For Provencal Pottery Visit Caromb a Village in the Vaucluse
The village of Caromb in the Vaucluse is a place you pass through on your way to somewhere else. Caromb has a quiet mystique, and like many Provençal villages, it is bathed in the dappled light of ancient plane trees. According to local legends, Caromb was once the haven of alchemists, though today, the only real alchemist is the ceramicist and potter Jean-Noël Peignon.
Ceramics in Caromb
Due to the abundance of clay (argile), many small towns produce their own special earthenware in the region, the most famous being Moustiers, Biot and Vallauris. These old French pottery centers have existed for centuries and still create pottery in workshops. However, today other villages scattered across the Provençal landscape produce exceptional pieces which are prized for their functional use and for their decorative ability to transport their owners to the idyllic French countryside. In the south of France, where the history of earthenware is long and cross-cultural, pottery has become an essential component of what is considered French Country style, an expression of a particular way of life.
Meet the Artist
Joel-Noël Peignon creates beautiful, functional pottery and decorative pieces. Each piece of his pottery is completely unique, hand-turned, decorated, and glazed in earth tones of blue, green and gold. Each piece is fired twice, which means that his pottery is heat resistant: microwave, dishwasher and oven-proof. His workshop is as simple as his tools: clay, a kiln. imagination and craft.
When you hold a piece of pottery made by hand, the memory of the artist stays with you, and this is no more true then when you buy something from Jean-Noël. His atelier located in the old village cannery, is at 2, rue de la Recluse, an apt address for someone who lives purposefully withdrawn from the world most of the time.The cups, bowls, pitchers, plates, gratin dishes, wall hangings and decorative pots he creates are often his only company.
To visit Jean-Noël’s atelier look for the large, red metal sign by the edge of the main street through Caromb at the north end of the village proper. If you suddenly find that you’ve left the village proper turn around when you can. Parking can be difficult, so look for a spot early on, and walk the short distance to his atelier. There is no parking at the atelier itself. If you find the atelier closed some of his pieces can be purchased at the small organic market on the main street.
Provençal pottery was, and still is, a part of daily life, especially Jean-Noël’s. After tinkling door bells signal someone has entered his atelier and shop, do not be surprised if it seems deserted. Eventually, he will appear. He is at once introverted, fully focused on the work at hand, and playfully extroverted when you show an interest in his craft. He’ll guide you through his atelier, show you how he glazes pieces, possibly throw a piece on his wheel, and talk about his other artistic endeavors. He never answers the phone, nor respond to emails, and has very little social media presence. You can also find his work at pottery markets throughout Provence by checking the Terre de Provence website.
Poterie de Caromb
2, rue de la Recluse
Telephone:+33 (0)4 90 62 39 60
Sue Aran lives in the Gers department of southwest France. She owns French Country Adventures, which provides private, personally-guided, small-group, slow travel tours into Gascony, the Pays Basque, Provence and beyond. She writes a monthly blog about her life in France and contributes to Bonjour Paris and France Today magazines.