- Article by Natalie Mortimer
Best known for creating architectural design pieces for the luxury hospitality industry, ceramic designer Pascale Girardin’s approach of blending science and art makes for a unique harmony.
Girardin’s inquisitive mind and relentless urge to explore have driven her to develop a significant and constantly evolving body of work. From her Montreal office and studio, her creative design company creates high-end dishware and architectural design pieces for the likes of Nobu, Four Seasons and Al Badia Golf Club in Dubai.
Girardin’s architectural installations are made up of hundreds or even thousands of individually crafted pieces that come together in larger-than-life compositions. In the past few years, she has broadened her practice with new materials such as aluminium, cast resin, polycarbonate and wood.
ADR spent some time chatting to Girardin to find out about her unique background and her latest installation in Las Vegas, which is on display at the HD Expo this week (2-4 May).
ADR: You have trained in both art and science: what impact has this had on both your work and your creative approach?
Pascale Girardin: I studied biology before going into fine arts and this has helped me in so many ways: glaze making is essentially inorganic chemistry and involves mixing minerals together and testing the colours onto various clays at specific temperatures. I make all of my glazes from scratch. Some of these glazes have required over 8 years of research and adjustments before I was able to achieve what I wanted. Ceramics also requires that one pay attention to the variations and small events that occur throughout the various stages of transformation that clay goes through, from wet clay to dry, bisque, glazed and fired once again. So many things can go wrong that note-taking and a keen sense of observation are critical. My practice is therefore based on empirical knowledge, with a strong creative edge! It provides me with a balanced approach, between the organic processes within the creative act and the discipline and focus that ceramics readily provide.
You have a unique aesthetic to your work- how did you create this and subsequently evolve it?
My aesthetic has developed over time and reflects a certain freedom of expression, which I have cultivated throughout the years. The passion I feel for a project drives me. Nature and natural phenomena are always on my mind as I am always learning from these elements.
You are known for using ceramic in your work, but what other materials are you interested in?
I have been fascinated by pliable materials, such as aluminium sheets and thermoformed polycarbonate for my larger projects, which are impossible for me to produce in ceramics due to the fact that my kilns would not be able to accommodate these. These materials have similar behaviours to slabs of clay, with a much faster result (although I still prefer to use ceramics whenever it is possible).
You’ve worked with some very high-profile venues. Do you feel a certain pressure when creating artworks for these types of places?
Working for high-profile clients is stimulating as their aesthetics resonate with my practice. I feel most comfortable with luxury brands, as my clients have an understanding of the nature of fine craft, which requires time, skill and competence. I feel in my element when I am allowed to explore my creative potential through these three aspects. There’s such an incredible potential within the craft of ceramics, whether through textures, forms or glazes and how they bring each other to life and eventually are integrated in beautiful public spaces for others to experience.
Talk us through your creative process: how do you approach a new project and where do you get your inspiration?
Each new project has its ethos. I rely on instinct to direct the work, and then I begin to research the ideas that come to mind, whether it is a historical reference, archaeological elements or botanical documents, for example. Then I begin to piece together a loose, visual narrative. I try to focus on the essence of a project and strip it bare from any unnecessary details that won’t add anything to the project. I can express much more when I have less to work with.
Your latest work will be displayed at the HD Expo at Mandalay Bay. How did the idea for this installation come about?
I had finished making Desert Breeze for the Four Seasons in Las Vegas. This piece was inspired by the flowers found in the Mohave Desert. Since the HD expo is in the same city, I wished to create a counterpoint and develop a sculpture that would recall the lushness of the tropics and the rainforest, with an abundance of flowers, leaves, droplets and petals within a dark green alcove. It creates the feeling of an intimate garden and I had the idea of installing some ceramic benches and large pots in the centre of the installation as a soft focal point.
Photo credit: Pascale Girardin
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