How It's Made: This French Ceramicist Reveals Her Creative Secrets
We didn’t think it was possible, but our love for all things French just escalated since meeting French-born ceramicist Lucile Sciallano. The Melbourne based-creative, who recently took out the winners title at the Etsy Awards for the Home and Living category, founded La petite fabrique de Brunswick after relocating from the south of France to Australia back in 2013 and has since become a household name within the local creative community.
The young designer, who learnt her craft in Europe, produces handmade patterned ceramics (think bowls, cups, plates, and teapots) from her Brunswick East studio—a tiny wooden shack complete with a stain-glass window nestled within her garden—which is the inspiration behind the name of her studio. “’Petite fabrique’ means little workshop in French, and I then added where it’s made,” explains Sciallano. “The studio is really nice in summer, as I can almost work outside and just use it as storage for the night.”
Sciallano admits her favourite thing about producing ceramics is the unpredictability. “Opening the kiln is always a special moment—it’s like Christmas when you are about to open your gift and you are not sure what you are about to discover,” she says. Read on to find out what Sciallano loves most about making ceramics (hint: everything!) and allow her to reveal some of her creative secrets.
How did La petite fabrique de Brunswick begin?
I started La petite fabrique de Brunswick when I moved to Australia (from France) with my partner after our graduation in 2013. We settled down in a big share house with a lot of space, a shack in the backyard, and just across from Northcote Pottery Supplies—I couldn’t have dreamed for a better set up for my little studio.
What is your inspiration behind your designs?
I can’t really pin down where my inspiration comes from—I guess I am just making the shapes and patterns I am thinking of without too much planning. It involves a lot of tests, trials, and failures before the finished design. I experiment a lot with colours, shapes, and patterns. Often luck and randomness play a part in my process—I trust my hands’ ability, and reflect on what I have made at the end. My creative process is a funny thing—I can be really absorbed and inspired by something but it can take me a lot of time to figure out what to do with it, to be able to transform an inspiration into my own project. I also use drawings to record my inspiration and find a balance with my computer research.
Where are your products made from? Are they designed and made in-house?
All of my work is made in Brunswick. I make my prototypes, my molds, and my pieces in my studio at the back of my house and few weeks ago I bought a kiln so I can fire my work at home.
Where is your studio located?
My studio is based in Brunswick East, that’s why I picked this name for my studio—“petite fabrique” means little workshop in French—and I added where it’s made. So the little workshop is actually a tiny wooden shack, with a stain glass window and an uneven warped floor! It’s quite small so I have to try to keep it clean and tidy. But I love collecting and gathering things—so the space gets crowded and messy really quickly—even more when I have a big order and I have pieces everywhere. The studio is really nice in summer, as I can almost work outside and just use it as storage for the night.
Where do you source your materials for the products?
I get most of my materials from Northcote Pottery Supplies and Walker Ceramics.
What do you love most about creating ceramics?
Ceramics is an amazing medium, you have so many possibilities and different techniques. I love working with it and seeing how it changes, evolves through the drying process and also through the firing. Opening the kiln is always a special moment—it’s like Christmas when you are about to open your gift and you are not sure what you are about to discover. There are always good and bad surprises, but you learn as you go. I also love to play and push boundaries with the medium characteristics. I am still experimenting a lot, and it’s a constant learning process.
Talk us through the process from start to finish of creating one of your designs (Step 1, step 2, etc.)
Step 1. Create the prototype—either in clay or in plaster.
Step 2. Create the mold in plaster—it could be a one piece mold, or a two piece mold according to the shape of the prototype. It can get more and more complicated—some of my molds are five pieces.
Step 3. After leaving the mold to dry (a couple of days if it’s in summer) you can use it. I work with imperial white slip (which is a liquid porcelain) and use blue stains in the clay to create the patterns. I create the pattern in the mold, mixing blue and white clay to create the desired effect. I fill the mold up to the top with slip and wait a couple of minutes. As the plaster is porous, it will absorb the water in the slip. It will create a fine skin of clay where the slip touches the plaster and the longer you leave the slip in the mold the thicker the skin gets. When the thickness of the object is the one I want, I tip out the mold and empty the leftover liquid clay.
Step 4. After waiting around one hour, the object shrinks a little bit and you can get it out of the mold. I finish my object by cutting the top, stamping the bottom, making sure the object looks like I want it and then I leave it to dry (one or two days according to the weather).
Step 5. I have to fire it twice, the first time at 800 degree—it’s called Bisque firing—then glaze it and fire it again at 1280 degree—this is called a stoneware firing. Each firing takes around two days.