Ceramics have always played an important role in Castellón. Beyond being an ornament, it is a timeless medium that tells a story, a tradition or – as in today’s case – a life. We interviewed Claire Bonheur, a creative ceramist with a great sensitivity for details. From her hands come stoneware pieces that combine design, modernity, passion and know-how. Looking at the works presented on her Instagram account, we find harmony between the elegance of their forms and the authenticity of their origin. Claire herself makes the clay with which she creates her ceramics, which is the starting point of a rich narrative through natural elements that intertwine her work and her life.
Discovering Claire Bonheur
How did you get started in ceramics?
I have always had ceramics inside me, from a very young age. My mother signed me up for a ceramics workshop when I was 3 years old. I enjoyed it very much. When they closed, I noticed that something remained inside me.
Over the years I continued with my usual training and when I had to think about going to university, I decided to go to art school to study something related to ceramics. I wanted to do artistic ceramics, but I didn’t think it was going to have many opportunities. So I studied ceramic floor and wall tile design, because here in Castellón there is a lot to do with tiles.
I immediately started working in a company that manufactured machines for the ceramics industry and I designed the technical part that made up the tile. I gained a lot of technical knowledge about pastes, glazes, contractions… but it was still not a very creative job.
I have always been very creative: I like painting, photography and I saw myself limited in this work. I noticed that there was a part of me that wanted to get out and I couldn’t. After four years I decided to quit. After 4 years I decided to quit. As I am also a designer, I spent several years in the world of web design. Even so, I still felt that there was something in me that wanted to get out but couldn’t. I was still a little bit afraid.
I finally decided to study what I had always wanted to study but didn’t have the courage. I studied artistic ceramics and for me it was like self-correction after 10 years.
It was a very rewarding experience because I met people who were very close to me. When we finished our studies we created an association of ceramists and we all set up a workshop together. It was a way of having a workshop while sharing expenses.
It was very good but there came a time when there were too many of us and it was too small. It was then that I met Ximo Riba, a ceramist with whom we had similar interests, and we decided to set up our own workshop. That was a year ago and since then we have been working very well together. We each do our own things and we do the restaurant commissions in half. I do more of the shaping and he does the glazing. I’ve always liked to work together, so I think we make a good team.
So I think I can say that I am finally at the beginning of my dream.
What is day-to-day life like in your workshop?
To cover the initial costs we decided to focus on training and it has been a success – we have a lot of people! Ceramics is a trend. We offer from weekly classes to specific training to learn how to make a cup with a coffee filter, individual tableware… And we also like to create proposals that are not exclusively ceramic, looking for experts in other materials.
Tell us about your pieces
I started by making small vases and putting twigs in them, but each time I was giving more and more importance to which twig I could put in them. Now when I think of the piece I’m going to make, I think of the whole piece with the twig that would go best with it. Botany is a very integrated part of my pieces and this process is like a ritual for me. It enriches me, it gives me peace.
Sometimes I need to disconnect and I make small compositions that I find a little treasure. The project I’m working on now is related to this.
Who are your customers?
We currently work with some restaurants that give us a lot of freedom. We like to make our own pieces with a very own style, very organic, but we also collaborate with chefs to design dishes for them. For example, we were recently asked for a plate to serve a galley that was a bit elevated and the rest of the design we could decide on our own. We feel very comfortable with these kinds of commissions.
What projects are you working on now?
Our idea for the coming months is to gradually reduce the time we dedicate to classes and offer more sporadic workshops. This way we can dedicate more time to the production of our own pieces.
We will also try not to always work on commission, because it limits you in the production process. Although the clients we have now give us such creative freedom that they are almost like patrons, I wish they were all like that!
Our aim today is to produce our own product line and launch the online shop shortly.
What advice would you give to young artisans?
I don’t know if this is a piece of advice or if it is too obvious, but I would tell you to do what your heart tells you to do. When you do something with conviction and without fear of what might happen, that’s when you have the most strength to face all the problems that may arise. If you really feel it, do it.
We end this interview by thanking Claire Bonheur for her participation. From Labois it has been a pleasure to get to know her project and the dedication behind each of her works.
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