CHAPTER VII

 

FRANCOIS  GUILLAUME  AND  LA  BORNE

ON  THE  THRESHOLD  OF  RENEWAL

 

 

      Following the production of his l927 mask there are no other dated works from his hand to provide any information as to how François Guillaume pursued his own personal productivity, if any, at La Borne during the succeeding seven years.  Understandably his mind and energy must have been pre-occupied with other things.  Having assumed a more important role in the Maison Guillaume, he and his wife eventually bought the business from his father in l929 (l) and, in such circumstances, his time would have been spent consolidating all that he and his father had built up over many years and, in addition, energy would have been absorbed in developing his growing range of editions, and in promoting the concept with a new and ever increasing clientele.

 

      As a married man, he was also acquiring new responsibilities as the Guillaume family increased in size; his eldest son Pierre-Charles was born in l927, a daughter Catherine in l929, and Etienne Martin in l930.  Despite such happy events, allied to his growing stature within the community and increasing civic roles, it is difficult to imagine him ceasing any creative involvement with clay himself, and if one is to judge by the remainder of his life, he was unquestionably a person who was 'energy efficient', capable of simultaneously coping with many, often conflicting, interests and duties at any one time.  As far as La Borne and its potters were concerned the shop remained a major outlet for the utilitarian ware of the village, and as the sole owner, the responsibility for negociating with the potters would have been his alone.  Thus, it is evident that contact had to be maintained, and in so doing, one must assume that his relationship with Armand Bedu would have been likewise maintained, if not more firmly cemented.  It is not until l934 that one finds substantive proof that his contact with La Borne, a non-commercial one, had been continuing.  It was at this time that he started to compile a dossier, 'Notes sur l'histoire et les fabrications de La Borne.'

 

      His earliest dated reference 'Notes sur l'activité de La Borne receuillies près de M. Armand Bedu Talbot en Juin l934,' (2) information related to patrons and firings of the 'grands fours', suggests that, at least in early l934, he had come to the decision that information on the slowly vanishing activity in the village had to be recorded.  Whether he was aware of it at the time, his 'Notes' and other activities were to become the first methodical research on the history of La Borne, its potters, its procedures and, as importantly, the almost - forgotten personalities who, from l775 approximately, had created the 'art populaire' for which the village would eventually become renowned. (3)

 

      It comes as a surprise that, in this task, he has made only two references in the 'Notes' to the formation of his own collection.  Nothing else has been discovered which facilitates the development of a chronological ordering of the dates of acquisition of the pieces.  However, one of the early entries in the 'Notes' shows that this was already in train in l934.  Page l8 contains a handwritten comment relating to a 'croix de carrefour', the Croix Montigny in his collection, a pencil sketch of which is given on page l7. (Fig. l00)

 

                       '... Ce calvaire n'est pas signé.  Il était

                       érigé jusqu'en l934 à l'angle des routes d'Azy

                       et des Aix d'Angillon à Montigny (Cher).

                       Madame Salmon (?) sa proprietaire l'a fait

                       remplacer par une affreuse croix en fonte et

                       m'a cedé les débris.

                       Ce calvaire est la copie, faite vers l870,

                       d'une oeuvre datant de l8l0 environ- sans

                       doute d'un style meilleur - et dont il ne

                       reste pas de traces.

 

                       Fin l934 il y avait encore au lieu dit

                       'La Croix Salmon'  à Montigny une base d'une

                       croix semblable portant l'inscription

                                   'Fait moi

                                   Talbot Jean

                                   à La Borne

                                  l87l

                       Cette base était unie émail jaune ...' (4)

 

Notes sur l'histoire et les fabrications de La Borne

 

