Johanna de Clisson borrowed poetically from the Japanese language to name Hiromi, her workshop dedicated to ceramic work. But it is architecture, “the real backbone of her research”, with its multi-faceted approach, that the Arts Décoratifs graduate profoundly admires, and this feeds into her work. The Parisian ceramicist is a passionate explorer of form and volume. Enriched by what seems like a thousand and one different lives spent displaying great flair in various creative sectors, she is now involving a new set of craftspeople in her work with clay. Co-constructing a range of immaculate and numbered creations onto which “everyone can project their own references”, our host applies a fundamental principle: “constantly trying to avoid the ornamental and taking a more ascetic and universal approach.” And this quest for simplicity can equally be found in her home in Montmartre, which she has dotted with her own creations. The designer likes to decorate her living spaces instinctively in this “small, quiet corner of nature.” Without indulging in too much minimalism! Even though white is the primary colour, as it is in her studio. An immaculately pristine canvas where her designer acquisitions come together, including pieces by Tobia Scarpa, Warren Platner and Mario Botta. Here, this versatile artist prioritises timelessness and shows us her boundless creativity. You can also come and see her prolific and sensitive work at the 2022 Paris Design Week, where she will be exhibiting her new Dimensions Variables collection from 8 to 11 September in room 19 of the legendary La Louisiane hotel in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
Johanna, can you introduce yourself, please?
Johanna de Clisson, artist, ceramist, sometime photographer, and art director. A total fan of the Butte Montmarte.
What is your background?
After two years of preparatory studies at Penninghen and five years at the Arts Décoratifs de Paris, I obtained a degree in photography. I started my career in the studio at Elle magazine as a set assistant and then did a short stint in the advertising agency Les Ouvriers du Paradis. On the strength of these experiences – and because I had a taste for freedom – I set up my own art direction and branding agency with two friends. Then in December 2020, I founded Hiromi.
Tell us where you grew up. How did that influence the way your tastes have developed?
Coming from a blended family of five children, there were always lots of us at home, and we quickly developed a taste for partying and socialising. My mother and my father-in-law in the world of decoration quickly made us aware of architecture, decorative arts, design… It was very busy at home. Mix & match, toile de jouy, antiques. We travelled a lot during our teenage years to discover other cultures and ways of life. This has clearly had an impact on my research and my work. It was very full-on!
My mother and my father-in-law in the world of decoration quickly made us aware of architecture, decorative arts, design… It was very busy at home.
Hiromi is your new project dedicated to work based on form. Tell us more about it.
Hiromi is the name of a Japanese virtuoso pianist and means free-spirited beauty. That’s all there is to it! I wanted a name that didn’t evoke anything in anyone so that everyone could project their own personal references onto it, just like my creations, which don’t have names but numbers. Hiromi is a workshop dedicated to the exploration and research of form. At the moment, I’m working mainly with clay (white grogged earthenware), but this could evolve. I create pieces with other craftspeople. Cabinetmakers, metalworkers, and so on. More than the material itself, it’s the exploration of volume and mass that interests me. Constantly trying to avoid the ornamental for a more ascetic and universal approach.
Why did you feel the need to return to creating by hand after years as an artistic director?
I’ve returned to my first love. I painted and drew when I was much younger. I was very hands-on! I felt a strong need to slow down, spend less time in front of computer screens and, above all, be freer in my creativity and be further removed from marketing constraints and trends. Nowadays, I combine the two, and these synergies enrich me.
Your ceramics are both functional and decorative. Why did you want to combine the two?
I would talk more about art and design. The boundary is quite loose, and I find this ambiguity very interesting.
What inspires the aesthetics behind your creations? Your earthenware is recognisable by its proportions and pure lines.
The backbone of my research is architecture. I appreciate the work of Tadao Ando for its rigour and simplicity, but I also like Carlo Scarpa and Oscar Niemeyer. Their lines are simple and extremely powerful. I am also very interested in Italian design since the 1970s. The roundness of the work of Gae Aulenti, Guzzini, Vico Magistretti, Ettore Sottsass’s humour, and Stanley Kubrick’s aestheticism. It’s infinite.
The backbone of my research is architecture. I appreciate the work of Tadao Ando for its rigour and simplicity, but I also like Carlo Scarpa (...)
Do we find this same sensitivity in your apartment?
Yes, absolutely! It’s white, fairly uncluttered, but not minimalist either.
Tell us about how you came across it.
That would take three pages! It was mutual love at first sight. It took us a long time to find this place, and we did a lot of work on it. Leaving Montmartre, where we had already been living for five years, was out of the question, but finding nice spaces for large families was hard. Axel was desperate for a quiet corner of nature.
How did you decorate and furnish it?
We have quite an instinctive approach. We’ve moved four times in ten years, and we’re carrying around furniture and paintings that we love without thinking about the overall coherence! For years I have been accumulating pieces from designers I like, including Tobia Scarpa, Warren Platner, Mario Botta and, more recently, an old photograph of a mountain by Tairraz (bought at the Objets Inanimès Gallery), collages by Lia Rochas and coloured gouaches by Géraldine Roussel.
What does it say about you?
Timelessness, perhaps, which I also seek in my creations.
Where will you see us next?
We’ll be in the iconic La Louisiane hotel in Saint-Germain-des-Prés for Paris Design Week. I’m taking over a room from 8 to 11 September with other artists to present my new collection, which will include chairs, floor lamps and bedside tables.
I am also very interested in Italian design since the 1970s. The roundness of the work of Gae Aulenti, Guzzini, Vico Magistretti (...)
Photography : Constance Gennari – Text : Juliette Bruneau @thesocialitefamily