This French Artist’s Work Crosses Gothic with Ceramic Glaze

The colours used by Clémentine de Chabaneix to decorate her ceramic figurines are spare and unusually washed out, like old memories. This French artist has creativity in her veins, along with a curious appetite, and an insatiably creative drive to translate the human condition to sculpture, and this cocktail of traits has yielded a growing crop of Burtonesque sculpted characters, each with a distinct personality and hidden story.

Buste petite louve

Clémentine was born into a family of artists: her mother was an actress, and her grandparents the celebrated sculptor duo Les Lalanne. She was a student of art at the Pradier in Paris, and found her way first as an actress and then a sculptor, starting with epoxy resin pieces that were exhibited in Paris, Rome, and LA.

After the white earthenware is decorated with engobes, the pieces are then fired and glazed, after which comes Clémentine’s favourite part: “I love to take them out of the kiln, they are still warm, like bread at the boulangerie!” A charming and delicate sculptor, Clémentine’s work is as diverse as it is uniquely stylised.

Buste chèvre

THE PLUS: What inspires the character of each new figurine?
Clémentine de Chabaneix:
Myself… therefore all of us. It always starts with an emotion I want to translate. Feelings that we’ve all been through. Then I like to find a surprising way to express the idea. 

TP: Do you find any themes emerging from your work?
People often associate my work with childhood, because my artistic vocabulary is composed of flora and fauna, and there is always this same girl that resembles Lewis Caroll’s Alice.  

Buste renard blanc

TP: Is this child an emotional figure, for you?
Adults are as overwhelmed by their feelings as teenagers are. I would say my work is about dreams, and about the brokenness inherent to the human condition. 

TP: And how does your frequent use of animals fit into this?
I think they appear to surround and support the character. They sometimes signify by their presence a certain state of mine (for example, kittens might represent the softness and peacefulness of the girl).

Dogū céleste

TP: What do you like about working with ceramic?
I definitely love the simplicity of this material! I like the idea of sculpting earth and throwing it into the fire. Simple raw elements.

TP: You use very little colour – why his restrained palette?
I’m shy with colours. I like to use colours as if they were old memories, as if they had faded with time. When I paint, it will drip all over the sculpture. I like to loose control when I paint. I go very fast.

Buste sous-marin

TP: You’re already an artist, but what other skill would you like to have and why?
I’m very interested in learning. All the members of my family are such good cooks, it’s given me such a terrible complex! I love to have guests at home but it’s always such a panic when I cook.

TP: What are three things that’d feature on a moodboard for your artistic style?
A cat sleeping / a girl in the rain / a man with a mask.

Fille éléphant

TP: Where do you do all your work?
My studio is an ancient restaurant with an old bar and a huge mirror. There is a very cool and welcoming atmosphere in this place. Every morning, when I get to the studio it’s like opening a door that brings me inside my head. 

TP: Any tips for getting the creativity flowing?
I have a sort of ritual. I listen to Gavin Bryars, Farewell to Philosophy. This music sets me exactly on the right path.

Grand buste polaire
Gros calin detail
Le refuge
Léopard esprit
Licorne - hauteur
Mes amis imaginaires
Petit âne aux poings
Petit crapaud
Petite Chamane
Renard au papillon
Renard debout
Un lapin sur mon épaule

Photography by Capucine de Chabaneix.