PORCELAIN: THE MATERIAL THAT KNOWS NO LIMITS
A salute to porcelain
Each new Bernardaud collection offers fresh evidence that this refined material with unexpected properties is redefining style in the world of fine china. Contemporary and bold, the brand inspires designers and encourages artists to venture into unknown territory.
Each creation bearing the Bernardaud mark, whether dinnerware service, jewelry, furniture or a light fixture, is intended to bring simple luxury to everyday life. Two thousand years after it was first discovered, porcelain remains as remarkable as ever. Bernardaud perpetuates and diversifies traditional skills and techniques, preserving a valuable component of France’s cultural heritage. The company never stops reinventing the art and craft of making porcelain.
Exploring new territory
It’s easy to see what porcelain brings to the table! Its individual place settings are complemented by serving platters, soup tureens, tea and coffee services and other accessories. Bernardaud has designed and manufactured tableware for everyday use since 1863, while constantly refreshing its inspiration.
In an ongoing quest to explore the possibilities of its signature material, Bernardaud capitalizes on its traditional expertise to explore new avenues. The company calls on designers to find new applications and artists to create works of art using ‘‘white gold’’ as their medium. While catering to true connoisseurs, Bernardaud now reaches those who are unfamiliar with porcelain or can only imagine its more conventional uses. Bernardaud encourages everyone to (re)discover their favorite material via its own broad array of decorative objects and art works, and to incorporate these simple luxuries into their daily life.
Real daring: to thine own self be true
Bernardaud fully integrates porcelain into every area of modern lifestyle: the decorative arts (with beautiful objects for the home, furniture and light fixtures), personal adornment (jewelry) and innovative tableware and art works created by contemporary artists under the auspices of the Fondation Bernardaud. Porcelain is ubiquitous and appears where least expected. In an industry often dominated by marketing strategy, Bernardaud remains true to its unique philosophy, which is to take the market pulse, then operate on intuition and experience. Real daring means following your own star!
In the beginning
Bernardaud’s great industrial and artistic adventure began in 1863 in Limoges, a region possessing kaolin, fresh water and forests, which are all needed to make porcelain. And the adventure is ongoing! The company has already successfully navigated some of the technical and creative challenges of the 21st century.
In 1768, in Saint-Yrieix-La-Perche, a few dozen kilometers from Limoges, a woman discovered a very malleable type of white clay and decided to use it to bleach grease spots from her household linens. Later, experts would identify it as kaolin, one of the four ingredients used to make porcelain, along with feldspar powder, quartz and water. The Chinese had already been using kaolin for centuries to make porcelain that was remarkably robust, yet delicate with its own iridescent transparency. The saga of Limoges porcelain, in which the Manufacture Royale featured prominently, began in 1774. This was the historical and geographic context in which Bernardaud’s industrial adventure unfolded.
The story began in 1863, when two industrialists from Limoges opened a factory to meet increased demand for porcelain dinnerware services, burning coal for fuel and shipping their product to market via the newly built railroad. At the workshop, an apprentice by the name of Léonard Bernardaud stood out from the others. Twenty years later, he was promoted to head of sales and the founders made him a partner. In 1900, Léonard bought them out and gave the company his name.
A taste for innovation
Léonard Bernardaud built up production capacity and opened up new markets, especially in the United States. He was succeeded by his sons Jacques and Michel, who survived the Great Depression and World War II by expanding the company’s collections, working with a number of artists. In 1949, they boldly introduced France’s first tunnel kiln, which operated 24 hours a day. At first, the tunnel burned city gas, instead of wood. After 1954, it used natural gas from Le Lacq in southwestern France, a ‘‘clean’’ energy that ensured constant heat and improved the firing process. The pieces produced were sturdier and free of defects, which increased capacity. The company started to produce on an industrial scale, but continued to work according to the high standards of a craft based on artisan techniques.
Innovate, modernize and create
In 1962, Pierre Bernardaud took over management of the company. He reorganized the business in 1979, opening a new white porcelain plant in Oradour-sur-Glane and acquiring several porcelain production facilities, including the Ancienne Manufacture Royale in 1986. He modernized in the 1980s by installing an isostatic press. First, porcelain paste is injected as a powder into a resin mold, then pressure (5,076 pounds per square inch) is applied to compact the powder into the shape of the mold, thus producing the desired object. This technique boosted plate output and quality. Under Pierre Bernardaud, creativity continued to drive the company. He commissioned Raymond Loewy to design the first contemporary porcelain dinnerware service set. He also launched the first TV ad campaign with a jingle that continues to resonate in the collective consciousness of the French. Clearly, the man was a master of forward thinking in the technical and creative fields, as well as communication!
Stepping into the third millennium
In 1979, Pierre Bernardaud asked his son Michel if he would like to join the company and help develop the brand worldwide. Michel Bernardaud, heir to five generations of porcelain manufacturers, took over in 1994. He has continued to modernize while ensuring that rare techniques, such as incrustation, continue to be used for special orders. His aim was to grow the porcelain company, one of the last to be owned by the founding family, while perpetuating the objectives set by his predecessors: to preserve valuable technical skills, encourage a taste for innovation and continue to emphasize creativity.
We invite you to join us on the May 2017 COUNTRY ROADS FRANCE IN SPRING Tour and experience an in depth visit to this leading porcelain house. Visit the website at http://www.bernardaud.com/fr