Quimper - (Pottery France)

Quimper - (Pottery, France) Quimper (pronounced kem-pair) is a town located in northwestern France in the province of Brittany. It has been a pottery town since the days when the area was part of the Roman Empire, and today it is virtually synonymous with its pottery. The town’s name is derived from the Gaelic “kemper,” meaning a confluence of rivers. True to its name, Quimper is situated in close proximity to four rivers, and thus, it was…and is…an ideal place for making pottery. In the beginning, the riverbanks provided clay as well as a mode of transportation for the finished product and abundant nearby forests meant plenty of fuel for the kilns.
The current history of Quimper pottery begins in 1707 with a potter by the name of Pierre Bousquet. Previous information had set an earlier date, but recent discoveries have shed new light on the early history of Quimper’s first modern-day factory. It had been thought that Bousquet’s father, Jean-Baptiste, had started the first factory in 1690, but it is now known that he did not arrive in Quimper until late in 1699 and that the pottery he made there was for his own personal use.
Pierre Bousquet had worked with his father as a potter in the environs of Marseille, in the south of France. During a visit to Jean-Baptiste, who was then living in the Locmaria section of Quimper, Pierre recognized the opportunity that the area would provide for an ambitious young potter. Relocating to Quimper, he established his factory and began producing utilitarian bottles and tablewares in stoneware, known as ‘grès’ in French. Soon the company was making eight different types of pipes for smoking tobacco as well as decorative tin-glazed earthenware, known as ‘faïence’.
By the last quarter of the-nineteenth century, the original pottery, started back in 1707 by Pierre Bousquet, had evolved into a large factory run by descendants named de la Hubaudière and was now known as the Grande Maison or HB factory (for Hubaudière-Bousquet). In addition, since the latter part of the eighteenth century, two other factories had been founded by former employees of the HB factory; one was the Porquier factory, the other was owned by Jules Henriot. In the first half of the twentieth century, two more factories added to Quimper’s distinction as a pottery town. They were the Fouillen factory, founded in 1929 by Paul Fouillen, a former HB employee, and the Keraluc factory, which began operations in 1947 upon the efforts of Victor Lucas, who had previously worked at both the HB and Henriot factories.
The period from 1872 to 1930 is considered to be the artistic apex of Quimper’s pottery production. For the most part, pieces made prior to 1840 were utilitarian in nature and those made after the 1940s utilized more modern materials and streamlined production methods. Today’s collector generally categorizes pieces made prior to World War II as vintage or “antique” Quimper; pieces made later fall into the collectibles category. Regardless of age, to be considered a true example of Quimper pottery, a piece must have been made within the town of Quimper. The tradition continues today with two factories; one is a continuation of the original factory now run by a firm that was founded in 1984 by a group of American-based investors. The other factory opened in 1994, and is a true example of Breton tradition as it is owned and operated by descendents of earlier owners of Quimper pottery factories. As well, independent ceramic artisans worked, and still work, in Quimper.
Given the time span involved, almost three hundred years, there is an incredible range of Quimper pottery from which to choose. For collectors, the breadth of Quimper production is truly staggering and never ceases to amaze. (written by Adela Meadows)


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