Handicraft is a sort of craft in which people create items using only their hands or simple equipment. The things are usually decorative and serve a purpose. Typically, the term relates to old techniques of production. The artefacts frequently have cultural or religious significance. Things manufactured by machines or in mass manufacturing are not handcrafted. So, when someone mentions French handicrafts, what comes to mind? Something French, of course, but also quality, luxury, flair, and authenticity. Because the French are among the most-proud people on the planet, and one of the things we love most about ourselves is our traditions, especially when they are quaint, distinctive, or on the verge of extinction.
As with many old things, there is a temptation to ‘upgrade’ and modernize. Traditions are not immune to this mold. Products that have been created in the same way for decades, if not centuries, may be given a makeover through mechanization, the substitution of traditional natural components with synthetic ones, or mass production. Change one minor detail about how a cheese is made, a bottle of wine is made, or a cloth is weaved, and you could have a revolution on your hands.
How did the French get into handicrafts?
France has a great history of invention and craftsmanship, and while much has already been lost, this realization motivates us to conserve what remains.
They enjoy making things, whether they are clothes, jewelry, or furniture, or anything else that is lovely. While they manufacture a lot of utilitarian things (kitchenware and airplanes are two examples), they really shine when it comes to making things that are beautiful. These are items that will last, that they can touch, which are one-of-a-kind because they know there will be no other one precisely like it. That is the allure of handcrafted items. Many of these customs have been passed down to contemporary artists, who labor just as hard in their work. Here are a few illustrations of this craftsmanship, each of which is a unique piece of art. They come from a strong sense of history and talents that have been passed down through the centuries.
- Enamels of Bresse
- Linen, silk, and traditional hats of Basque country
- Leather gloves
1. Enamels of Bresse
The finest training for this kind of work is in jewelry and watchmaking because each enamel is unique and takes numerous very skilled procedures.
A silver foundation must first be shaped before the enamel can be placed on it. Then, a thin layer of enamel paste is applied to that base; if you don’t like the hue, you can change it by adding metals like copper and cobalt. After that, the oven will fire five to seven times over a period of time. The time for decorating is after the enamel has baked. The gold is purchased in little balls and transformed into 50 gram ingots first. On what appears to be a massive pasta-making machine, these are stretched and glued to the proper thickness, or perhaps I should say thinness.
The gold sheets are flattened before being punched out into small pieces known as paillons d’or, which enamelers will arrange with a tiny paintbrush and move about until they are exactly positioned. The pearls, which are so small those of them that use glasses can hardly see them, will be treated in the same way.
The ends are soldered after the object is complete. A small ring that will eventually accommodate a chain is affixed to the specimen after it has been filed down, hammered, and surrounded with a tiny silver string.
2. Linen, silk, and traditional hats of Basque country
Traditions are important in the Basque region of southwest France, which is situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees Mountains that lead into Spain.
This is the home of the Basque people, who have ambiguous origins, a distinct language unrelated to any other existing tongue, and a different ethnic make-up from its neighbors. From geography to politics, everything in their history has distinguished them from others. Tradition remains their lone constant.
When Lucien Laulhère opened a linen and wool store in 1840, this particular journey got underway. He also made berets, which gained enormous popularity after being given to Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie. Soon, everyone was donning one, and they were being referred to as “bérets Basques.”
Laulhère and the boys who came after him just kept going. Berets were worn by soldiers as a component of their uniform, and the fashion quickly caught on with the general public.
3. Leather gloves
A massive pair of shears were given to Jean Strazzeri when he completed his glove-making internship in Grenoble in 1967. He continues to use them to cut his child gloves more than fifty years later, while serving as the leader of the Ganterie Lesdiguières-Barnier. Because hand-making gloves is a lost craft these days, he is the last student in his class to use his shears.
Gloves were worn by popes during the Dark Ages, and they were mentioned in antiquity. Throughout the Middle Ages, gloves remained a vital piece of our “equipment,” especially metal ones that served as protective armour. Full armour was abandoned as lances and arrows were replaced with rifles and muskets, and gloves were reduced to being more of a decorative piece. They became more sophisticated and undoubtedly became more upscale with time. These magnificent pieces, which were made of silk and decorated with pearls, were worn exclusively by the aristocracy for generations.
Beyond the great painters and artists that have adorned the history of this nation are the craftsmen, the thousands of skilled workers who devote their entire life to a particular field. Their work is comparable to what is regarded as art in many aspects, though it should be noted that the distinction between the two can often be blurry. The crafts we just discussed produce goods that might last a lifetime, and that alone greatly increases the value of an item. The natural world that surrounds a product, or more specifically the soil, the weather, the amount of rainfall, the air, and everything else that ensures something grows or is prepared as it should, is known in France as terroir.
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