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In the studio with
Hélène Morbu — Nantes, France

Photos by Roxane Laigard


We met up with Nantes-based ceramist Hélène Morbu, who last year was honoured with the Prix de la Jeune Création Métiers d’art, the national award for young craftsmen, and talked about science fiction, perfectionism and growing up in France.

B: Is there a concept behind your pieces? Do you have a particular approach for your work?

HM: I would say that I have a contemporary approach that is based on fundamental geometric shapes. Always attentive to the precision of proportions and detail, I first sketch the design of each piece, then shape it using either the wheel or plaster moulds. I like to make sure that there is an interaction between shape and colour, a visual effect that can be multiplied in a set of aligned or piled pieces. For example, when you stack a couple of Demi-Lune cups the alignment of the handles creates a nice graphic composition.

Quetzal vase and Demi-Lune teacups drying in the studio in Nantes.

B: All of your pieces are very refined – do you consider yourself a perfectionist?

HM: Yes I’m definitely a perfectionist, my work is based on a mastery of technique, it's a quest for balance. I’m very attentive to detail; the curve of a cup or the colour of a line can be very important. For me it's the details that bring originality and poetry to an object. I check each form, I measure, I sand each object so that it’s nearly perfect. Currently I’m making vases with complex textured surfaces which requires very regular, slow and precise hand movements, so it’s essential to be rigorous in order to have harmonious and delicate objects.

B: What is the best thing about working with clay as a material?

HM: Clay is an endless exploration ground! This is an incredible material with which anything is possible. Initially I was very interested in colour, enamel, mass-coloured stoneware.. Now I’m exploring the plastic qualities of clay. By pressing or incising the material one can obtain surprising and unusual surfaces that resembles leather, textile or lace.

B: Where do you go to for inspiration? Who or what has been inspiring you lately?

HM: I draw inspiration from science fiction and natural and supernatural elements. I also like 20th century plastic designs, as well as movements like Bauhaus, Memphis and minimalism. Right now I’m fascinated by brick architecture.. I like structures that play with patterns and tones.

B: How do you think growing up in France has shaped you as a craftsman?

HM: Growing up in France has made me aware of beauty and art. During my studies in Paris I was in contact with many skilled artists who all shared the same passion and discipline for their work. In that way I think that the rich cultural heritage of France has been a driving force in my training as an artisan. It’s made me want to surpass myself and innovate.

Discarded pieces of the iconic Quetzal range of vases.

B: Do you use things that you've made around the house?

HM: I use things I’ve made every day. Unfortunately I only have the right to defective pieces! ⚐

Items by Hélène Morbu