      In its final form, the 'Notes' are organised in book form, with title, texts, illustrations, bibliography and index.  Though there is every likelihood that such a format was envisaged from the beginning, it remains today as a series of entries, amendments and additions compiled over a period of a quarter-century.  His final dated insertion, on page l26, is a list of names of the major artist-potters of La Borne, all culled from the research that he and Jean Favière and his colleagues had undertaken prior to the retrospective 'Potiers en Terre du Haut-Berry' of l962.  The handwriting for this entry is relatively weak and faltering, symptomatic of the lack of manipulative control engendered by Parkinson's disease which progressively diminished his faculties in the latter years of his life.  This is the only instance in which such a script appears.  By contrast, all other entries are penned in a mature, fluent cursive hand, though inevitably the style, ink colour and shapes of nib change as the years unfold.  Other than the l962 reference, the latest date recorded is in a l955 reference to the Bulgarian-born, French naturalised Vassil Ivanoff who, in l946, had established a studio in the village.

 

      Though the early pages of his 'Notes' suggest that François Guillaume had initiated his study of La Borne in a simple but methodical manner, the subsequent periodic insertion of information, at times in an order that appears random, renders it difficult to impose a precise chronological sequence on the whole.  It is possible, however, to tentatively propose three broad subdivisions, namely:

 

      (i)   Preliminary entries, recorded between mid-l934 and

            the end of May l935. (Pages l - 48).

      (ii)  Entries made over the succeeding two years approximately

            (Pages 49 - 76).

      (iii) Miscellaneous entries made during the remaining years,

            up to l955.

 

 

Preliminary Entries

 

      As is the case throughout these notes, this section is comprised mainly of texts and illustrations, the former being mostly entered in the even numbered pages on the right hand side of the opened notebook, with illustrations to the left.

 

Texts

 

All texts are handwritten and are devoted to the following:

 

(i) Historical references to La Borne and the region of Henrichemont

 

      In l934/l935 the only written information available to the researcher would have been discovered either in the historical documentation available in the Archives du Cher or in the annual reports of the local learned societies such as the Société des Antiquaires du Centre and the Société Historique Littéraire et Scientifique du Cher.  Other than these records, only two important studies had been undertaken into the history of the principality of the immediate region, namely Amyé Cécyl's 'l'Histoire du Royaume de Boisbelle' of l863 and Hippolyte Boyer's 'Histoire de la Principauté Souveraine de Boisbelle - Henrichemont', of l904.  Of these, Guillaume had copied a lengthy extract from Cécyl's history, of which part including a footnote, referred to the village of La Borne:-

 

                       '...  Le village de La Borne est habité

                       particulièrement par des potiers chez lequels

                       l'art céramique n'est pas sans posséder quelque

                       valeur ...' (5)

 

      Page l0 is headed 'Copie d'un acte appartenant à M. René Gordon', and has transcribed the act of l8 November l685, referring to the village of La Borne and FrançoisTalbot. (6)  The lower half of pages l0 and l2 contain a brief summary of the Thomas Panariou and Gilbert Siònnest contract of l0 March l657, which had been reproduced in Charles de Laugardière's article

.

      That part of de Caumont's entry, from the Bulletin Monumentale, which had referred to La Borne had been typed by Guillaume, and the folded page was carefully inserted into the notebook at page l0l.  Though in a different section, there is no doubt that, at this time, Guillaume was both aware of the passage and its historical significance.

 

(ii) Information related to twentieth century ceramic activity in the region

 

      This is comprised of two entries which though brief, are vivid reminders of the gradual disappearance of the traditional pottery centres.

 

 

                       '... Jusque vers l9l4 il y avait encore aux

                       poteries de Neuvy:

                                   Auchère Louis

                                   Le Messager

                                   Le père Jerome

                       (Renseignement verbal de M. Armand Bedu )...' (7)

 

                       '... Notes sur l'activité de La Borne recueillies

                       près de M. Armand Bedu Talbot en Juin l934.

 

                       En l9l4 on faisait à La Borne environ 60 fournées,

                       en l928 on en a fait 80 - en l934 environ 35

                       reparties comme suit entre les differents potiers.

