Performance Pottery by Frederique Bonmatin
Hardingham, Martin, Ceramics Art & Perception
IN RECENT MONTHS A CHALLENGING QUESTION HAS BEEN asked of British potters which is bound to flummox most who, at present, see themselves either as artist, designer, potter or ceramist. In the case of Frederique Bonmatin in Montreal, Canada, the same question needs to be asked of her, 'Potter or Ceramic Artist?' Experience shows that a danger lurks in every pigeonhole hoping to provide every artist or artisan with an identity. Does it matter? Well, it does matter if you are required to write your profession in your passport, but giving labels to artists and artisans is like quicksand so we must tread carefully or we might be misled. The work they do is normally their identity and Frederique is no exception.
Bonmatin would agree that she is an artist first and a ceramist second but it is unnecessary to split hairs about that. What is important is that she is able to design, produce and sell a small range of colourful, attractive, unusual pots suitable for everyday use. She works by herself in a small atelier, which is really a shop with a big plate glass window on rue Gauthier in Montreal. To the visitor it will not be initially apparent that she works in an all-in-one workshop, that is to say a small vertical production workshop where plaster, slip, tools and all the accoutrements, including customers, go in at the front door and customers carrying finished pots exit from the same door. Here is a small space in which Bonmatin skillfully performs each stage of her production systematically. She even packs her orders in the same confined space.
Bonmatin produces all her pots using slip casting methods. She makes her own plaster moulds and is meticulous in taking care not to mix any lingering plaster dust with her special slip. Watching her at work is proof of her thoroughness and how immaculate she is by cleaning every work surface after each stage of production and before the next; avoiding the contamination of her materials, from plaster dust to dry slip dust to biscuit dust to under glaze colour to glaze. At times you could be forgiven for her apparent laissez-aller way of working. But don't be fooled, she is meticulous and precise as her stunning pots demonstrate.
Bonmatin spent the late 1980s studying Japanese in France where she was born and raised. She was awarded a Diploma from the Literature and Foreign Civilisations Departement a Universite Paris 7. Moving to Montreal in 1994 she embarked on a new life, her ceramic life and in 1997 gained a Diploma at Centre de Ceramique Bonsecours, Montreal. She quickly perfected her techniques and in 2001 set up her own business, making attractive usable pots which were instantly saleable. Before settling in Canada she visited Japan in 1987 where she was inspired by the beautiful and utilitarian ceramics used in every day life. She has exhibited widely in Canada and in the US and now her work is collectable. Now she is making one-of pieces which are in demand.
Visually Frederique's pots are startling and very colourful. She could have been easily influenced by the vitality of the Cirque du Soleil, with its headquarters in Montreal, but she admits that one of her childhood delights was playing with toupies (spinning tops) in France where she was born and lived until moving to Montreal. Now her cheerful ceramic dishes in vivid, colourful crisp patterns are sure to brighten up any table or kitchen. The bright primary and secondary colours spin round each cup, plate bowl, egg cup or tea pot in concentric circles which could bring on a dizzy spell if looked at for a long time. …