A pottery studio in St Civran, France


Welcome to this blog about the quiet rural life in the Berry Province of France where I have tried to open a pottery studio to hobby potters.
Your comments will be appreciated.

13 December 2010

50. COOL FRENCH HOLIDAYS

That's it. It's launched. The pottery studio in St Civran will open again on 1st May 2011.

If you are looking for some craft activity, strolls in sunken paths in an unknown French province and mad laughs in a dormitory... just try a holiday with BerryHobby in the village of St Civran (pronounced 'sainseevran') in the French province of Berry.

This time it's serious!

Starting 1st May until the end of October 2011, here's the offer for a cool French holiday:

- 3 hrs in the pottery workshop for beginners, morning or afternoon...
- 3 hrs of strolling along country lanes or by bike on the small roads, when we don't do pottery...
- lunch taken on the long oak table in the house attached to the workshop...
- the evening meal maybe too, except if you prefer to try a local restaurant...
- long summer evenings in the local cultural style like attending a theatre play in the backyard of a castle, or else a barbecue in the garden...

All this, in restricted company as BerryHobby only takes 3 (three) people at a time.

Now the cost.

- For the 6 hrs per day either doing pottery or strolling around: 35€ per day.
- Plus 5€ to share a meal.
- Plus the cost for accommodation of 35€ per night.
- Plus 5€ to share a breakfast.

As I was saying, this is a cool offer for a cool French holiday.

You can enrol right now for 1st May or later. At this stage you only need to send an e-mail giving your details and the dates you wish to attend to:

berryhobby(at)gmail.com

First arrived, first served. You only need to put your name down to have a place reserved. You pay when you get to the workshop. If you change plans, never mind, your place will be given to the next one on the waiting list.

The address: La poterie, 2 rue du Lavoir, 36170 St Civran, France.

49. Host and Helper in 2006

The HelpExchange website is a place where someone owning a farm or a house to renovate, called the 'Host', will offer free accommodation and food to someone, called the 'Helper', willing to help with some hours of work per day and per week. The arrangement between the two parties is loose. It is on a kind of volunteering basis on both sides. It stems from the organisation widely used in New Zealand and Australia called 'vwoof', i.e.Volunteer Work On Organic Farms. It is common and popular in those countries for young and less young people to hit the road and travel from one farm to another within this organisation. The system is so popular that it has extended to other types of activities. You now find Hosts having Helpers to do all sorts of small jobs on their properties.

In 2006 as I was already planning to revive my pottery workshop, I received Jessica from the USA as a Helper. I drove to Paris to pick her up at the airport and took her with her large bicycle back to my remote lonesome rural village in the centre of France. She was jet-lagged, culture shocked and heart broken as she had just split from her boyfriend and for my part I had heavy family problems. But anyway she soon adapted to my way of life and we had some good time together. She was very helpful, friendly and well behaved. The only regret I have is that we never became friends. The age difference perhaps. We exchanged travel stories and I raved so much about New Zealand that she went on her travels ending up in New Zealand.

Here are some photos of her stay with me.

Stacking logs in St Civran













At the potter's wheel

Walking to Chazelet




Mowing in Chazelet


Driving back from La Borne
Baby sitting my grand-daughter

11 December 2010

48. MORE PLANS FOR A REVIVAL

Frankie breaking up dry clay in her workshop
The year 2010 is nearly over and I am thinking again of getting my pottery workshop off the ground.

With the aim to provide for a stressless enjoyable environment with pottery making as a theme, but not as a structured course, I'm thinking of opening up from May to October 2011 to holiday makers like I did in 2002 and 2003. The pottery activity will be limited to beginners only and I'll deal with them.

However as I do need help, I have registered with HelpExchange as a Host to recruit Helpers.

Since I am able to live in another village, the house attached to the pottery studio in St Civran can be made available to Helpers. The way I see it, there will be a 'caretaker' in the house staying for the season from May to October. He will look after the place and welcome anyone turning up, either hobby potters or tourists passing by or other Helpers arriving for a short stay. As I see it, the house would have a nice atmosphere with people happy to share travel stories, a drink or a meal, and always neat.

In 2002 I tried to do all the jobs on my own, the welcoming in the house, the teaching in the pottery studio, the advising where to stay and so on. It was exhausting and as I'm a bit older now, I just would not cope on my own. A 'caretaker' will make it so much easier for me.

The publicity to attract people to the workshop is done by internet. As this takes quite some time, I do need someone to help me with that too. A Helper with advanced knowledge and experience on handling e-publicity is needed.

That way my job will be limited to come to the workshop and take charge of 3 beginner hobby potters. This I can do.

What I dread, of course, is all the administrative stuff I will have to deal with.

05 August 2010

47. Genesis of a dream

When I decided to write out the story of my pottery venture on a blog, it was mainly for myself to remember and perhaps also to analyse. It was also for those descendants of mine who would care to know in the years to come.

However having readers, and what's more anonymous readers, has made a big difference in the way I write. I don't say everything I'd like to say bluntly like when writing in a private diary. I'm going to write, this post at least, as if it was for my diary.

What got me into pottery?



