Europe’s top chefs, such as Fredy Girardet of Girardet in Crissier, Switzerland, absolutely apperceive what it takes to end a agitating meal: abundant desserts, conceivably a accomplished Cognac or Port, and, of course, the best in cigars. They additionally accept that, as allotment of the acceptable postprandial experience, a acceptable cigar demands a able ashtray.
This uncompromising attitude about smoker accoutrements, afterwards all, is affiliated to their complete acceptance that accomplished crystal, argent and ceramics abundantly enhance the amusement of a acceptable dinner. It’s all allotment of what the French alarm art de vivre, the art of living. This outlook, they would explain, is accordingly affiliated to l’art de la table, the art of appropriately ambience a table. For these arbiters of taste, a table isn’t appropriately “dressed” if it doesn’t accommodate a cendrier Havane from Limoges: that is, a ceramics ashtray fabricated distinctively to handle an abundantly ample cigar.
So instead of alms aloof any array of bottle or clear ashtray, Girardet, whose Michelin three-star restaurant offers a capital alternative of Cuba’s finest cigars, goes a footfall further. To allow those guests who top off an atramentous with a abundant smoke, the restaurant furnishes appropriately colossal Limoges ceramics ashtrays to cradle the cigar and aggregate its ashes. At Girardet, as at abounding added two- and three-star establishments, the ashtrays are busy in the aforementioned absolute burden that graces the restaurant’s absolute Limoges ceramics banquet service.
To these chefs and added aficionados, there are ashtrays and, then, there are ashtrays. Aloof area you tap that apparitional white cigar ash, afterwards abounding moments of smoker pleasure, is as abundant a account about affectionate the bigger things in activity as the alternative of a acceptable cigar.
Where can you acquisition the world’s ultimate ashtrays? The answer, fortunately, is as accessible as a first-year French lesson: Limoges (pronounced lee-MOZH).
Located in axial France, this slow-paced but acceptable boondocks is accepted as the cradle of the French ceramics industry; and the ashtrays that artisans aftermath there, usually allotment of beyond sets of busy banquet service, are accustomed about the apple as the classiest way to cradle a abundant cigar during a comfortable after-dinner smoke.
That Girardet and added top restaurateurs baddest Limoges ceramics shouldn’t appear as a surprise, however. Arch ceramics firms from the burghal of Limoges, including Bernardaud, de Haviland and Deshouliéres, amid others, accept been accomplishment accomplished ceramics for Europe’s aristocratic houses–not to acknowledgment top hotels, restaurants and clandestine clients–for added than 150 years. Indeed, ceramics assembly in Limoges dates aback to the backward eighteenth century, according to Michel Bernardaud, administrator accepted of Porcelaines Bernardaud, who is himself an ardent cigar smoker and someone, of course, who knows a affair or two about t’art de la table and ashtrays.
Bernardaud says that France’s oldest, continuously operating ceramics producer, Ancienne Manufacture Royale, was founded by the Comte d’Artois in the aboriginal 1770s. The Comte d’Artois was the grandson of Louis XV, baron of France, appropriately the “Royale.” (In exile, the Comte survived the French Revolution and the agitated Napoleonic era; later, in 1824, he was crowned Charles X, ascendant as baron of France from 1825-1830.) Today, Bernardaud, which was founded by Michel’s abundant grandfather, Leonard, and traces its origins to 1863, owns 50 percent of the Ancienne Manufacture Royale, which is operated alone from the family-owned company.
In fact, ceramics authoritative is far earlier than the Ancienne Manufacture Royale; it’s absolutely an age-old art with roots that can be traced center about the apple to China. There, according to actual accounts, the assembly of elaborately designed, clay-fired vases, plates, teapots and the like is a centuries-old tradition. According to art experts, there are some Chinese ceramics vases and bowls that date aback to the tenth and eleventh centuries.
One of the world’s best acclaimed travelers, Marco Polo, is about accustomed with actuality the aboriginal to accompany Chinese ceramics to Europe afterward his thirteenth-century boating beyond Persia and the Indian subcontinent and through what is abreast China. According to legend, Marco Polo’s description of ceramics still evokes article of the action of his travels, his aggregate treasures: “It is fine, ablaze and transparent, like seashells; like absolute porcelain!”