 

                                   Alphonse Talbot Leclerc                           2

                                   Joseph Talbot                                            6

                                   Talbot Senée                                             3

                                   Alexandre Foucher                                   6

                                   Marius Bernon                                           2

                                   Vve. Alphonse Foucher                            3

                                   Vve. Foucher Chavet                                2

                                   Armand Bedu Talbot                                l0

                                                    Total                                         34

 

          La capacité d'un four est en moyenne de 20 tonnes ...' (8) (Fig. l0l)

 

 

           Illustrations

 

      Altogether twenty-three pieces are illustrated, some of which, like the 'croix de carrefour' and an 'épi de faîtage `belonged to Guillaume himself.  For a few others, the ownership is recorded but, for most, there is no indication of provenance.

      It is evident, for this aspect of his study, that Guillaume was able to rely on the assistance of others, since the styles of illustration fall into three identifiable categories, at least:

 

           l.  Those numbered l to l0 are adequately rendered and well

           proportioned, with pencil modelling used to describe the three

           dimensionality of the forms and, where applicable, the decorative

           detail. (Fig. l02)

 

           2.  Others betray a different perception of the task, one that is

           discerned as explaining the essential characteristics of pieces

           whose forms were amenable to being rendered in a schematic                   

            manner.

           The fountain belonging to Joseph Massé is one such example.       

           Relying  on a series of decorative bands, it is this aspect of the                 

           piece which is given emphasis, the range of repetitive, impressed              

           elements being articulated with clarity.  It is possible that Massé                  

           himself might have executed such illustrations. (Fig. l03)

 

           3.  The third category is comprised of a small series of sketches,

            executed on different papers and glued in to the 'Notes'.  The

           character of these is such that they might all be by the same

           person, possibly Guillaume himself, since they were patently drawn

           on the spot in the Musée d'Issoudun and the Musée du Berry.  In all

           events, they are simply and inexpertly rendered though sufficient to

           convey the basic characteristics of the forms. (Figs. l04)

 

 

(iii) Glaze characteristics

 

      Pages 2 and 4 are devoted to a description of the colours of glazes, and their base materials, to be found on La Borne ware:

           Vert jaune   -    A base de laitier - Brillant avec predominance de vert.

           Jaune mat    -   A base de laitier - Brillant avec predominanc jaune.

 

           Jaune        -       Variétés de nuances dues soit à la différence

                                      d'épaisseur de l'émail soit à l'emploi d'une

                                      ton plus ou moins foncé.  Il y a une grande

                                      variété de teintes de terres aux environs de La

                                      Borne.

           Jaune pale   -    d'épaisseur de l'émail soit à l'emploi d'une

           Jaune foncé  -   terre plus ou moins foncé

           Tabac        -       Il y a une grande variété de teintes de terre aux

                                      environs de La Borne.

           Gris         -          Email à la cendre - Donne dans les minceurs un  blanc

                                      gris semi mat = gris beige = Dans les extrmes

                                      minceurs un marbré brun.  Dans les épaiseurs un vert

                                      pale brillant.

           Crapaudé     -   Determiné par une cuisson spéciale à l'interieur d`une autre pièce.

            Vert bronze

            brillant      -

           Roux         -      Avec irregularités jaune dans les minceurs, quelques

                                   cristallisations et, dans les épaisseurs un beau vert

                                    bronze brillant.

                                    Semi mat. (9)

 

      A reference to page ll2, obviously added at a much later date, augments the foregoing information:

 

                                   '... L'émail le plus ancien de La Borne paraît

                                     avoir été le gris obtenu par cuisson en gazette

                                     c'est à dire à l'intérieur d'une pièce plus

                                     grand et, par consequent, à l'abri de la flamme

                                     directe.  A l'origine ce gris est à base de

                                     cendre de vigne et donne une couverte demi mate

                                     ou mate marbrée soit de gris vert très clair

                                     soit de gris plus ou moins foncé.  La variété

                                     la plus foncée rappelle le plumage de la perdrix.

                                     Carriès appellait aussi cet émail, l'émail

                                     "crapaudé."

                                     Vers la fin du XlXe. siècle on a commencé à

                                     employer l'émail de la porcelaine qui, plus ou

                                      moins mélange de cendres, donne un gris jaunâtre

                                      brillant tout à fait vulgaire.

