One of my favorite ceramic inspirations is a line of everyday pottery from France. Made by a company named Grandjean Jourdan, they were created in Vallauris France sometime in the early 1950s. I don’t know much about who they were, but it seems to be a family business with a couple of generations working.
Vallauris has been a pottery making center from the times of the Romans. After WWII, Picasso brought renewed attention to the potteries there and created many amazing pieces. Some pieces are still produced by Madoura, based on Picasso’s designs. There were other modernist ceramicists working in Vallauris as well, including Roger Capron.
The Grandjean pieces I love are hand-painted serving ware (mugs, pitchers,plates,etc.). They are painted in a folk art style with each painted to resemble wood. I have several that are painted with this faux bois, but have a matte finish. I prefer these, not the glossy glazed versions.
There are also pieces with bright glossy glazes on the inside. At some point they even painted silhouettes on the outside of figures or animals. I am continually finding more examples online. They were meant to be used everyday like anything you would find today in Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel. Is there anything cheap and beautiful like this sold today? There were even lamps made which are incredible. They are whimsical and remind me of summer and Provence.
I finally got to see a building I had long admired in San Diego. After seeing the eye opening documentary about architect Louis Kahn, ‘My Architect’; The Salk Institute in La Jolla was always on my bucket list of architecture. Although they have tours, you need to book in advance, and I hadn’t. You can still tour the plaza over looking the Pacific high up on a bluff. I came into the property from below and was underwhelmed by the patio furniture the lunch crowd must enjoy. The carved stone chairs were the architect’s minimal answer to basic seating. I wonder if Louis ever specified the lower area to be a cafeteria, and what chairs he wanted there. Seems like a silly designer to worry about this detail, but this building is so austere and contemplative, the metal tables and chairs are distracting. I’m sure I would feel different if I worked there.
The new classic concrete building that has just replaced the Salk in my bucket o’ buildings, is in Tel Aviv. The The Herta & Paul Amir Building, Tel Aviv Museum of Art by Preston Scott Cohen represents the kind of building Kahn could not have imagined in the 60’s. Made possible by computer modeling and advancing concrete construction into a very special place.