“When I work with children, or old people, it’s the same—it makes me happy. I say, Be happy with the clay, just do what you want. It doesn’t matter if you make a mistake, you do it again. I’m giving techniques to people to give them freedom.”
On Taking Time
“I made a cake for you!”
This is how Yolande Peuvrier welcomes us into her home and pottery studio, which she shares with her husband, a stonemason, in the forest outside the village of Bézenac. After discovering the shop in Limeuil she co-owns with four other potters, we are at her home for a more intimate look at her studio and to learn about her life as an artist in the Dordogne. In her shop, Yolande sells charmingly imperfect porcelain dishware, vases, drawer pulls, and decorative pieces, some in the shape of quirky sheep, fish, and cats. On top of rotund vases, tiny trees arch over tinier two-story houses, echoing the hilltop villages of the Dordogne. We are in awe of the delicate complexities of Yolande’s art, like the way she captures the rhythm of river grass in the Vézère.
With the same charm and warmth exuding from her pottery, Yolande has invited us into her world.
She shows us her workspace, potter’s wheel, kiln, and the tools she uses to make textures, like wooden blocks from India. As she details the hours and days put into the process of making each piece, what she calls “the eulogy of slowness,” she says, “You learn one thing with pottery: to be patient.” Co-owning a shop and welcoming customers—as many as five hundred a day in the busy summer months—is an important part of Yolande’s life as a potter: “For me, it’s making things, but also sharing. It’s not egotistical work, in my little workshop, no, I want to share with people. This is why we have this little community, this little shop, the five of us, and the potter’s market we have organized as well, in Limeuil, every year in the fourth week of July.”
When asked what inspires her, Yolande replies, “First, you see where I live. I am much inspired by nature. My life is very outdoors, because I never spend a whole day locked in the studio. I started very late, around the age of forty, so I haven’t got much time before me. Working with the clay, for me, is not a game. It is a necessity.”
“Be happy with the clay, just do what you want. If you make a mistake, you do it again.”
Although Yolande knew she wanted to be a potter from age 16, and studied pottery in continuing education classes in Oxford for three years, it took her many years before she could leave her other jobs in order to focus on pottery full-time. She also teaches pottery to schoolchildren and in retirement homes. “Doing pottery and giving a smile to someone makes me happy,” she tells us, “When I work with children, or old people, it’s the same—it makes me happy. I say, Be happy with the clay, just do what you want. It doesn’t matter if you make a mistake, you do it again. I’m giving techniques to people to give them freedom.”
Through her teaching, Yolande is preserving the culture of the Dordogne, which seems more important now than ever, in the face of technological advancements. When everyone is concerned with what other people are doing, as Aimee points out, the importance of defending culture and traditional handcrafts begins the erode.
Yolande agrees, “I think if the children understand it takes time to make something, they never forget it.” After a pause, she says, “It’s important to communicate to people through my work.”
Indeed, what Yolande’s work—and life—communicates is to honor nature, to offer generous hospitality, and to have patience, as all things, from the smallest ceramic to the direction of a life, take the right form, given time.