Jeanne Ducau’s interest in porcelain is unsurprising considering she resides in Limoges, home of the 18th-century Royal Limoges Porcelain Factory. But Ducau is more interested in kitsch than high-class, taking her materials from the crafting aisle and her inspiration from the creativity of everyday women.
I have been closely following the resurgence of ceramics in contemporary art as a medium for artists to grapple with issues of gender and identity. Ducau is a strong emerging player in this realm, exhibiting the tensions between old & new and high-brow & low-brow that makes this practice so thought-provoking. In addition, the French artist is stepping into the digital realm, adding a fourth dimension to her work that feels particularly fresh. What qualities will a digital representation of a domestic vessel carry?
I sat down for a virtual chat with the French artist to learn more about her object-based practice. We talked taste, fake flowers, and the opportunities digital art-making provides. The following is an excerpt from our delightful conversation…
C.H. What inspires you? What makes you wake up in the morning and create?
J.D. I have a fascination with popular culture, including daily objects such as vases and plates, as well as ornaments—everything that’s a bit kitsch. I love everything that is [a kind of] creativity but that is not in the land of “Art,” like scrapbooking, tuning (the personalization of cars), make-up, nail art, and Instagram videos about slime or life hacks. I love to collect in thrift shops or on the street. I work to embellish things, so I wake up in the morning [to create] beauty, to give another life to an object.
C.H. Did you always look at art this way? How did you first discover your love of art? Did you study art at university or are you self-taught?
J.D. I discovered art in the simplest way, by drawing as a child and never stopping. I made a lot of paintings, illustrations, and comics. And finally, I studied at the Beaux-Arts of Limoges, which specializes in ceramics. I fell in love with porcelain—its history and the medium itself.
C.H. I was originally drawn to your work because I collect/write about/am generally obsessed with ceramics. I notice that you sometimes work with mixed media and sometimes work digitally. Can you tell me what draws you to each? How did you come to explore each?
J. D. Porcelain was [abundant] in my studies, because my school [offered] unlimited possibilities for this medium. I also live in the city of porcelain in France, Limoges, and have always loved it. I love to work with porcelain because it lives—you can create everything from a mold, assemble it, the firing transforms it… and so I can assemble other objects and create my own decor [atop] it. I wanted to invent my own ornaments. Through tuning, scrapbooking, and the use of make-up, it becomes mixed media. The nail art, for example, was obvious, because nail polish is really like glaze!
I’m just beginning with digital art. It’s a way to assemble and color the vases I make with a lot of [possibility]. I make the same gestures as ornamentation in “real life”, but the virtual has no limits. Porcelain is [limited]. Sometimes it collapses in the fire, sometimes I can’t glue flowers on it because of the glaze—there are a lot of difficulties.
Right now, I’m taking a pause with porcelain and all “real things.” I make digital art, digital vases in 3D. Fantasy really inspires me, and on my computer I can really give my dreams form and color. I also brought my very first 3D printer, so maybe my dream vases will come true very soon…
C.H. It’s fascinating that you’ve continued your object-based practice in the digital realm. What draws you to vases and other vessels?
J.D. Vases are objects [whose] only function in the house is to decorate. We don’t really need them. They are there only to be a beautiful thing; even in keeping a flower alive. I [also] love their shape. My art is really feminine, and the curve of a vase is traditionally just like a woman.
C.H. Speaking of houses and the functionality of your vases, I love your installations! They feel lived-in but never domestic.
J.D. My pieces are from the domestic arena, so it very logical in an exhibition to have a reminder of that. After making a lot of ornamented objects, I wanted to let them live as an ensemble. So, like a theater scene, I arranged a table, chair, and carpet the same way I made my vases. In French, the word “décor” can be the little drawing on the plate and also everything that’s on the stage. So, as a little joke I made a décor for my décors.
C.H. I like that inside joke. That humor runs through your work, like how your Instagram bio says “bad taste and flowers.” What do you think about taste? How does your work deal with ideas of taste? And what does it mean to embrace bad taste?
J.D. Taste is a very complicated question. Saying “bad taste” is a way to look down on something. As an artist, I play with things that are trivial—plastic flowers, glitters, stars—in the arena of art. Porcelain has three states: the beautiful and luxurious, the everyday, and the old things that are in our grandma’s house. I want to mix these three states. I am from a middle-class family, but my mum is a very tasteful woman. She is a bit minimalist, so I grew up in beautiful simplicity. But with bad taste, everything is too much—big, shiny and exuberant. I live for that now. I need bright colors, lots of flowers etc.
C.H. Your use of COLOR gives me life. I am a pink girl and I want to live inside your artwork. Does color inspire a work for you? Or does it follow the necessity of the form?
J.D. I love pink. There are so many different pinks. Form for me is only a pretext to put something on top of to make another object. I work in kitsch, so I use industrial colors. I try to be as cheap as possible, in opposition to luxurious and beautiful porcelain. I work only with pre-made colors, [in the form of] spray paint or nail polish. When I start a vase, I gather all my stuff: flowers, stars, paint, and little objects, and mix them all together.
C.H. As a scrapbooker, I also love lots of bits and things, the more glittery and garish the better. How does scrapbooking come into your process? Where do you collect the flowers and other items you use in your work?
J.D. Scrap as a technique relates to how I make things, sticking stars, garnishing a surface. I don’t really see myself as a ceramist, even if I have the [training], but like the woman who scrapbooks and makes nail art on her Sunday. Just as the medium I use is very trivial, the technique follows.
I spend my time in creative hobby shops. In France, we have one called “action” which is really, really cheap. Flea market and thrift shops are my favorites. And for the flowers, after Halloween, in France, everybody goes to the graveyard to take a moment for those who have passed on, to take care of the grave and put down fresh flowers. At this moment, I collect from the trash the [flowers that] other don’t want anymore. And people around me, friends, always gives me fake flowers and stars and glitter. They know I will be pleased!
C.H. Your work is so three-dimensional! Do you have a favorite texture?
J.D. My favorite texture is velvet. It’s so soft, shiny, and reflective. I can dress only in velvet from head to toe.
C.H. Do you have a favorite place to create?
J.D. I love to create in my living room, on the floor, so it become another place. I put glitter everywhere and then I can’t walk anymore, but I feel at home, even more-so than in a studio. Every time I have had to create for an important event, I worked in my room or on my couch.
C.H. That’s how I write and create as well. There’s something so sterile about a space meant only for one thing. I want to create where I eat and sleep and dance! I feel that participatory energy in your work as well. Your vases are inviting rather than intimidating. I want to live with them rather than tuck them away behind glass.
J.D. I think what is important about my work is that everybody can relate to something about it. It [recalls] grandma’s house, or a kitschy object put on their desk. I want everybody to feel at home [with my work]. I hope it can bring joy to others too, with colors or sparkles. We see a lot of sad things everyday and art must be way to escape a little bit.
* * *
Ducau’s consideration and respect for her audience is one of the reasons I love her work so much. Even before chatting with the artist, I had the sensation that I was being welcomed into her artistic space. Ducau’s vases ask that we attach our own memories to them, that we take pride in the things we find beautiful– small things, cheap things, lovely things. She proves that the most precious objects in the world might not be so ‘precious’ at all.
To see more of Ducau’s work, and stay updated on her forthcoming 3D-printed vases, follow the artist on Instagram.
Until next time!