                                      Vers la fin du XVllle. siècle apparait l'émail

                                       roux à base de laitier, qui donne, selon la

                                      couleur du support toutes les nuances de la

                                      feuille morte.  Il est souvent chargé de

                                       fer ...' (l0)

 

 

The Decorative Elements used at La Borne

 

      Five pages are devoted to sketches, occasionally accompanied by a brief comment, of the decorative elements to be found on the traditional La Borne ware.  It can be presumed that these were executed by Guillaume himself, but it is not known whether the names recorded for each were coined by Guillaume or transmitted by someone like Armand Bedu.

 

      Up to this point, it can be seen that Guillaume had relied, in the first instance, on making a record of the visual data offered by the pieces then available to him, in addition to the primary sources with which he was familiar through his membership of the Société des Antiquaires du Centre.  By the end of this section of his 'Notes' he had taken his research a significant stage further, that of drawing on his own general historical and cultural background to attempt to date the pieces.  A two page text accompanying the illustrations 24 and 25 provide an excellent example, displaying at the same time how an intelligent application of such knowledge could lead to informed judgements, as well as revealing the scarcity of information available on the La Borne ware in l934, even when it concerned a piece which had been in the possession of the Musée du Berry for more than half a century !

 

      Pages 46 and 47 are the results of a detailed examination of the 'épi de faîtage pour la maison d'un maréchal ferrant sans date ni signature', later attributed to Jacques Sébastien Talbot. (ll)  From his introductory passage, it is evident that this exercise had been undertaken in the context of other pieces and types of La Borne ware at his disposal:

 

                       '... Cet épi est une des pièces les plus

                       remarquables de La Borne.  Délaissant les

                       figures figées et conventionnelles utilisées

                       pour la décoration des brocs, fontaines,

                       bénitiers ou autres petites pièces, l'artisan

                       est "descendu dans la rue", il a voulu saisir

                       une scène vivante et réaliser pour son voisin,

                       le maréchal ferrant, une enseigne à image

                       parlante, les vêtements des personnages permettent

                       d'attribuer cette pièce à la meilleur période

                       de La Borne.  Ier. quart du XlXe. siècle ...' (l2)

                       (Fig. l05)

 

      In describing it as being based on an everyday scene Guillaume was then patently unaware that the iconography of many of the decorative and sculptural pieces produced in the village had derived from commonly available popular imagery.  The épi de faîtage in question was one such piece, being based on the miracle of Saint Eloi, whose legend had persisted in France since the seventh century when, it is believed he inherited the cult of a god of the Gallo-Roman Olympus. (l3)  Incorporated into Christianity, he had become a popular saint, assuming the name of either Saint Martin in the Touraine version or Saint Eloi in other regions of France, notably in that of Berry.  The Touraine version of the miracle describes the saint, his humble bundle of clothes and his sabots suspended on a staff, wandering the countryside and proclaiming his servitude to the Almighty.  On one occasion, on entering a large village and requesting something to drink, he was challenged by a local blacksmith to a shoeing contest.  Laying down his bundle, the saint made the sign of the cross three times on the hobbles of the horse he was to shoe.  On taking one hoof in his right hand, it detached itself from the leg and, in one stroke, the shoe was wrought and firmly secured.  Of its own volition, the hoof reattached itself to the leg of its owner, which had neither bled nor shivered except when a horse-fly had settled on its spine. (l4)

      In the personage of Saint-Eloi, 'the miracle of the Severed Hoof' is depicted in images on the seal of the priory of Saint-Eloi in Paris, a window of Notre Dame de Semur and in a painting in the Musée de Bagnere-de-Bigorre. (l5)  Widely diffused by the Images d'Epinal in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the tradition of the saint was popularised by door-to-door vendors, but it had already become the most commonly used symbol of a wide variety of metal workers, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, tinsmiths and locksmiths, as well as those, like saddle-makers and coach-builders, whose crafts had an association with the horse. (l6)  In the La Borne image, Christ is depicted as the farrier while to his right, stands the saint, his left arm resting on the animal's flanks. (Fig. l06)

