Stéphane Bouchard Potier Les ateliers charlevoix portrait
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Stéphane Bouchard, Potter

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Two hands covered in rivulets of clay-water… Fingers whose precise placement and pressure are the result of skills both acquired and absorbed… Quiet mastery of his clay, of his potter’s wheel… Ever-present, a calm, compassionate gaze on the piece, both art and a life’s work, the place and the spirit he keeps alive… The quiet past he honours as the decent, big-hearted man the boy of 15 who once maintained the flowerbeds and a patch of grass, became: Stéphane Bouchard, potter.

CLAY, SCULPTED DOWN THE GENERATIONS

The thick stone walls have retained the memory of the hours the boy spent at the wheel, instructed by Joan Deblois, a mentor who shaped the young man with the same assured hand she used to shape lumps of clay, making them into pieces for what was then the studio Deblois: with the solid reputation, but above all the spirit, that continues today under Stéphane’s hand, and in the Ateliers Charlevoix name.

There is a peace, a majesty, and a beauty that emanates from this quiet communication. From this knowledge passed down to a new generation, as spontaneous as it was unexpected. A relationship sculpted over time between a “local kid” looking for his first job and a couple of artists slowly opening their hearts and sharing their knowledge with this creative, patient, meticulous, and sensitive youth. It’s the story of a quiet happiness that came on gradually, settled in, and led today to this beautiful old home, now lived in with spirit and love by a father, his companion in life, and his grown daughters… To these outbuildings dignified by rustic studios set amid stone hearths and old wood… To this bright boutique where artistic craftsmanship meets functionality in the things that fill our everyday lives, kitchen utensils and decorative pieces that come out of Stéphane’s oven, and in the textile creations made by his sweetheart, Nancy Giguère, the creator behind the Signature N line… and to this loft space where decorative works, cushions, bags, and aprons meet the bright canvasses of Marc Deblois, painter.

Mains potier tour argile Les Ateliers Charlevoix Stéphane Bouchard

RAKU

And that garden that Stéphane first took care of is now, in spring, a place of raw creativity...

An annual collection that collides with natural elements when he brings the forces of fire and water to bear on the clay and enamels that withstand them, though they bear the scars: a fine tracery of shimmering cracks… Works of art created using these ancient Japanese techniques, Westernized over time, and again passed down by Joan to Stéphane, have a great deal in common with people, in the way that their flaws, their history, and their blemishes make them beautiful, give them character, and above all, uniqueness.

With a second firing bringing it to 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit in 45 minutes, followed by a pass over a bed of smoking, combustible materials, then abrupt chilling in water, the pre-sculpted, fired and enamelled piece shows the fractures of these numerous stresses, revealing the story within.  Stéphane accentuates this idea of the unique creation by adding bits of old metal scrounged at random, driftwood gathered during family walks on the beach in the coastal village of Saint-Irénée-Les-Bains, the day after high spring tides…

Cuisson raku poterie céramique Atelier Charlevoix

Raku is the heart speaking... There’s room to let loose.

Kintsugi Raku poterie Ateliers charlevoix Stéphane Bouchard

From the Japanese philosophy, he also applies the Kintsugi method, the art of putting ceramics back together but choosing to emphasize cracks and damage… He intentionally breaks parts of works in the raku style, and affixes other, contrasting fragments to it, gluing everything together again with a highly visible, sometimes black, sometimes metallic seam... In short, he creates. With drive. With passion. With the eye, too, of someone who’s always been more of an artist, a graphic designer by training but who is, at heart, a potter…

In a darker exhibit space set apart from the main shop, Raku artworks are showcased while awaiting their perfect match. Because with creations as powerful as these, we only know what we want, when we see it. Our hands need, instinctively, to close around the teacup that will come home with us. The soul must be reflected in the patterns of a line of cracked glazing. Some pieces will become teapots, rice bowls, decorative vases, or funeral urns… Every time, they will have made a connection with the individual who sets eyes on them.

