ceramics.
Reading time 3 minutes

The time of the white plate is gone. In Paris and elsewhere, tableware has now become an extremely popular way for young artists to express their artistic desires, using materials such as sandstone, porcelain or earthenware, often painted by hand. Even the prominent restaurant Elysee ordered a series of porcelain cups made by Fragile and illustarted by Safia Ouares. At the wheel of this young label? Mary Castel, great granddaughter of a director of porcelain factories in Limoges, who in 2017 left her job in advertising to reconnect with the family tradition. "The kitchen is always being renewed. Why not the art of the tableware?" she comments in an interview to Le Monde. To make these cups, illustrator Safia Ouares uses Limoges porcelain, gold flakes and plant motifs against the backdrop of new ecological awareness.

The plate is not just an utilitarian everyday object whose beginnings date back to antiquity, it is also a playground for artists. In the nineteenth century, it was diverted from its primary function to become a decoration that was hanging on the wall. The illustrator and ceramist Polly Fern , with 70k followers on Instagram, revives this approach in her pink house in Norfolk. Dishes, tea sets, vases ... Her dishes are telling a narrative as well as being utilitarian, decorated with pastoral motifs and phantasmagoria of her own. "My canary companions have always inspired my work and they are a reocurring motif in my creations and drawings."

"The shapes and patterns of ancient ceramics feed my work," she explains. "Since I was a little girl, I have always been fascinated by old objects, and when I moved into my new home, I had the pleasure of furnishing it with atypical elements, mixing old and new. Antiquities speak, they tell stories."

Marc Armitano Domingo thinks no less. Photographer Ryan McGinley's boyfriend applies baroque, parsimonious, instinctive techniques of ornamentation to plates or cups made of English porcelain. Orchids, magnolias, bees or ladybugs appear in his work in a brilliantly quaint style. Beyond the decorum, Domingo's work illustrates an impetus of the artistic sphere towards materials and means of expression more organic. "With clay, it does not work in the same way" , explained the French painter Inès Longevial . "You paint with a powder on a biscuit that immediately drinks the color, you cannot retouch, and then, between the hue and the color, there is a huge difference in the result. You cannot control everything, and these little faults are what makes the objects so unique." During a stay in Morocco, was born a series of plates: "With ceramics, I would now like to make sculptures," says Longevial.

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