 

      In a description which is otherwise accurate in detail and perceptive in deduction, François Guillaume's interpretation of the theme is understandable:

 

                       '... L'artiste, génie sans doute pour grouper

                       ses personnages ou ne voulant recommencer un

                       travail presque achevé, a solutionné la

                       difficulté en coupant la patte du cheval et en

                       la plaçant dans la main du maréchal ...' (l7)

 

      As knowledge of his research became known, and he in turn became a focus for those similarly interested in the popular art of the region, he was soon provided with the information that enabled him to append, in the margin of page 47, 'Il s'agit de la légende de Saint Eloi.' (l8)

 

 

La Borne in the l930's: 'Grands fours' and 'boutiques'

 

      As it existed in the l930's, La Borne had undergone little physical change since the latter part of the nineteenth century.  In two parts, La Borne d'en Haut, to the east on the road to Sancerre, was a rather loose scattering of boutiques and habitations, in contrast with the older, more concentrated La Borne d'en Bas (Plate l5) in which, clustered around the small cross-road, one could find the boutiques, homes and shared 'grands fours' of Alphonse, Gabriel and Joseph Talbot, as well as that of Armand Bedu.  Looking west from the cross-roads, one could see the bistro of 'le Lexandre Quéqué' Girault (Fig. l07) and the massive stack of wood which masked the 'four de la route.'  Beside this kiln a small semi-circular lane passed the boutique of Alphonse Talbot, skirted the home of Valentine Chameron, the daughter-in-law of Marie-Louise Talbot, before emerging beside the 'Gros Chêne' which measured several metres in circumference, at that point where the magnificent 'croix de carrefour' of Jacques-Sébastien Talbot had marked the entry to the village.  Opposite the bistro was the tobacconist shop, beside the home of Armand Bedu.  Behind these latter were 'Les Grandes Boutiques', replete with workshops, parçons stacked with finished ware, and terriers with their mounds of clay.  Les Grandes Boutiques were the potteries of Gabriel Talbot, who had two workshops, Joseph Talbot who had one, and Armand Bedu who also had two (Plate l6).  It was in these latter that FrançoisGuillaume had made his debut in the early twenties and in which, a decade later, there is evidence that he was still engaged.  An account of the Guillaume - Bedu relationship, furnished by Raymond Bedu, Armand's son, throws some light on the activity:

 

                       '... Pour en revenir à M. Guillaume il faut

                       savoir dissocier deux personnages, l'un

                       consacrant la plupart de ses week-end à son

                       hobby pour le grès dans l'atelier Bedu, qui

                       lui permettait de modeler, de dessiner,

                       rarement de tourner, (la plupart des pièces

                       étant faites au colombin) de passer somme-

                       toute un agréable passe-temps à la campagne,

                       et puis le deuxième personnage-le commerçant

                       très habile, très compétant qui, sur un modèle

                       qu'il avait dessiné en confiait la fabrication

                       à mon père.

                       Tous les objets ainsi fabriqués devaient d'ailleurs

                       porter la signature Guillaume.  En dehors de la

                       forme, certes originales et conforme aux goûts de

                       l'époque, fabrication, émaillage, cuissons

                       reviennent à M. Bedu ...' (l9)

 

      At the period in question, Raymond Bedu was a child, therefore one must presume that this recollection was one which had been received from his father.  Nevertheless, it does help in distinguishing two identifiable facets of Guillaume's work in La Borne, though without clarifying whether they were concurrent or consecutive.  Other evidence suggests that the latter obtained, Guillaume initially pursuing personal fulfillment before extending his efforts to embrace a new range of 'éditions', forms designed by himself and fabricated by Armand Bedu, but in relation to the former, it is unlikely that the intention was as casual as Raymond Bedu's account would suggest.  It does appear that these visits did take place post l927, Guillaume possibly going alone, but by the mid thirties when the children were old enough, and the village safe enough, for them to be given sufficient freedom to explore its mysteries, François and Madame Elisabeth Guillaume were accustomed to bring them to La Borne on occasional Sundays.  There he and she would decorate pots which he had designed and which had been made in Bedu's.

