Artist Profiles


François Fresnais


Europe and Eurasia





Year(s) Attended:

Santa Fe: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2019


François Fresnais has applied his professional training in ceramics to the revival of a centuries-old practice of pottery-making in France. This tradition, through which potters have long worked to transcribe the daily life of the people, nearly disappeared after the Second World War. Having studied these ancient shapes and patterns, Fresnais set up a workshop in the region of Burgundy, which has a strong tradition in pottery. Here, alongside his wife, Sylvie, who executes the decorations, Fresnais hopes to keep his homeland’s artistic traditions thriving form generations to come.

Fresnais expresses a desire to make objects which are functional and can be applied to every aspect of daily life, and also for special occasions. Fresnais starts his practice by sourcing red, white, and black clays from nearby areas, then determines the design and function of the piece he wants to make. After an item is kiln-fired and cooled, it is decorated with any number of colorful designs, some abstract, but some beguilingly realistic, like cheerful maidens or frolicking animals.

From water pitchers to serving platters, and even little bells and boxes, the Fresnais workshop produces items which go far beyond the scope of the utilitarian. Glazed earthenware is found in every museum in France, and indeed across the entirety of Europe. Centuries ago, it was one of the region’s first creative expressions, and had only increased in beauty and refinement before almost completely disappearing after the economic fallout of World War II. Thanks to the work and the passion of artisans like Fresnais, ceramic artforms have survived—and even flourished in many parts of France.