Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant


Bourg-Joly Malicorne pottery: from Sarthe to Monaco’s Princely Wedding

In 1747, the pottery of Bourg-Joly Malicorne first opened its doors, at the heart of the Sarthe Valley. Its founder, Jean Loiseau, was none other than a former sailor of the high seas, who had previously worked in the potteries of Nevers. Attracted by the region, he decided to settle here to work its rich earth: clay. As the pottery began to prosper, it turned to decorative art and religious art. In 1785, it passed into the hands of Loiseau’s son, and in 1829, now enjoying a solid reputation in the region, was bought by Cador. It was subsequently taken on by Cador’s son-in-law, Jules Béatrix, and his descendants, Léon Pouplard and Jules Moreau.

In 2008, however, the pottery fell into neglect and the family business went into liquidation. But they were not counting on the loyalty and motivation of a keen bunch of the pottery’s customers, who took it over in January 2009, a year of renewal. The award of the EPV label in August 2010 marked an important step in getting the firm back on track. We interviewed managing director Eric Le Calvez to find out more about this new start.

 

How do you plan to give your company a new lease of life?

After reopening in 2009, major redevelopment work was carried out and an investment plan was put in place to save the production plant. Renovation work also got under way on the workshop, in order to be able to receive visitors: roofing, flooring and upgrading in line with regulations. We undertook the mammoth task of compiling an inventory of our assets, which involved cataloguing 3 000 moulds and numbering a large quantity of stencils. A bear mould, buried in the mud during flooding in 1995 and lost since then, was even recovered – and, of course, painstakingly restored and catalogued.

 

 

Since Bourg-Joly’s reopening and the rehiring of its old staff, the company now has in its ranks one employee with an Advanced Vocational Diploma (BTS) in Ceramic Arts and two Fine Art graduates. We are thus committed to researching a new aesthetic, a new design. We want to give new life to France’s cultural heritage, and today, more than that, we want to innovate. At the same time as carrying on the skills and techniques of the 18th-century master potters, we are keen to team up with artists and young designers to bring our artistic and cultural heritage up to date. We are currently working on a number of projects of this type with outside partners.

We are also building a website, due to go live by the end of the year, which will present company news and will include an online store where customers will be able to order their favourite products.

 

What are the specific aspects of your expertise?

 

The specific aspects of our expertise are most certainly technical and historical. Our pottery consists of moulded shapes that are characterised, among other things, by free-hand openwork, for which Bourg-Joly Malicorne pottery is famous. All our products are handmade, which means each piece is unique. The care taken at each stage of production is, of course, crucial.

 

 

Our decorative pieces account for most of our production. They comprise tableware, ornaments and religious art. Malicorne pottery is known above all for its openwork bowls and baskets, decorated with fruits that are fashioned and stamped by hand.

 

Who are your main customers?

 

Most of our orders come from prestigious customers, attracted by our expertise: for example, the Hôtel Matignon (the official residence of the French Prime Minister) and Fontevraud Abbey. More recently, Bourg-Joly Malicorne had the honour of being commissioned to decorate the tables for HSH Albert II, Prince of Monaco’s wedding reception. For the event, 342 openwork baskets in different designs were produced. Over several weeks, Bourg-Joly’s entire staff rallied to accomplish this fabulous task. That commission really shows how much the expertise of our potters and the quality of our pottery are recognised.

 

 

Our customers also include a number of companies, for whom we make commemorative pieces to order for their events and marketing. Two shops, one in Malicorne, the other in the Cité Plantagenêt (Le Mans old town), offer individual customers who are keen on our products the opportunity to purchase our pottery or order bespoke pieces. A network of resellers sells our products throughout France, thus disseminating our regional heritage at national level.

 

Do you expect the EPV label to boost to your company?

 

Of course. It is a gauge of quality for customers and a form of recognition for our company. Thanks to the label, we are able to make long-term plans for the company, which fits in perfectly with our new goals and ambitions. We wish to write a new page of history and also to pass on skills that date back centuries, thereby contributing to enriching France’s artistic heritage.

 

 

To find out more about the company, click here.


06 July 2011