“Feel the material when you hold a ceramic in your hands, to be connected to it, like a ritual”
Behind her label MANO MANI, the ceramist Julie Boucherat imagines and shapes unique, spontaneous and symbolic pieces, with raw lines and rich textures. Let's take a glimpse into the background behind her creation.
PLEASE TELL US THE CONCEPT OF YOUR LABEL NAME, “MANO MANI”.
MANO MANI means « hand hands » in Italian. Italy is a country that means a lot to me because I was born in Nice, located on the Italian border, and my father's family is from Corsica, a Mediterranean island, formerly Italian territory.
MANO MANI is for the craftsman hands
MANO MANI is for the love of collective, with 4, 6, 8 hands working together
MANO MANI is for an honest connection, from hand to hand
MANO MANI is a childhood memory, hand in hand...
WHY DID YOU START MAKING CERAMIC PIECES?
After working as a journalist in decoration and design for seven years in Paris, I decided to stop in 2016 and to return to my origins, those of the earth, a living material to which I have been initiated since my youngest age by my mother, a ceramist.
With an upholsterer-decorator grandfather and a seamstress grandmother, I grew up in a family of artist-craftsmen who gave me a taste for studio life. To me, making with clay is a natural and instinctive practice which brings me joy and fullness, it's a form of meditation, an anchor point to earth.
WHY ARE YOU BASED IN BIARRITZ?
When Mao, my daughter, was born 4 years ago, I was living in Paris. To me, it's a fantastic city when you are a young worker, childless with a culturally rich job. But I am a Southern girl, I need nature around me, and I wanted to give my daughter a childhood between ocean, forest and mountains, a unique way of life guided by the seasons.
Meanwhile, I wanted to live and create my ceramic workshop in a territory with a strong culture full of traditions. We found it. Basque country is the perfect place for us. I live in Bayonne and my workshop is in Biarritz, on the Atlantic coast.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I am inspired by a lot of different arts, crafts, materials and people. I love the Arte Povera Italian movement in art and design. I am really inspired by artists like the Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida, but also, out of order : Joan Miró, Pierrette Bloch, Koshiro Onchi, Sheila Hicks, Frida Kahlo, Martin Margiela, Pablo Picasso, Louise Bourgeois, Valentine Schlegel, the Giacometti family, Bernard Leach, Giorgio Morandi, Amédée Ozenfant, Domenico Gnoli... There are so many!
I am really interested in crafts and handmade things generally, especially from Japan: ceramic of course, but also embroidery, woodcraft, basketwork... If I could, I would learn and practice everything. I love the poetry of everyday objects, like brushes, baskets or spoons. Inspiration is everywhere, in nature surrounding us, but also in the heritage of ancestral civilizations. I am very attached to symbolism and myths.
WHAT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU WHEN CREATING?
I am firmly self-taught, thus I need to try, experiment, look for, fail, then find, I like being able to control the whole chain to understand what I do and get what I want. I need time, I think a lot before making it, but when I am in front of the clay, I let it guide me. Clay has a strong power of decision, I love listening to it.
PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOUR APPROACH TO TECHNIQUES AND MATERIALS.
I like mistakes, irregularities, curves and organic shapes. That's why I don't use a wheel. I only use sandstones : cream, black, red and dark red. I want to let the color of each clay appear on my pieces, and I like their different reactions with glazes. I like using simple slips made of wild clay that I picked up in nature around and during my different trips. All of my glazes are handmade, I love developing my own palette in natural shades and matte finish.
I am always looking for raw textures, to me it's very important to feel the material when you hold a ceramic in your hands, to be connected to it, like a ritual.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO TRY IN THE FUTURE?
My mind is in a permanent dialogue with myself, between creating art pieces and more functional objects. I like and I need this back and forth for my creative balance.
In the future, I would like to build my own little wood kiln, experimenting with primitive pit-firing, using more wild clay to have a local production, and always learning new techniques of building and glazing. I would love to work more with Japan and Japanese people, one of my dreams would be to do an art show in Japan...
*All photo credit 2022, François Devulder / MANO MANI
ORIFT OWNER’S COMMENT
All of the photos used in this interview were provided by MANO MANI. I was so fascinated by not only her unique works but also the styling and photos, which enhance her works and almost brings the smell. I would like to visit Biarritz someday, where her works are produced, and feel the atmosphere created by the rich nature and tradition.
MANO MANI BY JULIE BOUCHERAT
Behind her label MANO MANI, the ceramist Julie Boucherat imagines and shapes unique, spontaneous and symbolic pieces, with raw lines and rich textures. Her pieces are made of stoneware and her glazes are handmade. They are inspired by the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi and primitive African forms. She uses hand building techniques which give each piece its own uniqueness.