 

                       '... Mon père et ma mère, à longueur de Dimanches

                       ajoutent sur les pièces crues des motifs simples,

                       des phrases écrites, des dessins naïfs, des

                       proverbes, des motifs estampés ...' (20)

 

The 'Grands Fours'

 

      In these inter-war years, many were the signs of the ebbing life of the once busy village, the sites of six demolished 'grands fours' and the massive hulks of four abandoned ones.  In La Borne d'en Haut two remained in activity, the 'four au Farceur' and that of Alexandre Foucher.  Lower down, in La Borne d'en Bas, between the Chemin de la Thurée and the 'route à Morogues' were the 'Four à Fourine' and the 'Four Demoiselles Monsieur', some short distance from those of 'Les Grandes Boutiques' and the 'four de la route.'  Ownership and use of all the 'grands fours' was shared: 'le four de la route: la moitié à Alphonse Talbot, un quart à Saulé et un quart à Pezard "Diguédé.' (2l)  In 'Les Grandes Boutiques' two were still functioning: 'le 'Grand Four' appartenait pour le moitié à Gabriel Talbot, un quart à Armand Bedu et un quart à Joseph Talbot; le four dit 'four à Joseph', la moitié à Joseph Talbot, un quart à Armand Bedu, un quart à Gabriel Talbot.' (22)  The sole comprehensive description of 'les grands fours de La Borne' is to be found in a handwritten document, prepared in l94l by Marc Larchevêque for the Inspecteur Générale de la Production Industriélle in Orléans:

 

 

                       '... Fours utilisés.  Les fours utilisés sont du

                       type "chinois", c'est à dire fours couchés sur

                       'soles' inclinées.  Qu'on imagine un ancien verre

                       de lampe de forme renflée, coupé en deux_parties

                       par un plan axial (oy), puis l'une des parties

                       obtenues A, couchée_ensuite sur un plan incliné

                       (ox), on aura ainsi une idée assez exacte de

                       l'intérieur de l'un de ces fours, dont croquis

                       théoriques (coupe et plan) (Plate l7) figurent

                       sur cette feuille.  Un tel four de capacité

                       brute de 35 à 40 m  entre l'autel M et la sortie

                       des flammes S comporte un foyer F, principal, (et

                       quelquefois deux foyers secondaires beaucoup plus

                       petits, situés en fl et f2, foyers qu'on allume

                       que 8 à l0 heures avant la fin de la cuisson et

                       qui servent surtout pour faciliter l'opération

                       finale du 'Salage' (voir plus loin).

                       S est la porte d'enfournement et celle aussi du

                       défournement après cuisson et long refroidissement.

                       Pendant la cuisson, l'ouverture S est obstruée

                       par débris de pots et de briques.  Ces débris

                       laissent des vides par lesquels les fumées et

                       flammes du four passeront, ces vides constitueront

                       en quelque sorte le tirage de ce four spécial qui

                       n'a pas de cheminée.  Pendant la cuisson,

                       l'obstruction (ou l'ouverture) de ces vides ou

                       intersitices modifient le tirage du four en cours

                       de cuisson.  La constance du tirage donné est

                       protégée contre les vents (ou coup des vents) par

                       des murs, m, ml, m2, dont, m, placé devant S à

                       environ lM.50 à 2 mètres.  Dans ce genre de four

                       les températures obtenues, décroissent de F à S,

                       aussi les 'potiers' de La Borne font ils comme les

                       'chinois' et mettent dans les différentes zones de

                       leur four les produits céramiques de point final de

                       cuisson allant en décroissant de F à S.  C'est aussi

                       que sur l'autel M et en BP (croquis) ils placent des

                       briques pour pavage et aussi pour protéger les grès

                       cérames GC placés à leur suite est les empêcher

                        d'être détériorer par les inévitables 'coups de feu'

