Emmanuel Bossuet in his stunning appartment in Paris. Image courtesy of The Socialite Family
We were thrilled to have the opportunity to talk with the charming and erudite decorative artist, Emmanuel Bossuet, artistic director of Maison Charles, recently in Paris. Enjoy our Q & A with him.
You describe yourself as a Decorative Artist. What is your philosophy in your design work? The term ‘decorative artist’ is a broad one and can suggest many things. I don’t dedicate myself to being a mere ‘surface designer’ or solely an ‘ornamantist’ but rather I commit more widely to a graphic oriented approach whatever the subject, be it pattern or a piece of furniture. In practical terms it means, I guess, that I somehow prioritize the visual rendition and optical aspect of a piece, and how it will behave in a given environment – within of course a much broader array of criteria….
My commitment definitely has something to do with being an ‘auteur’, whatever the medium may be. And for me discipline is not a theme in itself (which would mean remaining bound to an academic definition of any given medium…). Rather I believe that the theme of any work, any place and perhaps any time is what I can actually bring to it.
Gold and black ‘Dandelion’ screen by Emmanuel Bossuet, PAD Paris 2016, on Armel Soyer’s stand. Image courtesy of Emmanuel Bossuet
‘Dandelion’ wallpaper with embossed paper on Velin d’Arche 300grs, by Emmanuel Bossuet. Edited by Armel Soyer Gallery
Have you always been interested in the decorative arts? And how did you become involved in that metier? What drew you to it? As a child I always regarded the decorative arts with a suspicious eye to say the least…mainly perhaps because I had long found myself surrounded by lesser quality artefacts which were impoverished copies of the grand styles. Most of them Louis XV style… These copies were speaking a very mysterious language to me : totally irrelevant, full of inner and irresolute contradictions.
Years later, my interest in fiction and story telling brought me to a serious study of the graphic arts, drawing and photography which then led me, after a few curvy creative detours to work as as industrial product designer. Incidentally I also got involved at the same period in the field of fashion where I personally focused on pattern making for prints or embroideries. Up to now, most of my close friends are people working in the fashion industry. However, it became clear to me that on the one hand, the aim of the electronic industry (as an industrial product designer) was not to conceive the best products possible and this was a total denial of my commitment as a designer. And on the other hand, the fashion pace seemed far too frustrating in its essence : Why renew your proposals every season, quite often artifically, when you actually seek to invent instant classics rather then obsolescent novelties ? Where is the Grail in all this ?
My attitude towards this analysis was then to look for a more perennial playground, involving lifestyle and artistry alike : and that is why I declared myself a ‘decorative artist’, quite wittily at the time because the word ‘decorative’ was seen as a pejorative, if not provocative term then. Only ten years ago, the term was regarded as a declaration of war on intelligence. Especially in the art field. In the art market, if ‘decorative’ could be added somewhere in the boiler, it was considered the best thing to appeal to a clients actual criteria. It became a widespread essential feature.
Appolonius lustre by Emmanuel Bossuet for Maison Charles. Seen here at AD Collections Quai d’Orsay 2015
From where do you draw inspiration? What inspires you? Strangely enough mostly from reading : memoirs in the first place, then essays and technical or scientific literature. I don’t really look much at other people’s work, except when I want to look more closely at why a certain type of project failed or, in my opinion, simply didn’t manage to reach its underlying goal (its always more pleasant to learn from others’ misconceptions than from yours, right ?…)
But what inspires me the most on an everyday basis is the creative process in itself and the many notions you should beckon or dismiss in the creation. And the rhythm thus involved. Let me draw you a picture : after a finely-tuned study I often end up saying that I foresee ‘one solution and a half’ regarding a specific project : which basically means not exactly two…
Plates designed by Emmanuel Bossuet
Ceramic tiles in a bathroom by Emmanuel Bossuet. Just love the dynamism of the spectacular design! Image courtesy of Emmanuel Bossuet
How do you see the design market in France now? There is basically strictly no product design now in France. We don’t have Ikea here, and the car industry is much more about styling. What we call ‘design’ here is more a matter of dedicated galleries, interior design studios and luxury brands looking to express themselves in a certain environment. This is a strongly flourishing milieu, mostly because creation is still tightly linked to a centuries old tradition here in France of exceptional savoir-faire. Whatever the technique involved you’ll always find here the best craftsmen or companies to realise a project. This is what makes France stand apart in this field from other countries in Europe.
And we can’t deny that Paris in itself attracts the attention of so many people which means that endeavours and creations here are projected onto the international stage and always looked at under a particular spotlight. This is definitely the place for creation.
Desert Rose light by Emmanuel Bossuet for Maison Charles. AD Collections 2016. Image courtesy of Emmanuel Bossuet
You became Artistic Director of Maison Charles in 2014. Can you tell us about your role there? Charles is a particularly splendid signature mark and a genuine reference for anyone interested in interior design, be it bronzesmithing or simply lighting. The name ‘Maison Charles’ itself has always been a reference point to describe high-end 60’s and 70’s fixtures. Which is true even now perhaps.
When I started as artistic director of Maison Charles, I had to seriously immerse myself at once in its history and know-how, and as is the case for any venerable house, there is always an intricate mix of these elements with the bare realities of production and market focus. As in everything, there are always many exceptions !
My role there is now mainly to focus on special projects and editions which will lead towards defining Charles in terms of aesthetic innovations for the future. I tend to play the role of forerunner in a way – from quicksand to thin ice, the objective being at my level to help the brand play an ever more prominent yet singular role in the decorative arts field, but on our new grounds. In practical terms, this can take the form of exhibitions, collaborations and special orders. For example, we recently exhibited the first models of the ‘Desert Rose’ range, which I designed, at the event held by AD magazine in Paris – a chandelier, table and tableware. And we are now setting up an exclusive collaboration revising an all-time Charles classic with a top-end department store for the end of the year in Paris.
Art direction is of course not similar to PR work on an every day basis, but if you consider the goals through the scope of creative opportunities for a brand, it should all really be viewed in the same way.
‘Desert Rose’ low table by Emmanuel Bossuet for Maison Charles. AD Collections 2016.
Can you tell us about one of the favorite pieces you’ve designed and why it is important to you. As they all belong to the same string it may be difficult for me to pick up any from the flow ! In some ways I always have a special regard for the ones that escaped from me by reaching a kind of autonomous life by themselves.
Among the most particular projects I would perhaps mention the work we did with Stockman, the famous French bustform manufacturer for couture, a few years ago. These intensely graphic pieces were first created for a one-shot exhibition organized by friends in a commercial showroom. But soon afterwards they were shown at Musée des Arts Décoratifs, then at Centre Georges Pompidou and finally landed at Musée Grevin where ten of them are exhibited as stand-alone pieces. I guess that is what I consider “escape”…
Stockman busts by Emmanuel Bossuet in the Musée Grevin.
Wishing you all a good weekend.