‘Porcelain is still as indispensable as ever’

The French porcelain manufacturer, Bernardaud, has been in the business since 1863, and has done much to prove that porcelain can be a modern, multifaceted, exciting material to work.

Ecume Ambiance. Courtesy of Bernardaud
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For those who think porcelain is an old-fashioned material best suited to tea sets that languish at the back of your grandmother’s cupboard, Bernardaud begs to differ.

The French porcelain manufacturer has been in the business since 1863, and has done much to prove that porcelain can be a modern, multifaceted, exciting material to work with. The company has partnered with big-name creatives such as Jeff Koons, the Campana ­Brothers, India ­Mahdavi and even the filmmaker David Lynch to make porcelain objects that are unexpected, amusing, at times unnerving (Koons’ Banality ­Series is a case in point), but always ­striking.

Based in Limoges, the cradle of the French porcelain industry, Bernardaud is a family-run affair – its current chief executive and chairman, Michel Bernardaud, is the fifth generation of the family to be involved in the business. Earlier this month, the brand launched its first boutique in the UAE, at Dubai Mall. We caught up with Michel Bernardaud to find out what customers can expect from this latest venture.

qHave perceptions of porcelain changed in recent years?

aPorcelain is a sophisticated material with unexpected and varied properties.

Remarkable for its whiteness, translucency, resonance and hardness, porcelain is still as desirable and indispensable as ever, 2,000 years after it was discovered.

What do you love most about this material?

The creative possibilities it offers. But most of all, its sensuality.

Can you tell us about the products that will be offered at the Dubai Mall boutique? Have you curated the collection specifically for this market?

All the tableware collections will be presented to showcase our expertise. They will include white porcelain, decorated porcelain and art objects. The emphasis will be on preview presentations of the new collections, and we will also create specific collections that will only be available [here].

What are the biggest challenges with working with porcelain?

Because porcelain is a pluri-millennium material, the biggest challenge is to constantly reinvent it and to be innovative. Bernardaud knows how to push the limits of its craft in creating shapes and implementing innovative techniques. Contrary to what one might think, our technical procedures are not set in stone. On a never-ending quest for innovation, we’re always making improvements – in our porcelain paste, our glazes and the durability of our gold trim – or carrying out various materials tests. As a result, our porcelain is whiter, more luminous and sturdier today than ever before.

How do you choose the artists you work with?

It is always because of an encounter, when two persons want to work together. We like to establish long-term relationships, and we enjoy it when artists help us to stretch our technical limits by asking what, in the beginning, seem like impossible projects to achieve.

Can you tell us about upcoming collections? Are you collaborating with new artists?

We are presenting collections twice a year, in January and in September. Stay around for the next one: there will be a preview presentation at Dubai Mall.

What do you think is the secret to Bernardaud’s success and longevity?

Quality, high standards and commitment are strong house values. In an industry often dominated by marketing strategy, Bernardaud remains true to its unique philosophy, which is to take the market pulse, then operate on intuition and experience. Real daring means following your own star.

sdenman@thenational.ae