Unlike the strictly decorative vases d'Anduze we discussed in the previous post (Part 1) that served no real purpose during the 17th and 18th centuries except to bring joy and beauty to the homes and gardens of those lucky enough to afford them, the famous earthenware jarres de Biot did in fact serve a utilitarian purpose. Before the beautiful earthenware jarres de Biot became popular as jarres pour le jardin, they were originally used to store grains and flour and were later used to preserve and transport olive oil.
Jarres de Biot, Cote d'Azur Villa
Biot jarres, named after the fortified medieval hilltop village of Biot in Provence, have been handmade without a mold or wheel using the ancient technique of rope thrown pottery since the 16th century. Due to the quality of the clay deposits and stone ovens in Biot, it became the largest producer of jars in the Mediterranean — with hundreds of thousands of the utilitarian jars being shipped throughout the Mediterranean between the 16th and 20th century. It's also said that over 500 potters have been identified since the first Biot jar was made.
Today, potters in this coastal village famous for its ceramics and pottery, continue the tradition of coiling rope around a wood frame to shape the pot. They then use a mixture of red and gray clay to achieve the desired color and apply it by hand onto the rope. Once the clay begins to dry and the shape sets, the potters carefully unwind the rope and remove the wood frame, leaving a wonderfully textured pattern on the inside of the jar.
Biot jars are distinctive for both their classic shape and for the colorful drips of glaze, known as “mother-in-laws’ tears,” that occur when the glaze of one jar drips onto another jar during the firing process. The most unique feature of the Biot jar, however, is the honey colored glaze at the neck of the jar. Thank goodness for this yellow glaze! The glaze and the teardrop shape of the pot prevented insects and varmints from climbing inside the jar and nibbling on the contents. This completely handmade process — the neck and rim glaze, the “mother-in-law-tears,” and the classic shape — is what makes the jarres de Biot so special and desirable.
Tell me. How does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells? If not, don't fret. Take a cue from the gardens of France, especially Provence. They're brimming with charm and color, full of surprises and inspiration. Why not channel your inner Mary or Marie Antoinette? Add some vases d'Anduze and jarres de Biot to your garden or patio this summer. There's a Queen in all of us... so line up those pretty maids all in a row. You won't be disappointed.
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When this self-described Francophile is not reading or writing about all things French, she's dreaming up charming new ways to showcase Lolo French Antiques et More or traveling to France with Lolo to buy delightful treasures for their store. Mimi, Lolo, and their new French Bulldog, Duke, live in Birmingham, AL.