SANTONS DE PROVENCE
The Arterra workshop is a workshop of creation of santons de Provence whose existence in the Panier dates back to 1996.
From the beginning Arterra has imposed itself by a very personal style. A style that combines tradition and modernity has attracted fans and collectors. Indeed, it is by refusing the flaws and the constraints imposed by the mass production, that today the Arterra collections are appreciated both in the world of the santon of crib, that in that of the decoration.
The collection comes in five sizes: 7, 9, 12, 18, and 30 cm.
All subjects are made of clay and entirely made by hand. The team of a dozen people takes care of all the stages, from creation to sale all over the world.
From creation to the oven
It all starts with a serious and careful document search. Texts and photos, supplemented sometimes by a survey of the ancients, allow to define the character in his attitude, his costume, his accessories, his tools.
This preliminary work is the guarantee of a respectful and faithful evocation. The first model or prototype is carved in clay using various tools of boxwood or metal. These tools are very often shaped by the artist himself.
From the first model, is made in plaster mold called 'mother mold' which will itself be used to make molds called 'pull'.
It is from these molds of prints that the subjects will be reproduced.
It should be noted that several molds may be necessary for the manufacture of the same subject.
The stamping then consists of pressing a clay bead between the dies of the draft mold to take the impression of the model.
At the end of the mold, the subject is considered as unsuccessful. Each piece will be reworked individually. It is at this stage that the limbs are detached, that is to say that the crotch or pasta for the animals are remodeled by removal of material.
The arms, as well as any accessories (hat, basket etc ...) are usually molded apart and reported by bonding to the slip (almost liquid clay).
It is also at this stage that all the details of sculpture that the molding could not restore will be reworked by the modeler.
Finally, all species of buttresses that aesthetically burden the subject are removed. The buttresses are artifices (grass, wall ...) located generally behind a leg, intended to keep the subject standing out of the mold when the clay is still fresh.
The cooking process takes place in two phases. First, a slow rise in temperature up to 960 °, after a plateau of a few tens of minutes at this temperature, it follows a slow cooling to avoid any thermal shock that would cause the breakage of the subject.
During this operation, the clay undergoes a molecular transformation and becomes terracotta. This terracotta has the advantage over simply dried clay, to have new mechanical properties, it becomes hard and insoluble, but it loses its ductility and becomes brittle.
The trimming consists of eliminating excess clay (seams) around the perimeter of the subject, delimiting the joint plane. The washing is the operation by which, with the help of a wet brush, the modeler smooths the surface of the subject and thus erases the traces due to the different intervention and manipulation of the subject.
The drying takes place in the open air for a duration depending on the ambient parameters as well as the size of the room. Before cooking, it is necessary that the clay is free of moisture, otherwise, from 100 ° the water enclosed in the clay by passing in the gaseous state would break the subject in the oven.
Ultimate step, during which the little characters, will be put in color. Just as during the modeling process, where Arterra attaches particular importance to the movement, during the decoration, always animated by the worries of giving life to his subjects, he works the looks with a particular application.
This is why the eyes of Arterra santons are totally drawn, and include a minimum of three colors (iris, pupils, white of the eye), as well as the point of light giving the direction to the gaze.
Whether traditional or decorative, santons are rich in detail both in molding and in painting.
It is at this price that the little people of the crib, this little people of santons (the word santon comes from the Provencal word santoun meaning little saint) is no longer a fixed people, but a living people, a people on the move!