One is a graduate of France’s elite Ecole Normale Supérieure, the other is a designer. It was their shared passion which brought them...
A concept store where crafts have the place of honour looks like a modern and purer Ali Baba’s cave! At Empreintes, imagine 600 square meters and 4 floors flooded with light, such as an initiatory journey, between exhibition space/point of sale, projection rom, cabinet of curiosities, library and even a café. Then, you can see that the crafts workers’ creativity has no borders. Jewels, culinary arts, lights and sculpture, in small series or unique pieces: every object has met the man’s hand. For the opening, wood has the place of honour. This material is explored through the work of six crafts workers, cut with a chainsaw or chiselled like a lace. Let’s meet the two instigators of the project, the president of the trade union Ateliers d’Art de France, Serge Nicole, and the set designer Elizabeth Lerich.
In order to discover the story of the concept store for crafts professions Empreintes, click here.
Could you introduce yourself?
I am a ceramist and currently the president of Atelier d’Art de France. Elizabeth Leriche is a set designer and we have been working together for already six years. I am mostly going to introduce Ateliers d’Art de France. It is a group of professionals, or rather a community, that has been existing for a very long time. This place is really the act of a group, a collective good, which, apart from its economic goal, shows what we are for the benefit of everybody. So it is a collective organisation whose missions are the economic development of the whole of professionals from the crafts professions and the institutional representation. We carry out these two actions thanks to different ways, with Maison & Objet trade show that we founded in 1949. We organise the cultural heritage tradeshow in the Carrousel du Louvre and we are the founders and organisers of the Révélations tradeshow in the Grand Palais, which is dedicated to creation. So, through these events but also thanks to a publishing house with two magazines and an international movie festival about the crafts professions in Montreuil, we do our best to promote, assist the professionals and above all to create the encounter with our audience.
Serge, Elizabeth, how was the idea of this project born?
The vitality and values of this community of crafts professions creators strike a particular chord today. We wanted to show and share this strength in a place dedicated to it and accessible, that would look like us. Gathering as many artists is perfectly new. Currently, more than 260 of them are represented through more than 1,000 pieces.
This place conveys an interesting wave, which takes the opposing view of a paradoxical period during which we hyper-consume, trapped by the urgency and the passing of time. Here, every piece is unique. The objects are handmade. They carry sense, and I think they lead the visitor to a reconnection with materials. Beyond them, we see where they come from. What seemed primordial to us was the person, the mark of the human into the work.
What are these crafts professions?
It is very diverse. There are more than 200 different professions. Let’s name a few: ceramist, glass blower, cabinetmaker, stone cutter, lace-maker and even feather worker. There is also a whole of patrimonial and old professions with all kinds of specialties. For example, there are the people who work for heritage restoration with know-hows created several centuries ago.
How do you choose the crafts workers?
It is a service of Ateliers d’Art de France. We called for applications our 1,600 members. Then, among the work of all those who tried, we chose some pieces in order to have diversity in the offer. But our commitment is not to make a real selection. Every crafts worker who proposes his pieces could gain access to Empreintes. Of course, there is an artistic look for the set design and the general corporate design, but as a trade union, our mission is to offer everyone the same visibility. It is also a place of stimulation of the creation to which everyone can gain access by doing its very best.
What are their feedbacks?
Everyone is happy! There are delighted and there is an absolute unanimity. They feel like home. There is a simplicity in the presentation that showcases the object, where they come from, their portraits, names, pictures of their workshops… We buy the piece of Mr. or Mrs. So-and so and it creates a form of intimacy. It is wonderful.
Yes, it is exactly what we were looking for with the set design: something simple that would enable the encounter, with an almost direct selling from the creator to the visitor. The goal was to find a set design that would enhance the objects and make everyone feel good. We really wanted to make the codes of shops appear, with label under the objects, because we are not in a gallery, nor in a museum, and we didn’t want distance between the visitor and the objects showcased. It is important because today, the crafts professions are quite unknown.
Elizabeth, how did you conceive the set design of the place?
We thought the space a bit like a route that was coherent with different themes, with, in parallel, a great work on colours, since this place is very white. At the lower floor, we chose cold tones, celadons and blues. There is something very serene in these tones. We have the feeling to arrive in an oasis. This is the first space the visitor discovers; it is both a point of sale and the exhibition room, with numerous pieces everyone can afford, in addition to our mission of helping the crafts workers to commercialise their works and to discover new markets. Since the beginning, there has been a true will to share these worlds. So we imagined “creators’ cells”. Thanks to pictures, we enter the intimacy of the workshops by discovering the creation processes, the techniques and the different materials. Still in an educational spirit, we have a projection room downstairs where we broadcast movies about crafts professions. At the first floor, there are the culinary arts boutique and a café for which we are partners with By Season. Once again, the idea was to create a meeting and a discussion point where it is possible to taste things in the plate or the cup the creator made, and being able of buying it right after. In the second part, ceramists and creations whose theme for the opening was around wood are exhibited, with a panel of different techniques. At the second floor, we discover the space of the precious boutique, the boudoir where jewels have the place of honour, and also the furniture and light space, showcased a bit like a stock. Finally, at the last floor, there is the cabinet of curiosities and the library, with a hundred of books about crafts professions, still coherent with this will to share and to discover.
Are you going to change the collections regularly?
In fact, it takes time to make the objects, so the idea is to evolve depending on what the members are going to be able to create. We will orchestrate new themes and try to impulse innovation without racing like mad. Then, this place is designed to be transformed quite easily, so the set design will evolve depending on the creators.
Do you have other projects coming?
Yes, we will probably have cooperation projects, but in the first place, we will create an e-business website to enable every artist to go global!
Credits : Eve Campestrini @thesocialitefamily