Beauty by Design: Pia Chevalier
Parisian native and brand founder Pia Chevalier talks us through how her spontaneous creative process shapes each handcrafted design.
Working out of her own studio in Paris, Pia Chevalier’s distinct aesthetic focuses on the everyday object as a work of art, giving each original piece the status of a sculpture capable of arousing emotion. Endearing by design, her handmade ceramics are boundless, changing in shape, form, and colour from piece to piece. We spoke to Pia about what fuels her morally motivated brand and how design and craftsmanship radiates through its core.
What inspired you to start your namesake brand?
After an internship at Toogood, a London-based design studio, I was fascinated by the absence of boundaries in between craftsmanship, design, fashion and art. It inspired me to launch my studio and to create without boundaries and labels.
Can you tell us a bit about your background in design and craftsmanship?
My whole childhood was pretty much an introduction to the art/design field. Both of my parents always had a huge interest in aesthetics and interior design, which meant I spent a lot of time making and experimenting with objects and materials. I studied Craftsmanship in Paris at Ecole Boulle then I went on to do a masters in Product Design.
How did you hone your craft?
I am rather self-taught. I never learned ceramic or metal in art school. I really honed my craft by working directly with the materials, making mistakes and being patient too.
What inspiration do you take from your home city of Paris?
Paris is the most delicious city! Croissants, religieuses au chocolat, macarons and Paris Brest - bakeries and pastry shops inspire me a lot in my ceramic work.
I leave room for total spontaneity in the creating process while composing my pieces.
Can you talk us through your creative process?
I leave room for total spontaneity in the creating process while composing my pieces. My love for raw materials leads me to constantly transform them to create unique items. By assembling elements, I often find disproportionate and absurd compositions, such as the “donut mug” where the handle is almost as big as the cup.
How and where do you source your materials from?
All my suppliers are Parisians; all the raw materials come from Europe or France.
Can you tell us about your studio in Paris?
I work in a huge place called L’Orfèvrerie, the former workshop of Christofle. There are more than 200 creative people that also work at the site - it’s a very lively and interdisciplinary place.
How important is sustainability to you as a brand?
Focused on the everyday object, I try to give to my pieces a status of carving capable of eliciting an emotion and creating an affective and emotional bond. I am convinced that owning endearing objects avoids consuming too much.
In what ways are your designs ethically motivated?
Clay is an accessible material in many soils and relatively easy to extract, it can be used both as a building material and to make everyday objects. Clay therefore responds to the environmental challenges of our time and is a resource for the future.
What are the challenges and rewards that come with creating each piece by hand?
There are many challenges! Ceramic is an intuitive, childish and complex material that requires a lot of prototyping time and patience. Broken pieces are just a part of the process.
Your Donut Mugs are as much pieces of art as they are practical everyday objects. How is this achieved?
Thanks to the great freedom of expression that clay offers, I gave birth to the donut mugs. I think it is this disproportion and the nod to the donuts (the handle becomes the biscuit and the glaze the flavor) that created a funny and endearing sculpture.
What’s next for Pia Chevalier?
I try to focus my work on bigger scale pieces such as sculptures, vases and lamps. At present, my idea is to rediscover the marine universe of octopuses with their multiple tentacles. After the sugary donuts it is the turn of salty octopuses!