There was no interest in pottery or potters in my childhood in my family. The province of Berry had plenty of clay tile makers but that was of no interest. The traditional pots used by my grandmother looked great, I thought. That is the only link I can find to my later interest... ah yes, now I remember that when I was a teenager in the late 50's there was a famous artist potter, Guy Baudat, in the nearby artist village of Gargilesse who was famous. But it never occurred to me that I could be a potter. And also I must add that I was a boarder for many years in a state school in Limoges which is the capital of ceramics in France. It rubbed off perhaps quite unconsciously.

My first interest surfaced in 1967 when I was a young married woman living in Canberra, Australia. I lived as if alien to my own life. It felt as if I had been hijacked from my own destiny. This married woman working as a clerk in an administration, sitting on a chair at a desk all day, then coming home and preparing dinner or doing the washing, in other words this domestic female was not me. I had lost my bearings and in the fog was trying to find something to hold onto to catch a grasp of reality again.

I looked around for an occupation to escape this alien life I was drowning in, something closer to my inner identity so to speak. On a list of hobbies I found pottery classes available to adults after work. I joined. I liked it very much. Working the clay oblivious of the passing of time was exactly what I needed to forget my new lifestyle. But as always, prone to making big plans, I started thinking of turning the wooden garage where we lived into my own workshop. Unfortunately we were tenants and the owners would not have approved of that.
 So after a term at the tech evening classes I dropped pottery and tried another hobby.

Years went by. I returned to Europe on my own in 1974 at the age of 30. This time I was not going to let anyone hijack my life. I wanted to learn how to sail on the ocean and I started pottery again. Did a summer course in a village where I was living in the province of Dauphiné between Lyon and Grenoble. I guess that is where I got the bug and the idea of having, one day in the grand future, my own workshop to welcome and teach the art of making clay pots.

At the same time I started studying ethnology at the university of Lyon 2 'Lumière'. One of my student research paper was about an old dauphinois potter. He was the last of his lineage working at his wheel making bowls and plates and dishes on orders. In 1978 this guy was saying there was no future in his trade. He was aware of being the last of his species. There was no future in manufacturing clay vessels by hand. It was the end of a trade that went back to the dawn of times. I wrote all this down with his interview and drawings of his pots and so on. I guess that propelled me further into thinking of a workshop for hobby potters. In my mind the art had to be kept alive. It was fundamental. Potters as providers of kitchen equipment could disappear... but not their art, their knowledge and know-how.

A lot more years went by. In my 50's in New Zealand I squinted at pottery shops and workshops, even went for a job once in one of them but was turned off. In May 2000 I flew back to France again. My mother had died and her estate had to be sorted out. The story of BerryHobby pottery in St Civran starts from there.

I knew I could not possibly start the business venture I had in mind, on my own. When I tried to tell my German partner of the time about it, he said: 'tell you hairdresser about it'. That's a german expression meaning that the subject is mean and of no consequence. I returned to France on my own but kept in touch by phone. I knew I could not live on my own in a rural village. At the best of time a single woman is frowned upon, at the worst is rejected. My partner arrived from New Zealand eventually but everything went to pot (ha! ha! ha!) and I found myself alone at my open house day when I started up my grand plan.

That's how I got into pottery.

01 February 2010

For any request...

I won't be uploading this blog for quite some time.

For any request please write a letter and send it by post to:
La poterie, 2 rue du Lavoir, 36170 St Civran, France.

Good bye for now.
f r a n k i e

23 January 2010

46. PLANNING THE HOLIDAY SEASON 2010

Taking stock: I have a pottery studio about 70m2 in size equiped with one single potter's wheel and a 3 meter long cement workbench. There's no kiln in the studio at this stage. There are a few hundred kilograms of red earthenware clay. Tools. Shelves. It is a pleasant place to work with a 3 bedroom house attached. Situated on the main village square.

The plan: For July and August, and by extension from May to October, I plan to welcome european hobby potters to come and enjoy a week's holiday in my house and pottery studio. The offer is a holiday pack all inclusive with hours in the pottery studio, accomodation in a private room, a kitchen and bathroom to share, entertainment such as a folk singing evening, a barbecue, attending theatre plays in the area, visiting one tourist site such as an old castle or a museum, a bike ride, or anything that may be spontaneously thought of and organised. The aim is to provide for a stressless enjoyable environment with pottery making as a theme, but not as a structured course.

Advertising: A static webpage in French, English and German will be launched and published in due course. There will be no other type of advertising. The number of people per week at the same time will be just three. Filling up means, 3 people by 4 weeks, i.e. 12 hobby potters to welcome per month.

Staff: At this stage there is no staff to do the job and I'm working on trying to convince people to come and help me. I have a few people in mind to help organise the barbecues and to play guitar for the folk singing evenings. But I badly need someone who would share attendance in the studio with me. I can only attend for half the time. It has to be a proper potter or an experienced hobby potter. It is not a job offer as such. It is an invitation to come and stay for free for a month or longer, using all facilities and being in-charge of the pottery studio for half a day for 6 days in exchange of free accomodation.  It concerns someone who is a bit adventurous and curious. And due to immigration difficulties it has to be someone with a European passport and some knowledge of French and/or English or German.

This is the plan for the summer 2010. I really want to launch my pottery studio again. I am convinced that there is business to do with it welcoming tourists in the area. Come and join!

Anyone interested in coming to help can write a comment here or send an e-mail to the email address stated in my profile.