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Faïence of Provence

History of the Faïence in Provence 

Owing to its location, the richness of its soils and its inhabitant’s, Provence has always enjoyed a privileged location for creation and innovation. Halfway between Italy and Spain, Provence had and still continues to receive influences from these cultures. Furthermore, located on the Rhone axis, Provence is opened to Belgium, the Netherlands, the Germanic countries and England. This scheme is rather unique and has made Provence a hub for different techniques and know-how’s through the centuries. 

This month Calisson by Gilles will present the Faïence of Provence which has a worldwide reputation. The origin of Faïence goes back more than 1200 years ago. The first traces of Faïence were spotted in Baghdad, Mesopotamia in the 9th century. This art was introduced to Spain by Arab potters in the 13th century. It took 100 years for it to reach Provence and Italy. 

For centuries now, Provence has kept a tradition of potters settled in many villages. These potters have drawn inspiration from the surrounding, colorful, and shimmering landscapes. You can feel it through the production of Provençal ceramics. The village of Moustiers Sainte Marie is dedicated to the Faïence and Calisson by Gilles brings you there today! 

The Faïence of Moustiers 

The local art of Faïence brings us to the gates of the Gorges du Verdon, in an exceptional environment and overlooking the Lake of Sainte-Croix, in the very popular area of the Verdon’s region: the village of Moustiers Sainte-Marie.   

The growth of earthenware in Moustiers is due to the Clérissy family, which created from 1679 the first large pieces of milky white enamel. A milestone will occur under the reign of Louis XIV. The king was in financial difficulty and to finance wars, he ordered the melting of all gold and silver dishes in the kingdom of France. This decision allowed Provençal potters the opportunity to make a place for the Faïence as a luxury item for wealthy families. Afterwards it has been diversified, and pottery Faïence was launched in a large panel of items. The reign of Faïence lasted over 2 centuries before the arrival of the porcelain. This was a hard time for the Faïence of Moustiers Saintes Marie because the porcelain was much easier to produce and cheaper than Faïence. 

But in 1927 the industry of Faïence restarted in Moustiers, under the impulse of Marcel Provence who reignited a kiln of the village in order to restore the reputation of Moustiers as a great city of faience. And it worked well! Nowadays, about twenty potteries as well as a museum perpetuate this traditional Provencal art.  

Each of these pieces is fashioned with respect for tradition. Everything begins with the preparation and selection of clay, which abounds in the village of Moustiers. Then comes stamping which consists in shaping clay slabs on a mold, turning (which applies for vases and pitchers in particular) and pouring (applied for more complex shapes), entirely made manually. Then comes the first of 2 cookings.

The first one is very high,  at 1020°C to cook the biscuit. Next, the time has come to paint the decorations on the enamel. Then is the moment for the second firing to vitrify the enamel, at 960°C, making the faience shiny. The potteries offer authentic collections, with traditional or contemporary scenes.

The use of Faïence:

Since its beginning, Faïence is used for cooking utensils, plates or food storage. Today you can still encounter many Faïence items within a Provençal kitchen: a jar to preserve the oil, another for dried fruits, a daubière (a daube saucepan), a mortar to pound the garlic, a pot for cooking the famous Provencal bouillabaisse. The list could be endless. In addition to its utensils used in Provencal cuisine, you can enjoy your meals and delicacies in colorful plates, serve diners in Faïence dishes, drink in beautiful water jugs. These water jugs were used at the time to fetch water from the fountain of the villages. For sure, if you are going to Moustiers, you can bring a Faïence jar to store and preserve our delicious Calisson by Gilles. Our Calissons originally comes from Provence and the Faïence perfectly suits with them. 

Some practical information on Faïence: you can use it daily. It will not be damaged, unless you use a brush too abrasive to clean it. You are used to using the dishwasher, so do not hesitate, Faïence does not mind! 

Discover Moustiers

Moustiers Sainte Marie is a typical Provençal village located in the Alpes de Haute Provence. Moustiers Sainte Marie is listed as one of the most beautiful villages of France. Moustiers is at the gates of the “Grand Canyon du Verdon”, at an altitude of 634 meters and is built amphitheatrically in the hills of Provence.

Moustiers Sainte Marie is a small picturesque village located on a remarkable and unique site: the Verdon Regional Nature Park. The village enjoys an exceptional environment with mountains, lavender fields and the lake of Sainte Croix! 

Nestled against a rocky escarpment, Moustiers Sainte Marie remains a mysterious place! Many legends talks about its famous star suspended at 227 meters high. Its alleys are entangled and after climbing narrow steep stairs you will reach this charming village. Unsuspected places are hidden behind the walls. Red and yellow facades of houses with roofs covered with old tiles are memorable. Between shaded small stone fountains, and shaded streets you will feel the magic of this place. The center of the city is the same than other Provençal villages: the church square. 

In all seasons, Moustiers Sainte Marie offers you beautiful walks in the heart of the village. 

Must-do in Moustiers Sainte Marie:

Calisson by Gilles recommends its readers to do the hike to the Chapel “Notre Dame de Beauvoir”. This beautiful chapel is built between the cliffs of Moustiers Sainte Marie. The walk up there is a must-do! 

You will get incredible views on Moustiers rooftops but also on the lake of Sainte Croix. You will also have the chance to get closer to the star! The ground is a little bit slippery so be careful and wear proper shoes. Best times to get there? We would advise to do it either early morning or end of afternoon to fully enjoy the colors of the landscape. Calisson by Gilles tip: Take a coin of 1€ with you; you will be able to light up the inside of the chapel with a candle. 

Another must-do in Moustiers is to taste the local beer of Moustiers! The store and factory is located close to the beginning of the Chapel path. Here you will find a little bar called “Saveurs & Nature”. As you will quickly notice, most of the people sitting at the tables know each-others. This is here, in this hidden place that we find the “Mouss’Terrienne. A well found pun!  The Mouss’terrienne is brewed and bottled here in Moustiers , it is a delicious craft beer made with special provence ingredients of this region : Honey and thyme ! a must taste if you coming here in Moustiers. Take a sweet break with our sweet Calisson by Gilles and this local beer; you will remember it all your life! 

The local brewer is also a beekeeper! So you will find a range of products all made out of honey such as lavender honey, verdon honey, gingerbread and other delights. Why you will ask, simply because the brewer is above all a beekeeper!

You can also discover the Faïence museum in Moustiers, renovated in 2014, the Museum tells the story of the Faience since the 16th century. It provides a major collection of Faience which was made thanks to generous donations.

For sure, as in all Provençal villages, a weekly market takes place in Moustiers Sainte Marie! Summer and winter, the market takes place every friday morning till 1pm in front of the city hall and the church.  According to the seasons, the size of the market change, obviously. The best time to get there is during summer season. You will find a lot of local products such as goat cheese, seasonal vegetables, lavender honey and much more. Enjoy!

This post first appeared on French & Almonds Candy Blog By Cal, please read the originial post: here

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Faïence of Provence


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