IN HER WORDS:
MÉLISSA RUFFAULT, CERAMIST
Hi Mélissa, could you tell us a little bit about about yourself?
My name is Mélissa, I am from Brittany in the Northwest in France. I have been living in the Basque Country for 7 years. I have a degree in fashion design but I discovered ceramics a few years ago.
It was a job I didn’t know it existed but I knew I was going to love it! I started out taking a few classes while I was pregnant before giving up fashion for good about three or four years ago.
(Laurie: I tell her that I was pregnant too when I did my first sketch of espadrilles. Then, we talked about how motherhood impacted our lives and our search of a new balance).
Motherhood changes your perception of things. Your life will change for the better and you want everything to be connected, to be happy both in your personal life and in your professional life.
How did you build your relationship with the Beautiful (le Beau in French)?
I’ve always loved the Beautiful, I have not learned to love it. As a teenager, I liked beautiful clothes, objects, architecture. It’s not a question of price but of style.
My eyes can be caught by a elegant silhouette in the street. It’s like when you walk into a house, there is an atmosphere, something special that emerges.
(Laurie: it’s like Mélissa’s home. The atmosphere is very warm and cosy. You feel every object has a soul).
From the idea to the design of a project, could you tell us about your creative process?
It all starts with a sketch. It’s a shape that I draw with only one stroke. It helps me build my creation, to have a guideline.
Inspiration comes from everything. I really like curves. In fact, everything is round about me: my writing, my pencil stroke…
What is your story with the Basque Country and what particularly touches you here?
I came a few times on vacation and I have many childhood memories here.
I left Brittany to move here when I was 25 with my mother to take over a hotel. The project ultimately did not come to fruition. So my mother returned home and I decided to stay. At the time, I didn’t know how long I was going to stay.
And in the end, I never left!
What touches me in the Basque Country… I like this strong & authentic cultural identity. I love the local facades with peppers drying in the sun, old grandpas with their black berets. The ocean, the mountains, the gastronomy … It is a very pleasant living environment. We live outside a lot and that’s what I love!
How does the Covid pandemic impact your life?
We are very lucky here because our lives are less impacted than elsewhere. But what I miss a lot is going to restaurants, feeling surrounded by people…
What does the espadrille mean to you?
The beach! I wear them when I go to the beach. It’s a shoe that you put on easily. You are not afraid of having your feet covered in sand.
And after the beach, you can go for a walk in the city center in espadrilles. It’s more elegant than flip flops!
What enchants you about the Atelier Aliénor project?
I love the fact that everything is local: the raw materials, the crafting. You are saving jobs of the people around you and you are keeping a tradition alive. I like telling myself that when I buy a pair of espadrilles, I participate in the mission of preserving this know-how.
We have finally come to realize that these cultural traditions are precious.
(Laurie: I tell her that the workshop is having a hard time recruiting new talents when there is fewer and fewer seamstresses. Saving this cultural heritage is going to be a real challenge in the coming years.
There is a lot of craftsmen trades that are critically endangered and no one knows these trades even exist, especially young people who are trying to find their path. However, we are delighted that mindsets are changing and that our societies value more and more manual works.
Doing something with your hands is the best way to bring happiness & fulfillment into your life!)
What is the project you are most proud of? And what are the ones to come?
The one I am doing for the Ibarboure brothers (Michelin-starred restaurant in the Basque Country). It’s a great project and above all a big challenge! I’m making two vases with dimensions that I have never done before: 65 to 70 cm high and 55 cm wide. Even my oven was not big enough! Fortunately, I have an acquaintance who is also a ceramicist and who lends me her oven (we used the dimensions of her oven to determine the height of the vases).
As for my other current or upcoming projects: well, I have to fulfill my orders!
(Laurie: Inès de la Fressange discovered her beautiful creations on Instagram and ordered plates from Mélissa. She mentionned her work in her last newsletter, and Mélissa has been overwhelmed with orders since!).