Conforming to Porcelain

While my youngest son and I were in Paris a few of weekends ago, we went to two exhibits. You can read about our first exhibit here. The second exhibit we went to is called Made in France, by Americans. The exhibit, on till April 17 at the Mona Bismarck Foundation pushes the boundaries of porcelain.

The Mona Bismarck Foundation was created in the 1980s by the late American philanthropist, Countess Mona Bismarck and presents exhibits focusing on Franco-American culture or reflecting the late Countess’ tastes and interests. This Paris Cultural Center, open free to the public is in the Countess’ former townhouse which faces the Eiffel Tower across the river Seine. I’ve been to several of the exhibits at the foundation in the past – the building is beautiful, the view exquisite.

The exhibit we saw that Saturday was put together by BERNARDAUD a leading name in French porcelain. The exhibit poses a question in regards to the art training received by those who design porcelain – a too classical instruction in France versus a not enough classical training elsewhere and the resulting works that are created. The exhibit put forth the idea of thinking outside the box – of using porcelain for making art and not just refined tableware.

examples of the process of creating a handpainted porcelaine piece of tableware

In America, Art Education is common in most public and private schools (though there remains an ongoing battle to maintain its presence in the curriculum) where as in France, most art classes are given outside of school in museums and other ‘official art’ institutions. Therefore, art education in France continues to be taught in a classical, master/ apprentice manner. Of course, France is renowned for their art museums, culinary schools and their fashion shows, masters of style, refinement and quality, but how much innovation is limited and pushed aside because it does not conform?

The exhibit was eye opening. As an art educator myself, I find this debate relevant. How much of the classical do we impose before letting the art student take off with his own ideas while still maintaining an aesthetic creation which follows the rules of design. It is for this reason that BERNARDAUD decided to showcase some of their designers, all from America with an Amercain art education in their background. Interesting that this world renowned designer of French porcelain employs Americans to make their famous French tableware. What have the French lost in remaining closed classical that the Americans seem to have with their lack of centuries old training? The pieces exhibited, though made of porcelain where not your usual tableware items, but rather the medium was challenged and used for sculptures. Some of the work shown at the exhibit was far from refined, but was creative.

The following photos are of work by three designers whose pieces I preferred : Their pieces were creative as well as polished, fun, yet sophisticated. I especially liked the clowns that teeter-totter back and forth. They’d look great in a child’s bedroom or in a playroom, a great baby or first birthday gift…

Jonathan Hammer

Daphne Corregan

Kristin McKirdy

There were two designers out of the eight being exhibited, P. Loughran and L. Maisel whose work looked as though done by an amateur – pieces I found unrefined, giving porcelaine a silly putty-like consistency, creations not unlike what my two and a half year old son does with playdough. My thought is that if you are looking for a silly-putty effect, choose a medium that better suits that style…

It is true that when we think of porcelain we think fine-china and reserve terra cotta clay, bronze and marble for sculpture and pottery. But who are we to define the limits of the medium? Overall it was a lovely thought-provoking art exhibit in a beautiful structure. We walked to the museum along the right banks of the river Seine with the sun in our faces and a beautiful view of the Tower. It was a short exhibit, a quick escape from the daily routine of an afternoon.


About Alexandra

wife, lover, mother, sister, daughter, friend, teacher, blogger, scrap-booker, cross-stitcher, photographer, designer, multi-lingual speaker, dual-citizenship holder, world traveler, dreamer... hopeful, happy, blessed
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