While wandering through the ancient lanes of Montpellier, a city in the south of France, an open window catches my eye. Inside the old stone building a potter is gently crafting something from the clay in his hands. A few of his pieces sit on the window ledge, strategically placed, of course, to catch the eye and spark the curiosity of tourists and idle wanderers like myself.
The potter is Jérôme Flores and his workshop-boutique at the bottom of the Sainte-Anne neighbourhood is called Mr. Zebulon. Inside, Jerome’s ceramic creations are arranged on shelves styled from recycled wine boxes against exposed stone walls. His unique creations are on display for admiration and, of course, for sale.
Jérôme is a friendly man of French and Spanish origins who very kindly forgives my lack of either of those languages as I ask him questions while he sits at the whirring potters wheel.
Watching him work is rather hypnotic and captivating. The wheel creates a low rhythm that has a kind of hypnotic quality to it. Watching the clay take form in his hands, it’s as if he’s just helping it to finally become what it was always meant to be.
A self taught ceramicist, Jérôme opened his workshop just a year ago, but he’s been allowing clay to find its form in his hands for a decade already. As we talk he tells me that in many ways creating objects in this time honoured way is almost an act of meditation for him now.
He lives next door and in the summer months the streets are busy with tourists and people enjoying the beautiful weather. However, in the winter months the streets are quiet and empty, leaving him alone to create and meditate with the material he loves to work with in his workshop that he called a “cabinet of curiosities.”
To my delight Jérôme offered me the chance to try my own hand at pottery, giving me the opportunity to truly get my hands wonderfully dirty as the clay slides around my fumbling fingers.
He had made it look so easy of course, but under his expert direction I really relished the opportunity to revisit the last time I had tried my hand a pottery which was back when I was a precocious young school boy.
Sadly, in my hands the lump of clay didn’t become a beautiful creation, but rather a slightly more formed lump of clay (see it here). Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed the experience and the way the clay felt between my untrained fingers.
It was a delight to meet Jérôme, to watch him work, and to have the chance to play with clay myself. I left his little workshop-boutique without my clumsy creation, but certainly not without a huge smile.
Stand by Flores’s shop using Google street view (though it wasn’t actually there when Google went passed in 2014).
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