I’ve been having a love affair with handmade ceramics for years now, and the work of one particular artist has captured my heart - that of French potter, Thierry Doublet. He has been crafting beautiful objects since the 1970s in an unassuming workshop situated in the middle of nowhere, France. How I was first introduced to his work was by way of a casual alfresco dinner on the stone terrace of a centuries old chateau. The owner of the chateau, a marvelous chef, and his lovely wife, served glasses of chilled rosé and the most delicious piment d'espelette shrimp presented in one of Thierry’s large handmade shallow bowls. Sounds dreamy, I know. And it was. Almost immediately, I became obsessed with learning about the ceramicist that created the gorgeous bowl - and how I could add his pieces to my own collection. The very next morning I found myself driving the backroads of the French countryside, making my way to his studio. In the years since I first discovered his work, I have returned again and again each time I visit France.
Year after year, organizing and orchestrating The Academy France is my most fulfilling and beloved project. Not only is the environment so beautifully quaint and authentically French, the people I meet and the experiences we have together are unforgettable. I've been settled back home in California for a few months and have finally gathered my thoughts and images from this years event in order to share with you now. I hope it conveys all the magic that transpired this summer at The Academy.
I've visited my fair share of local farmstands and independent grocers. Why, there are at least four produce stands within a few miles of my home that I frequent on a weekly basis. But this small, organic French grocery, Les Jardins de Vaissieres, has to be the absolute most charming one I've ever seen. When you step through the door, it feels as if you're taking a journey back in time or walking through a scene from a movie. Their gorgeous displays are overflowing with baskets of vibrant produce, cupboards filled with jars of homemade terrines and pâté, and crates of organic eggs - all under the "watchful" eye of a sleeping shop kitty....
I've just returned from spending the month of May in France. My time there was divided between hosting The Academy, visiting friends, and taking a solo French road trip to see new places and have a little creative down time. What I'm always struck by, no matter where I may be in the country, is how authentic the French live. You won't see homes filled with shiny new items from a big box store or mass produced wares delivered to their doorstep. Homes are collected, well lived in, and speak purely to those who inhabit them. They are unique and imperfect. They are nurturing to the senses and welcoming to all who enter their doors. I had the privilege of photographing one such home belonging to my friend, antique dealer Lou O'Leary. His home encourages me to approach my own decor with a sense of authenticity and meaning. My hope is that it does the same for you.
One of our favorite shops in Paris was the concept store Merci. The idea or mission behind the shop was to give Thanks by providing a stunning place for customers to find unique, well made products and using the profits to benefit an endowment fund to help the poorest children in Madagascar. It's such a clever way to market charitable giving although we really shouldn't have to be seduced by wares in order to give. Come along and take a peek for yourself...
In the courtyard you're greeted by the adorable red Merci car and a beautiful selection of faux bois outdoor furnishings and potted trees. The displays indoors are spectacular! They had a great mix of modern, industrial and French chic mixed harmoniously together.
Downstairs was my favorite spot. It was filled with wooden kitchen utensils, napkins and towels, picnic supplies, etc., etc. Their selection was a stylists dream! I also adored this simple pendant lightbulb in the shape of a diamond.
And they had a rainbow of Pantone mugs in a multitude of hues. Each one had the Pantone color name and html code number on it...so cute!
There are 3 floors to wander about with mens & womens clothing, housewares, books, apothecary and linens. And lots of cool Japanese paper goods like journals, envelopes, bags, tape, notebooks, cards and much more. Temptations everywhere! Merci is located at: 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, Paris 75003 The nearest Metro is Saint Sébastien-Froissart on Line 8. Open: Mon-Sat 10am to 7pm
I wanted to thank you for coming along with us on our Paris adventure by giving away a Bundle of French Finds from our trip to one of you! The gift includes a bar of Violette Savon, a nubby cotton dish towel and scrubber, the latest holiday issue of Marie Claire Idees Magazine, a token Eiffel Tower keychain, vintage ephemera and buttons from the Paris flea market, Raspberry Pastilles Candy and the most delicious Fleur de Sel Butter Caramels.
Winner will be announced Friday, Dec 2nd. To enter just leave a comment answering the following question:
What was your favorite part of your Thanksgiving holiday?
CONGRATULATIONS!! THE WINNER IS:
My favorite part was a phone call from my godson on the East Coast, closely followed by stuffing! I have so enjoyed your Paris blogs and adding to my list of non-tourist places to visit the next time I am there.
Thanks everyone for sharing your holiday memories. I felt like I was right there along with you having turkey, playing cards, eating pie and enjoying family!
First off, this image has absolutely nothing to do with the French culinary mecca, E. Dehillerin. But I thought you might get a kick out of seeing Recycling Day in Paris. The big green recycling bins were overflowing and curb sides were spilling over with wine bottles. Can you imagine this in the states? We'd think someone had a HUGE party.
Many of you are probably already aware of this famous shop. They've been in business since 1820 so I'm in a very long line of devote customers. Their copper pots were amazing. And they had them in every shape and size you could imagine. While we were there a young American chef was purchasing a large assortment to take back to his new restaurant. I imagined he was going to use the small ones to serve Lobster Pot Pie. I would.
The staff was extremely friendly and helpful despite the fact that the shop was packed. English and French verbs and nouns were being flung around as if they were one language. Everyone understood each other as if their true mutual language was Culinary.
Pastry chefs must adore this place. Every imaginable tool was available for them from minature tart pans, ring molds, brioche molds...and expert advice on anything they might need.
At the sales counter (which is probably the original from 1820) they carefully wrap your purchases up in brown parchment paper. And for the heavy items (like all the copper pots you buy) they will pack and ship them right to your US doorstep.
See? They're very helpful. :-)