The gardens of the Miroir aux PrÍles

If the contents of this page pertains more to a personal blog than to a professional website, if it says very little about the nature of my production but gives information that is almost intimate about the lyrical creative impetus of the potter, it seemed nevertheless that those who are trying to understand my work could find some interest in reading the following.

The starting idea was to connect the creative ceramic work to the garden. The pottery itself is settled on a land that includes a pond before the house. Among some rush, willows, Phalaris and gipsy wort, the gradual planting of the pond has welcomed a series of presents throughout the years. Thus beautiful white waterlilies, one huge Gunnera and an impressive wall of Equisetum hyemale (winter horsetail = "prÍle d'hiver" in French), in their Kamtchatka gigantic form, were kind enough to settle on the banks. Normandy's rains usually suffice to make up for summer evaporation so as not to turn the pond's natural mirror ("miroir" in French) into an area of dry mud. A mirror for birds, a mirror for clouds, a mirror for angels ? A mirror for horsetails : un miroir aux prÍles.

If the design and evolution of the garden seems very little related to the craftsman's business "Le Miroir aux PrÍles" and with the accounting data of a ceramic output, it became bit by bit obvious that the evolution of the garden was the reflexion (the mirror) of the researches that feed the artistic creation of this business. Imperceptibly, almost unwillingly, through repeated immersions into the history of the 16th century, I first created a garden of squares within a hornbeam enclosure where only white-flowering forms of aromatic and medicinal plants were grown, as well as some edibles. Of the forty squares a good deal is now being cultivated in summer.

The already ancient encounter with the Renaissance very common interlacing motifs inspired two braided beds which were probably unknown in France, but which Elizabethan England had made typical and called "knot gardens". These interlacings are to be compared to the braided patterns of the first period of production of the exceptional so-called Saint-Porchaire ceramics whose inlaid patterns the Miroir aux PrÍles has ventured to take up.

For the potter, to create the shapes in the garden or those in my pottery work comes down to the same thing. They both pertain to the same spring, to the same imaginary. The fact came out clearly the day when I was taken unaware to reproduce the same play of facets while trimming the yew cones that frame the knot gardens like sentries as those cut on my goblets. Whenever a shape appeals to you, you apply it everywhere... and this big bun of a Lonicera took the twisted gadroons of the big ceramic decorative pieces most naturally.

Initially undertaken to regenerate and improve the decorative vocabulary of my potteries, the study of grotesques in 2009 invited me to enter Italian Renaissance palaces. There remains in this country a number of villas with ceilings painted with grotesques whose gardens dating from the same period are almost untouched, such as those designed by Pirro Ligorio. Together with the palaces, the discovery of these gardens invites me to go further in the knowledge of what used to exist in terms of horticultural refinements. France and England can only boast of some rare recent attempts to reconstitute gardens of that period but historical texts describe a pump that is hard to imagine. From knotworks, I am to pass to labyrinths, after several years of a slow growth. The history of Renaissance gardens is linked to the history of the architecture of palaces : for instance a study of their secret gardens and their opposite, the vast perspectives. Each part of the garden is thought in relation to the palace rooms it is attached to. This history of gardens is also connected to the history of new plants that were then brought back from Orient or from America, hence to the history of botany, of course, but also to the history of princely collections of strange and exotic plants, as an open-air extension of wonder cabinets and of that strange acute passion for collecting things. These learned collectors were not only interested in the structure of the garden, but in its nature as well : a collection of plants for their rarity, a collection of plants for their medicinal powers. The learned considers curing and becomes a herbalist... or a poisoner. When he is trying to extract the power of a plant, the history of gardens is also linked to the history of alchemy... What a range of a programme !


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