                       du foyer F et pour fixer une grande partie des cendres

                       du bois comme les briques de pavage BP sont enfournées

                       à clair voie, les flammes sortant de F sont divisées

                       et réparties par les ouvertures laissées dans les rangs

                       des briques ainsi empilées.  Faisant suite aux grès

                       cérames, les potiers utilisent des grès tendres GT,

                       souvent émaillés par des émaux plombeux.  Finalement

                       après la zone GT, les potiers terminent le remplissage

                       du four soit par des briques ordinaires (rouges) empilées

                       à clair voie, soit par de la pierre à chaux (calcaire)

                       en assez gros morceaux pour que ceux ci laissent des

                       vides suffisants pour le passage des flammes (comme S)

                       Les 'potiers' de la Borne cuisent donc: BP des briques

                       très dures, très vitrifiées pour pavages; puis en GC

                       des saloirs, des pots à beurre, des cruches et cruchons,

                       des bouteilles pour l'huile etc ... des terrines ... etc.

                       des articles pour laiteries ainsi que beaucoup d'autres

                       objets en grès cérames qui sont très appréciés et très

                       employés dans les fermes et dans l'économie domestique

                       du Centre de la Borne.  En GT, grès tendres à couvertes

                       rendues plus fusibles par addition de minium, finalment,

                       briques ordinaires (rouges) ou pierre à chaux donnant de

                       la Chaux vive après cuisson du calcaire.

                       Les 'potiers' de la Borne utilisent donc très

                       judicieusement les températures décroissantes de leur

                       four pour cuire des produits appropriés à ces diverses

                       températures ..' (23)

 

      One must ask whether François Guillaume had a second, but equally important, purpose in exposing his family to this environment; that of introducing the young children to a slowly disappearing part of their patrimony.  If such was the case, indelible images have remained, particularly those of the late Pierre-Charles who, seven years of age in l934, was to repeatedly visit the potteries up until his final visit with the élèves du Centre Jacques Coeur in l942. (24)

 

The boutiques

 

      The boutique of Armand Bedu, like all the other boutiques in the village, had evolved over many generations: (Plate l8)

 

                       '... L'organisation interne de la boutique obéit

                       à un schéma unique.   En entrant à gauche, axés

                       sur la fenêtres, les deux tours jumelés dans leur

                       fosses, entre la planche qui sert de siège au

                       potier et le lourd plateau dit "voquoi" où le

                       potier pose les balles de terre prêtes pour le

                       tournage. (Fig. l08)  De part et d'autres du tour,

                       deux planches repose-pieds dites "panières".  Sur

                       le rebord de la fenêtre et accroché au mur, le

                       petit outillage: estèques, fils à décoller, cercles

                       de bois pour lever les pièces, mesures et piges

                       rangées dans un pot à lait.  Au-dessus des tours,

                       l'essis, poutres sur lesquelles se rangent les

                       planches porteuses de pièces fraîches. Sur la

                       droite, le "banc à terre" et les "selles" à

                       trois pieds avec la provision immédiate de matière

                       première ...' (25)

 

      Of the potters encountered in Bedu's, those who left the most vivid impressions were Le Père Rat, nicknamed Le Petit Rat, who often made the series which Guillaume decorated, and 'Le Potier', François Gaudry Bedu (Fig. l09) 'un grand type très maigre' (26), who, in l924, had assisted Joseph Massé in one of his early attempts to fire his 'La Borne type kiln.'  Though Bedu's programme of modernisation had introduced an electric potter's wheel, and there was also one in Gabriel Talbot's boutique (27), the 'tour à bâton' remained the essential mechanism in all workshops.  Though suffering from the initial stages of cancer and having ceased to work regularly, 'Le Potier', long renowned for his skill, demonstrated for the children how he had made the large saloirs, (Fig. ll0) throwing two bowl shapes of equal diameter, the rim of one being shaped as a 'V' with a sharpened piece of slate, before the rim of the second, inverted, piece was positioned in the groove, then jointed, sealed and secured, and the whole finally formed. (28)

