Q&A with Mélanie Bourget / by Kellie Miller

Mélanie’s expressive ceramic sculptures are sort after, she is one of our most admired and collected artists. The appeal is her work relates to many everyday emotions which she captures so perfectly in her pieces. She uses a ceramic technique to finish her works called Raku. Raku has a distinctive appearance of dark smoke and crackle glazes, which further illustrates the vulnerability of human nature.

When you were younger, what do you want to be as an adult?

I wanted to become a stylist.

Your work captures human expressions, what does it mean to you to have this aspect in your work?

This aspect is essential in my work. What interests me is to transmit emotions, feelings, and it is through facial expressions that we can read them.

How long have you been creating your work?

I have been a ceramic sculptor since 2009.

Do you have a home studio?

Yes of course. I have a studio for modelling and sculpture, and also a space for my two kilns; one electric and one gas.

Do have any particular rituals before you start a body of work?

No, it's different every time. Sometimes I start with a sketch, especially if I start a collection for an exhibition. Sometimes it's the emotion from a painting or a photo that inspires me.

Why do you choose clay to produce your sculptures?

I love clay. It's a material that I first used in a pottery workshop when I was little, and that I rediscovered when I was pregnant with my first daughter.

Clay is a universally used material. It is a soft and pleasing paste, but I also like it for its transformation under the action of fire

The Raku technique has distinctive cracks in the glaze, can you tell us why you use this method for your pieces?

The Raku technique is a quick-firing but, above all, the complete process of transformation of the material by the fire is visible, because the sculptures are incandescent when I take them out of the kiln.

The principle of the raku technique is to create a thermal shock when the pieces are taken out of the kiln, at around 1000 ˚C, and the glaze has melted. The sudden change of temperature rapidly cools the glaze and makes it crackle. The pieces are then placed in metal containers and sprinkled with wood chips, which immediately ignite. The fire is stifled by closing the containers with a lid. The smoke will penetrate the cracks of the glaze to reveal them. The unglazed parts then colour brown, black tones, and remain matt and rough, in contrast with the glazed parts, which are very smooth and shiny.

Describe your typical creative week?

There is no typical creative week. The ceramic creation process is very long and requires a lot of steps, drying time, several firing, etc.. The weeks can be very different, there are whole days to model the clay, other times I paint, colour and glaze, and the very intensive firing days! Also, there are the days I have to move work for galleries or exhibitions.

Many of your figures seem to be the same personalities, would you say these are your muses, portraits of people you know or imaginary characters?

I would say that they are imaginary characters; different facets of the current man or woman. I work without models. I try to make my sculptures convey an emotion, so I use mine, and I think that it transfers to them. That's why there is a little family resemblance

Do your figures have a narrative?

Yes of course, but the story can change depending on whether we put them next to each other, or according to their environment. Sometimes I don’t give my sculptures titles because I hope that people can project many different stories onto them.

Do you relate to any of the figures you create?

All my sculptures of women are different aspects of my personality

Many of your figures have crazy interesting hairstyles, could you tell us what the significance of this is in your work?

The female bust is a very classic subject in art, and the original hairstyles are present to bring a modern touch to my characters. And just as our facial features, our hair and even our hairstyle can say things about our personality.

What has been the highlight of your creative career so far?

I think it is coming. I have so many ideas yet to implement! And with ceramics, there is not enough of one life to explore the different possibilities!