French ceramic artist Solenne Belloir's work has exhibited from Paris and London to Denmark. We were first introduced to her work through a few of our favourite shops, such as Yonobi Studio in Copenhagen. This month, we are very excited to introduce a limited collection of her baskets and vases at SORT.
Upon first glance at Solenne's pieces, their impact is immediate to the viewer, who must take in both the presence of matter as well as the absence of it. Leaving only what is essential, Solenne has described her work as "not only built of soil but also of air." With such an inimitable perspective on making, it's no surprise that her works have captured the attention and appreciation of collectors worldwide.
We were delighted to have the opportunity to speak with Solenne about her journey with clay, recent inspirations, and Paris' best kept secret.
SORT: How did clay choose you?
SOLENNE: I was a very manual child, always building things out out anything, like houses from cardboard boxes, and I think that if I had played with clay in my childhood I would probably have been hooked immediately.
But that didn’t happen. A bit more than 3 years ago, I came across videos of old potters throwing clay on the wheel. I found it fascinating and began to watch lots of those. It was a moment in my life where I was in between jobs and didn’t want to come back at it.
Clay became more and more present in my head, [and a] month later I registered for a throwing class as a hobby...The passion began immediately. Very quickly, 2 hours a week wasn’t enough and I registered in a studio where you can practice by yourself. In this place, I discovered hand building which is now my main practice.
SORT: Who or what has influenced your work the most?
SOLENNE: I’m quite influenced by architecture in general, but I’m [especially] obsessed by the roofs, chimneys, pipes...and also water towers.
When I walk in the streets my head is always looking up, when I travel I’m so excited to observe the transformation of the architectural landscape. In France, colours of roofs [change] by regions, chimneys all look the same by area and each water tower is surprising in any country.
The photography duo Hilla and Bernd Becher help me a lot with their amazing book, Basic Forms, which is my bedside book (see first image below). I dive in very often, and always see something new and interesting that inspire me.
SORT: You describe your pieces as hybrid creatures both ancient and futuristic. Where did this desire to encompass two opposing concepts in one object come from in your own life?
SOLENNE: The building aspect of my practice is the most satisfying thing to me. Clay is a very ancient practice—[a] very concrete "down to earth" practice—which is why I was drawn to it at first. You take clay, you transform it with your hands and tools, you fire it and then you’ve got a piece, something finished, something accomplished. If you don’t like it before firing it you can destroy it, recycle it and do all over again—that I love about clay.
But also clay is this medium with infinite possibilities, so many artists doing things so different from one another, making clay look absolutely unique, using other material to mix it up or new technologies that pushes the boundaries of clay. This is where the futuristic side of it shows up and this [is] how my pieces end up being both new and old.
SORT: How do you remain centered in a noisy world?
SOLENNE: I don’t! But I would take any tips!
SORT: Logistically, there are many other elements to running a creative practice, such as photographing your work and order fulfilment. How do you manage it all, or in other words, what does your day to day look like?
SOLENNE: All my days look different, but most of the time I wake up, have a coffee and work a little bit at my desk responding to emails and editing shipping labels etc. Then I go to the studio and do whatever I need to do, it can be packing pieces, glazing pieces, load[ing] up a kiln, recycl[ing] clay, do some cleaning and of course, making pieces.
SORT: If you had to recommend one place in Paris to visit, where would that be?
SOLENNE: On a sunny day I would recommend [finding] one of the secret entrances to "La Petite Ceinture" which is an old railway that goes around Paris. It's a green setting in the heart of Paris where you can walk calmly and feel like you are observing the city like you are outside of it when really, you’re fully inside. There are bridges and tunnels, it’s a real adventure and it [offers] a new way of seeing Paris.
SORT: What explorations can we look forward to from your studio in the future?
SOLENNE: I’m making side table (pray for me) and pots for plants to hang around. All this artwork and also vases and sculptures will be exhibited in September at Boon Room gallery in Paris.