Flore uses a very primitive technique: in the same way as ceramicists, she first uses clay to create shapes, with no other help than that of her hands, and then goes on to make the pieces which please her most in bronze.
Ceramicists who do not hesitate to leave the beaten track are rare. Even rarer are those who do not make utilitarian ceramics: dinner services, chimney-breast tiles and mirror frames, etc. Here in this country, where the fire arts have always had a place of honour, we have only ten or so men and women who are ceramicists in the way that one is a painter, a poet or a sculptor…with audacity, talent and free from commercial preoccupations.
Flore Joris is amongst those ten. And she is, moreover, a very charming woman. We will now introduce her.
Flore is from Belgium. She is married to Carlos Nadal, a Catalan painter who discovered the magic of colour in the northern countries. She inherited the blond hair and long face of her people, along with a slow smile and poetic sense which shows through with impressive force in her works.
There is something deliberately modest about her approach that is very touching.
The most famous of Europe’s ceramicists, Bernard Palissy, said “I have had no book other than the sky and the earth”. And he gave himself the modest title of “worker of clay and inventor of rustic figurines”. These two phrases apply perfectly to Flore Joris, who has been disciple to no master and creates works which resemble no others, with a polished technique and a certain savoir faire.
– “I cannot show you much; to see the bulk of what I have made you would have to go and visit private collections in France and Belgium…But do you like my horses?”
Flore Joris’s horses are one of the successes and, she says, torments of her life.
They are statuettes with very pure lines, extremely delicate models. The horse is her favourite subject.
– “But why a torment, Madame Joris?”
– “The chief difficulty lies in the creation of the original, which I make in clay. I work the clay directly, without tools, with my fingers. I have a little lathe for the rounded shapes. Once I’ve got the definitive shape the object must dry for several days. It is then so fragile that the slightest blow will break it. After the clay has dried it is fired for a first time. It is still very fragile, and it is only after the second firing and the enamelling that the object takes on a certain hardness, and then only a very relative one. Then comes the work with bronze; first making the mould and then casting of the pieces, and next the finishes and patina. The principal difficulty lies in making a good original and making the mould, taking care not to break them, because very often I don’t enamel to take advantage of the special roughness which fired clay has. So I am working with very fragile materials. In this room I have…”
The room we are in is a spacious workshop full of light and colour. Paintings, broken vases, horses, busts. Drawings and photos hang on the wall.
– “In this room I have”, continues Flore Joris, “baked and unbaked clays. The first are waiting for casting, and the second for their first firing. These are personally the pieces I like best, and they represent weeks, and sometimes months, of work. For my daughter Marinette they were just toys. She would grab a horse by the leg, you see…or she would want to imitate her mother, adding a bit of clay to a figurine…It’d be a real scene! It was, and continues to be, inevitable. I am both a mother and artist. It is not always easy to reconcile the two things.”
Flore Joris smiles patiently.
– “Have you been influenced by Spanish art?”
Flore Joris thinks, hesitates, weighing her words…
– “I don’t know, it’s possible that I have…I like popular Spanish art very much, but above all I work instinctively; one day I’ll take pleasure in making simple shapes; another day it’ll be very elaborately worked décors. I am very independent…I’m most interested in shape. I like to express what I want with precision. And it’s probably because my works are so close to me that I find it difficult to separate myself from them. If I could, I would work my whole life and never sell a single one of them!”
– “Imagine how happy my daughter would be, with all these toys to break!”
This is what real talent looks like: modest and ingenious.
Dominique Nève, Femme d’aujourd’hui (Brussels – 1958)