Atkins Sarl Poterie du Don
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Mrs Atkins has solid training in ceramics acquired in Great Britain at the Harrow College of Art, London. Her production is highly influenced by Bernard Leach, an internationally-known English potter. The entire range is made up of salt-fired sandstone. Thanks to the action of elected representatives in the Aveyron area, the company set up 30 years later in Don de Fel, where it now employs 10 people, mostly trained on site.
The items, which are made from clay from the Borne, receive one or more engobes of colour applied manually through soaking. The engobe is a mix of fine clays which, when diluted with water, affixes to the unfired clay. This is an old and rare technique. The dried parts are fired at 1300°C in an oven especially designed by the company’s director. The specificity of this oven is that it can make salt-fired sandstone at consistent quality. This technique is little used in France. At temperatures between 1250°C and 1300°C, sea salt evaporates in the oven, which is the originality of the process. Usually, the salt is projected into the fire. The sodium contained in the salt combines with the silica and alumina in the item to form a clear varnish, which is particularly resistant to chemical aggression and to wear. Unless precisely controlled, the result is random. Thanks to the salt dosing and evaporation process, Suzy Atkins has managed to control the end result that she wants. The products, mostly for kitchen use, are largely inspired by ancient food pottery. The company thus renews with a tradition that France had lost.
The company shares its know-how with a number of companies in the Puisaye region and the North and East of France. However, its engobing technique and single salt-firing make it stand apart in the profession. The techniques of applying engobe and salt firing are not taught and can only be learnt in the company.
All products are sold on site. In the gallery set up in the company, the Galerie du Don, Nigel Atkins organises exhibitions featuring potters from all over Europe. The workshop works to order. 45 000 visitors come to this exceptional site above the little village of Fel each year.
On 21st May 2010, Suzy Atkins was awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite for her contribution to the universe of modern ceramics and the effect of her company on regional development.