When I was in high school, I wanted to be a painter. Born in 1977, I grew up in the very heart of Paris, two hundred yards from Beaubourg. The Centre Georges Pompidou was my playground. Later, when I had to think, make decisions, or just free my mind, I would sit in the museum for hours at a time. Sam Francis, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, or Pierre Soulages became very close friends of mine. At that time, my intention was to begin an artistic career, with the support of the art teacher and the principal of my high school. However, life took me to a different direction.

After graduating from the University of Paris La Sorbonne and from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, I went on to teach political science and sociology, and published a well-received book and several scientific articles on the French Algerian war. In 2006, I was awarded the Historic prize of Nîmes’s Academy for my research. I liked that job a lot, not necessarily the life that went with it.

I turned to ceramics when I left Paris for Burgundy where I first came with the intention to live an introspective period of writing. Instead, I discovered a potter’s village, Saint-Amand-en-Puisaye, famous for its living woodfire tradition. This profound change meant at the same time the choice of a lifestyle closer to nature and people, and the desire to gather a taste for manual skills and a need for creation and artistic expression. There, I shared my early years of work with Rozenn Bigot. My first influences include Seung-Ho Yang and David Louveau de la Guigneraye, who both work in La Borne, not far from Saint-Amand, as well as the shinos of Living national treasure Osamu Suzuki.

In 2009 I settled down in Balazuc, a quaint medieval village in south of France distinguished with the classification “Most Beautiful Villages of France”. A few months after, I built a Train Kiln and came back to woodfiring. At this time my work, especially my chawans, were exhibited more and more in museums and galeries in France and all over the world (United States, Japan, Korea, China, Belgium, The Netherlands…).

Since 2012, I’m very proud to be a permanent artist at Cavin-Morris Gallery, New-York City, USA, alongside huge artists as Ryoji KoieShozo MichikawaRobert FornellJeff ShapiroAkira Satake or Tim Rowan, just to mention a few of them.

Of course, as a ceramist, my first desire was to find my own language. I guess I have been lucky because by accident I found what later became my signature. My technique combines sculpture and throwing. I had to unlearn almost everything I knew on throwing to improve this technique, and I still learn to unlearn. The goal is to obtain natural patterns that look random, but obviously aren’t. Leaving things to chance can give great results, but what is a work worth if it can’t be understood, nor reproduced? Between control and letting go, a balance has to be found between shapes, volume, patterns, and glaze or woodfire effects. The selection is high at each step of the process, and of course the kiln makes the final choices.

I work a lot on bowls, boxes and vases, always careful to preserve functionality. Contrary to our western traditions, Japanese and Koreans do not oppose art with function. This futile opposition has been an obstacle to art expression through ceramics, especially in France. Fortunately, things are changing, though we still have a ways to go.

– Tom Charbit

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