MADE BY HIS HAND

Creating throughout the winter in a world of hushed solitude where productive and organized manual work gives him a chance for renewal... Dealing with customers all summer, gratified by the sunny dispositions of vacationers travelling the length of the river road, and by the admiring looks they give his work… Stéphane finds peace of mind, balance, in a lifestyle that reflects his values, and those of this business, founded in 1985, whose philosophy continues to be modelled: Choose local, choose hand-crafted. Offer customers something different: offer something pretty, something durable, hand-made, made locally, by a craftsman from this place, a family man, someone active in his community, engaged in advocating for this area. Pieces of art that occupy a functional place in daily life are an extension and affirmation of convictions rooted in this soil, majestically overlooking the St. Lawrence River. Taking the notion we have of Charlevoix as a foodie paradise even further: taste Charlevoix on a hand-made plate created right here. This is the vision that brings about exceptional partnerships, in particular, the creation of custom dinnerware for the celebrated and contemporary Les Faux-Bergers à Baie-Saint-Paul restaurant.

It’s a vision that also fills the shelves of the Ateliers Charlevoix’s boutique with 1,001 useful treasures bearing the signature originated by Joan and preserved by Stéphane, who's added a few touches of his own. Tuned in to what customers want and also passionate about cooking, inspiration often comes to Stéphane by way of his own experience in the kitchen, and at the table… What might be useful? Which trends stand out in a culinary world that’s always bubbling over? The array of pieces on offer is always expanding… The lines always stay pure and simple… And the variety of glazes follows over time, letting loyal customers complete their collections and their sets, one piece at a time… Gray, turquoise, lime and the famous natural écru adorned by that distinctive signature shape, half-flower, half-fruit, sometimes yellow, sometimes pink, or even blue.

Whether in the pattern of a glaze, in the creative process, or in the passing down of a technique, for the love of the hand-made piece, of the customer, and of this place, time and time again, the same refrain, that special aura unique to Ateliers Charlevoix: of tradition passed down and an appreciation for its beginnings. In short, a long story! That of the artists Deblois, that of the young Stéphane, now a man. Now a potter.

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Les Ateliers Charlevoix

Signature N

Thick denim aprons with colourful top-stitching, a sports bag featuring one of Mr. Deblois’ canvasses, a cushion featuring a photo from the area’s early days decorated with raku buttons… The textile creations made by Nancy Giguère’s recognizable hand appear to embody the Ateliers Charlevoix’s perfect meeting of minds. A newcomer to adventures in this community of creation and discovery, Nancy fell in love, both with the man and the potter, choosing put down roots here, personally and professionally, to be with Stéphane. And it’s clear that delight fills the air in the studios, settling on each of the precious pieces made with love by the artists’ hands.

Trained in fashion design and having worked with a company prior to launching her own line, Orka, in 1997, Nancy certainly has the skills, and now savours the joy of creating things on a smaller scale, by hand, far from the city and the whirlwind of major productions… One comes away with the feeling that she knows her textiles, their weight, and their feel. To say nothing of her sense of composition when she is playing with materials, colours, lines, and accessories and, in the end, with her impulse to please others through the things she creates!

Quilting in Four Stages

In the entrance hall to the new Club Med Charlevoix in Petite-Rivière-Saint-François, a monumental work sets the tone for decor arranged around aspects of Quebec’s heritage. The enormous wall hanging, in the form of a quilt designed by the couple and produced by Nancy, pulses with colour and includes textiles sections in the Charlevoix boutonné insertion weaving technique, sown by Anne-Marie Hamel, all under the aegis of Ateliers Charlevoix. Made of four panels, the mural forms the Étoile de Charlevoix [Charlevoix Star], a well-known motif in Charlevoix handicrafts. Among the squares of coloured fabric, some show watermarked photos of various features of the area’s culture. In a nutshell, it's a source of pride to Ateliers Charlevoix that this work welcomes visitors from all around the world!

More inspiring pictures...

Text
Camille Dufour Truchon, Mark Lindenberg (translation)
Video
Patrice Gagnon
Photos
Sylvain Foster
Les Ateliers Charlevoix

1131, rang Terrebonne
Route 362
Saint-Irénée, Charlevoix (Québec)
G0T 1V0

Phone : 418.452.3229
Email : lesatelierscharlevoix@gmail.com

 

Business Hours

All days from May 1st until October 31, free admision

From 9 am to 5 pm in May, June and October
From 9 am to 6 pm in  July, August and September.
From november to April, please call before.

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