My name is Cécile Mestelan, I'm French from Biarritz and I’ve lived in Portugal since 2014, for the love in my life and for the love of ceramics! I am an artist who has an atelier in Lisbon where I make colorful ceramic tableware and unique objects. I love to create simple, elegant pieces that bring a sense of joy, harmony, inspiration, balance or even empowerment. I play with colors, shapes, textures and sometimes language to create pieces that are sensory experiences to hold in your hand or have in your home.
Each piece is made with care, it’s a unique work with a thought-out intention and something special to use in your daily life.
Working in ceramics feels like a certain idea of a dream and freedom without barriers or limits. It feels a lot like the experience of life I try to have. When I started working with clay, I loved the feeling, the endless possibilities of it. The freedom to bring shapes to life with my hands. It’s a personal and slow process full of unexpected challenges, I learn something new with every piece I make.
I have always had a vivid imagination for shapes and materials, it comes from my childhood, where the organic textures, colors and elements along the coast were part of my everyday life. I have many memories that inspire me, playing in the fluidity of the ocean, having my hands in the dirt in the cliffs, watching sand I built up into forms being pulled away with the tide, the clouds shifting into different shapes over the horizon, and the colors of the sky changing up until the moon came out. It was very poetic in a sense, everything felt so tangible and yet ephemeral at the same time.
Growing up, my parents had a workshop where they produced swimwear. I loved to spend time there as a child, in my world, a workshop was a special place to create “beautiful things made with the hands”. It was within this universe that I understood that I too wanted to do things with my hands and have a workshop of my own one day. As a young adult I decided to study art at the Biarritz Fine Art School, and went on to earn my Master of Fine Arts from ECAL in Lausanne, Switzerland.
It sounds a bit romantic and cliché, but “life” brought ceramics to me. While studying at ECAL, I met a Portuguese student named Manuel. He introduced me to ceramics by inviting me to apply for a residency at Vista Alegre, where I spent three months learning from highly skilled artisans. It was there that my first porcelain works appeared and I discovered how much I enjoyed the process of working with the elements of clay, water, fire and air. It many ways it connected me back to my childhood.
It was also through this process that Manuel and I fell in love and had our first child after moving to Lisbon in 2014. The coastal air, beautiful skies, colorful buildings and poetic garden of the city inspire me in a similar way to my childhood landscape.
In 2015, I opened my first workshop in Estrela to continue exploring ceramics. I taught classes and began producing my first tableware pieces. In September of 2020, I moved my atelier to the São Bento neighborhood. And in between all of this we had two more children!
I love that there are many unexpected surprises throughout the process of making ceramics. An imperfection can very quickly become a discovery. My work continues to evolve as I spend more time creating pieces, it is a process I love and am also very grateful for, it teaches me a lot about patience while also having a lot of freedom to create and express in a way that is really pure for me.
As an artist working in ceramics, I work hard for my pieces to become an experience rather than just objects. If through the color, form and details I create, a window opens into the introspective and spiritual world of my imagination, then for me, I am creating work that is meaningful to share with others. Each piece is an incredibly personal process. In conceiving the design and aesthetic, a piece is always tied to an idea, not just function. In the production, there is a strong relationship I enter into with the elements. First, taking clay from the earth which I have molded using water, next the air dries the pieces. Then they are put into the kiln, where the form responds to the fire and takes its final, altered shape. They are then glazed and placed back into fire, where the colors evolve. The final piece is truly a collaboration between the elements and my hands, I am not the producer on my own.
Photos © sandavuckovic