Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Perfect Day Out for Pottery Lovers



If you find yourself near the Pont du Gard and Uzes—and you like ceramics—then definitely spend a few hours meandering the cobbled streets of this ancient village, home to 3,000 people and 23 gallery/studio/shops (ateliers céramiques) at last count. In many of them, you can chat up the artists, watch them at work and of course, buy their wares. 

St. Quentin has been known for pottery since the 14th century, due to the quality of the clay sub-soil. In the 14th century, more than 110,000 glazed earthenware tiles were made here, for the decoration of the Palais des Papes in Avignon. Large-scale production continued for hundreds of years but the last brick factory closed its doors in 1954. Today ceramicists and glass makers continue the artistic tradition.

From the practical (bowls, platters, pitchers) to the highly decorative, you’ll see porcelain, varnished and enameled sandstone (grès), raku, faïence and all types of sculpture. You can get a studio list and map from the Tourist Office or see it in PDF here...or just wander the pretty streets and explore.

St. Quentin hosts special events throughout the year including the large annual festival of European ceramics called Terralha (July 11 to 14, 2014), which draws roughly 100 exhibitors and thousands of visitors.  This year will be the 30th annual and if you want to apply to enter and show your work, click here.

Another nice event is the Tournée du Père Noël in December, when the studios are all open, demos are held and guest sculptors are featured along with local artists. You’ll be welcomed in each studio with vin chaud, cookies and holiday cheer. 

The Musée de la Poterie Mediterranéenne is worth a visit too; it's located in an ancient oil mill (04 66 05 65 86, terres.de.mediterrannee@wanadoo.fr). Discounted tickets are sometimes available on their Facebook page.

St. Quentin’s weekly market is Friday mornings, with lots of fresh produce, local foods and a bit of pottery too, of course. It’s not as big as the Saturday market in nearby Uzes but it’s popular and crowded so arrive early to find parking. 

Many of St. Quentin's studios are now on winter hours and some are closed, at least during the week. So you might want to plan your visit for a bit later in the year.

Pottery lessons are available year round for kids and adults at the Atelier Terre in the center of the village.  Or you can take weekend,  four-day or week-long raku classes at the studio of FrançoisMandin (06 87 47 07 14, contact@francoismandin.com). Marie-Claire Saint Jevin teaches pottery and enamel classes and offers lodging to students.

Professional pottery training is available from the Centre de Formation Apprentis des Métiers des Arts Céramiques. This organization uses small classes and stages to train students for diplomas in the métier de la céramique. More information is on the CFA - Métiers Céramiques website.

A nearby attraction is an ancient quarry where the Romans chiseled out millstones. It’s in the hills, 4 km north of the center of St. Quentin. There’s good info on it in English here…or ask at the Tourist Office.

Where to eat? There are a few cute restaurants and tea shops in town. My friends and I chose Le Café des Potiers (#23, rue de la Fontaine,  04 66 57 66 10)  and were lucky to get a table; it was packed with all sorts of colorful artsy looking types,  everyone merrily chatting table to table. Breakfast and tea are served too, but at lunch you eat the plat du jour and pay one set price for a starter, main course, salad and dessert. My friends and I loved the place: the quirky warren of smallish rooms, the local art and pottery scattered about, the super friendly service, the tiny table for kids. They have special exhibits, live music and other events. Hours are 9 am to 6 pm; no dinner. 

For more info on St. Quentin,  contact the Tourist Office, at 15 rue du Docteur Blanchard, 04 66 22 74 38. 

St. Quentin is just a few kilometers from Uzes. If you’re approaching from the south, stop at the fabulous Le Sabot Rouge (between the Pont du Gard and Uzes), a large indoor/outdoor antique shop/brocante specializing in architectural salvage, wrought iron, restoration, old hardware  and “objets de curiosité.” My friends found exactly what they were looking for: four antique wrought-iron bistro chairs that needed just a bit of paint. (Good work on the bargaining, Jerry!) Le Sabot Rouge is open seven days a week, year round. You’ll find it on the rond-point where the D981 meets the D603 (which is also called the Chemin de Chateau or rue du Chateau).  The address is #1, rue du Chateau, 30210 Argilliers, 06 80 08 53 09, 04 66 22 95 32, lesabotrouge.com.  The pretty church on the property is private and not open for visits.

My Irish friend Mary Dowey, a food-and-wine writer, spends part of the year in Uzes and she knows the local dining scene well. She says the best restaurants around continue to be La Table 2 Julien (in Montaren) and La Maison (in Gaujac); she also likes the new version of Le Tracteur (between Uzes and Argilliers). 


Photos: 1. All roads lead to pottery in St. Quentin! 2. Reindert Overduin at work in his studio at 3, rue du Philiquier. 3. My friends and I loved the beautiful tableware and very-warm welcome at the gallery owned by Lilou Milcent-Gallot and her husband Philippe. 4. At another shop, we bought pretty olive-oil jugs; they come in a nice range of colors. 5. The atelier Kaolin Ceramique (#1 Place Horloge) shows the work of multiple artists; this piece is by Alexandra Hajek. 6. Raku bowl by Denis Grazon. 7. The Tourist Office will give you this guide/map or just poke around the village.  8. You can also ask them when the next braderie or pottery market is (photo courtesy of objectifgard.com). 9. At Le Cafe de Potiers, the crowd is local, artsy and colorful...and everyone eats the plat du jour. 10, 11: A visit to Le Sabot Rouge is like poking around in your French granny's barn. You'll know it when you see the red shoe/slipper thingie, which apparently is meant to be a sabot. (My dictionary says a sabot is a heavy work shoe...or a leather shoe with a wooden sole...or shoe made from a single block of wood...) 12. How to get here.

7 comments:

  1. What a fun and interesting excursion Julie!
    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena

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  2. Are any of these beautiful ceramics for sale ONLINE? Cindy

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    1. Hi Cindy, I would assume that many of the artists sell online. Some but not all have websites. The Tourist Office can give you contact info if there are specific artists you are interested it. Or you can Google them. I'm traveling now and don't have access to my brochure that lists them all. Hope you get what you want! Best Wishes!

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  3. I'm definitely going to check this out! I've wanted to learn how to throw a pot for ages. This year is going to be the one!

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  4. We have been to Uzes and Pont du Gard many times but have not really explored St. Quentin despite the fact we looked at several houses there when we were hunting for our house in Provence. I definitely concur about La Maison in Gaujac being a very good restaurant.

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  5. Amazing pot collection i wish that you should give some individual name to all this unique collection.

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    1. Hi Rahul, I hope that most of the information you need can be found in the long caption at the end of the story. All the pieces are from different artists and I believe I named them all except one. Hope that helps! Best Wishes...

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