      In fine weather the pots were left in the open air to dry but at other times, in the humid micro-climate of La Borne, they were placed in the vast open 'grenier' over the boutiques, 'Le Trou de Clâs', et matin et soir on fait un grand feu de deux bourrées au milieu de la boutique, ses flammes et sa charbon montent jusqu'au toit et les pots se couvrent de suie.  Par mauvais temps prolongé, on bréle huit bourrées par jours 2 à 6 heures, 2 à 8 heures, 2 à midi et 2 le soir.' (29)  For the Guillaume children, Sunday evenings in winter were the occasion for 'Les grandes fêtes' when the fire built by 'P'rat' and 'Le Potier' began to die down:

 

                       '... Quand le jour a commencé à tomber ... on

                       se mettait autour de feu ... et le P'rat me

                       faisait cuire des pommes de terre et quelquefois

                       un oeuf dans les braises, comme ça, ou des pommes ...

                       le feu s'éteignait doucement, la fumée commençait

                       à descendre et on ne quittait l'atelier que quand

                       on était comme ça (crouching) ... des pommes, des

                       pommes de terre ou des œufs cuisaient donc ...

                       les potiers, mon père aussi ... ils se faisaient

                       comme ça, et ... la fumée s'éteignait doucement

                       ... quand on savait qu'il était les temps de

                       sortir, on sortait, et on remontait l'allée

                       qui arrive à côté chez Bedu, et en face, il y

                       avait le café, le petit bistro.  Là, on a mangé

                       une omelette, et puis on rentrait à Bourges, à

                       peu près ...' (30)

 

     Although childhood memories suggest 'un agréable passe-temps à la campagne', (3l) the purpose underlying Guillaume's visits and his personal engagement with the craft was as serious and intentional as his decision to collect the traditional decorative ware and to embark upon his then small-scale research of the village.  All the pieces made were sold through his shop, though there is nothing by way of written documentation to indicate the number of pieces made.  Photographs of the period go some way in providing at least partial answers to the questions.  Two show 'Le Potier' at work on traditional forms, one is of Madame Guillaume at Bedu's, but a fourth is of Guillaume himself applying vertical decorative bands of clay to a large cachepot. (Fig. lll)  In its wide-rimmed swelling form it is unlike any of the traditional utilitarian forms of the village.  A further photograph shows Le Potier and Armand Bedu himself carrying a large board on which is stacked a number of similar forms. (Fig. ll2)  Since payment had to be made both for the making of each piece as well as the volume it occupied in the kiln, it is unlikely that they had been executed solely for diversion.  It is the same for other forms which he had fabricated at Bedu's, large cachepots, approximately eighteen inches in height and diameter, with handles and three impressed bands at the rim (Fig. ll3i).  Other smaller forms were commissioned, and in all of these it is evident that François Guillaume had undertaken the task of using the traditional skills of the village to produce objects more modern in conception, and oftimes designed for new and different ends.  In addition, Guillaume had perceived the possibility of using some standard forms to satisfy such ends, the lids of the large saloirs being inverted to provide wide, handled dishes, conceived as recipients for the cultivation of miniature Japanese gardens. (Fig. ll3ii)

      In the absence of many definitive statements of François Guillaume himself, one is left to speculate as to his reasons for embarking on these diverse facets of La Borne at that specific time.  Undoubtedly he had witnessed the inexorable haemorrhage during the post-war years to its climax in l933.  The modernisation taking place in Saint Amand-en-Puisaye as well as the new phenomenon of those artist-potters who drew inspiration from the example of Jean Carriès must have been two of the factors which helped to form his vision for La Borne that seemed to be materialising in the early thirties, namely, a desire to modernise the output of the village, an intent to research its history and its production, and lastly, an attempt to save from obscurity, and for posterity, the sculptural pieces of the Talbot dynasty.  Whether or not he was aware of it at the time, it was these latter pieces which would provide the theme for his June exhibition of l935.