Marco Polo’s porcelainé de Chine, those imports of accomplished ceramics from China, became accepted over time as porcelain, or, added simply, as ceramics in English-speaking countries. Imitation actuality the sincerest anatomy of flattery, European artisans approved for years, afterwards success, to carbon these alien treasures. Indeed, alone afterwards abundant balloon and absurdity would European artisans assuredly alleviate the Orient’s jealously attentive techniques of battlefront the adapted adobe that is acclimated to accomplish accomplished porcelain.
By the aboriginal 1700s, afterwards endless abstracts appliance altered adobe compounds, assorted battlefront temperatures and distinctively alloyed glazes, European artisans and chemists at aftermost baffled the Asian art of ceramics production. Soon thereafter, German, French and English craftsmen were axis out accomplished ceramics table account for the arch aristocratic courts throughout Europe. By the backward eighteenth century, the best acclaimed names and centers of ceramics assembly were Meissen in Germany, Sévres and Limoges in France, Ginori in Italy and Aristocratic Worcester and Spode in England.
Given this lineage, ceramics is the accurate blueblood of earthenware. In adverse to added types of oven-fired tableware, ceramics is altered in three arch ways: ceramics is produced appliance adapted clays and compounds; it is oven-fired at abundant college temperatures than added types of earthenware; and finally, its decorations, accepted as glazes, are distinctively able for college temperatures and, absolutely often, are anxiously activated by hand.
All Limoges porcelain, like those of its illustrious counterparts in Austria, Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, utilizes a adapted clay, which is composed of a admixture of kaolin, quartz and feldspar. These abstracts are again alloyed anxiously into a actual dense, pastelike substance. The consistent adobe is again molded into the adapted form–a plate, teapot or ashtray–and broiled at about 1,800’F in what is accepted as the aboriginal firing. This aboriginal battlefront action can aftermost as continued as eight hours, according to Bernardaud.
After cooling off, the bowl or teapot is again biconcave in a adapted apply ablution and anon undergoes a admirable feu, or additional firing, at about 2,500’F, a action that can aftermost as continued as 30 hours. Afterwards the admirable feu is completed, the adornment action begins: it starts with the appliance of a architecture motif, about through a chromolithographic process, although assertive admired altar are commonly corrective by hand. In all cases, gold and platinum assignment on ceramics is hand-painted. A final alternation of firings, depending on the allotment and the decorations, is again undertaken, at temperatures alignment from about 1,500’F to 2,200’F, addendum Bernardaud.
Porcelaines Bernardaud’s ashtrays are abundantly proportioned. The ashtrays additionally display abundant personality, back abounding of Bernardaud’s designs are aggressive by artists like Kees Van Dongen, Raymond Loewy and Bernard Buffet. But abounding of the brand Bernardaud designs appear from the company’s own atelier.
A acclaimed archetype of Bernardaud’s own assignment is its “Boston” design, a somewhat dreamy, but absolutely jazzy, estimation of the Roaring Twenties. Conceived and advised in Bernardaud’s own atelier in 1925, “Boston” appearance a checkered armament attending adjoin an affected gold background.
Echoing the adult attending of the ’30s, Bernardaud’s “Paris” design, apparent in the ashtray format, reflects the Art Deco appearance aggressive by the French artists Sonia Delauney and Fernand Leger. The ashtray’s ablaze white accomplishments contrasts badly with exotic-looking women airish adjoin a bright accomplishments of delicate gold, bendable apricot and active turquoise.
Another ashtray, “Weiner,” whose sleek, black-and-white architecture was aggressive by the acclaimed Viennese designer/artist Joseph Hoffman, displays a absolutely modernist look. Like “Boston,” the Hoffman-inspired “Weiner” comes anon from Bernardaud’s own atelier.
Jean-Pierre Hamard, aesthetic administrator of Bernardaud’s atelier, oversees all the firm’s architecture work, from the awakening of celebrated designs of eighteenth-century French ceramics to new artistic assignment by abreast French designers like Catherine Bergen and Italian painters such as Giovanna Amoruso. In all, Porcelaines Bernardaud releases about 20 new designs a year, not including adapted orders for audience like the absolutist of Oman, Air France and adopted embassies, amid others.
In accession to this special-order work, Bernardaud additionally produces a comfortable ceramics account for Cartier. One set includes a baroque alternation of ashtrays, one of which has an abnormal but bright hexagon shape, featuring a artful