Sébastien Barrère has brought the convent at Giroussens back to life, with the artists' studios and bed and breakfast that he has developed. In the lush gardens, synonymous with well-being and serenity, the ceramicist tells us about the lifestyle he cultivates there.
Much more than just pottery
It is in the inspiring setting of this former convent that Sébastien gives free reign to his creativity and passion for ceramics, along with two other artists, Aster Cassel and Chloé Courbet. Now a place of welcome for visitors wishing to reconnect with crafts and nature, the ceramicist offers workshops to discover the art of stoneware and porcelain.
"Here, we live in synbiosis, we function as a small community with a common goal: to make this place live. There is a cloister, a shop, workshops and guest rooms in the house that I renovated when I arrived."
When the past and craftsmanship intertwine
The walls of the convent of Giroussens could tell strange stories from its creation onwards. It has a rich past, which inspires these artisans. it was built in the 19th century by a father for his daughter. Before his death, the father felt remorse for forcing his daughter to marry and wanted to bring her home again. Later, craftsmen developed glass engraving here, as you can see from the several engraved windows still in the building. Finally, in the 1980s, it became a marble factory, and some tools can still be found to prove it.
In Giroussens, there were an enormous number of potters until the 19th century. They worked in earthenware, a clay that is fired at 1,000 degrees and that you find around the Mediterranean with Greek or Moroccan pottery. A beautiful collection can be seen at the museum in Rabastens.
Just a few creations away...
Before becoming a ceramicist, Sébastien was a graphic designer, but then turned to this art profession: “I wanted to use a fine material, and do one of the most important jobs in the world: potter. I did an introductory course linking apprentices and craftspeople. I discovered ironwork, upholstery, wood sculpture, but I preferred clay. Using form and colour, you can do so much. It's limitless and very free as a material. It's ancestral, rooted, it's the expression of a primal instinct to touch the earth and remodel it.”
Today, this craftsman creates a parallel universe of strange creatures, evoking a fantasised nature full of enigmatic beings, and also works in organic forms, creating pretty vases.
An exchange of good practices with Mother Nature
I am originally from the Landes, I lived in Toulouse for 25 years, I knew the village of Giroussens well because, as a child, I often went to the Jardin des Martels and went on the little train. I loved stopping at the viewpoint, it's a place that's full of charm with its little café, the Échauguette restaurant. It's a place where you want to rest.
Feel like getting your hands dirty? It seems that pottery allows you to forget everything and focus on the essential. At the Ateliers du Couvent day courses or two-hour courses in pottery are possible alongside craftspeople, ceramicists, who are always happy to share their passion and technique. Sébastien gives lessons to anyone who wants to learn to handle stoneware. “Pottery requires a lot of time and patience. Each step demands meticulousness for a beautiful result.”