Les Barbotines....A Walk on the Wild Side


Along the sub-tropical Gulf Coast, I grew up with a gripping and visceral fear of snakes. O, the stories I could tell you.

When you are four years old and wake up from your summer hammock slumber on the screened porch of the beach cottage to see a rattle snake coiled in the branches of the scrub oak three feet away from your head, it stays with you. Yikes!


a platter by Palissy, 16th C

a plate by Palissy, 16th C


detail of Palissy platter, 16th C

So is it any wonder that I stare with fascinated horror at the captivating ceramics work of Bernard Palissy and those who have followed in his footsteps?

Leave it to the French to make snakes extremely glamorous. And leave it to a French woman to create an uber-uber chic salon at the juncture of Rue du Bac and Rue de l'Universite in Paris filled with just such barbotines as these.

My friend Laurence Vauclair and les barbotines are synonymous in France. Just around the corner from Deyrolle and Christian Liaigre, she occupies a spot in Paris dear to my designer's heart.

I can't think of Laurence without thinking about the Belle Epoque and Napoleon III eras in French ceramics. Think of those exotic birds, fish, crustaceans, fruit, flowers, vegetables and snakes in brilliant colors (to brighten le jardin d'hiver for the very rich who had low tolerance for Paris' grey winters) on platters, compotes, assiettes, vases, ewers.

taking snakes in a new direction, 16th C


a modern Palissy ware piece, just a snake for its own sake!


Think about how these excesses of handcrafting would look in our modern, sleek interiors. Unexpected? Yes, and deliciously shocking.

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