While I am in Switzerland visiting my son and his family for Easter, my guest blogger, Emily, continues with her adventures in Provence:
Nearby, in the village of Ansouis, lives one of the most celebrated santonniers (santon makers) in all of France. To find his small atelier, walk up the cobbled street, pass the huge plane tree that shades the terrace of the bar/cafe, and veer up the hill, where you’ll see the domain of M. Daniel Galli. Daniel is an artisan who creates the traditional, small terra cotta santons that are so typically Provencal. (a contrast to the large santons dressed in fabric costumes seen in the post on Les Baux.) With a pinch of clay, Daniel brings to life the petit figurines and dresses them in the tradition of old Provence – but solely in clay; these are the santons used around a Christmas creche. Although some of the santonniers paint their creations, Daniel does not. His artistry is evident in the great detail of the costumes of the 7cm figures. (2 3/4 inch) He also sculpts larger figurines of other subjects, such as a beautifully costumed lady from Arles at 40cm tall. (15 3/4 inch)
In 2004, Daniel received a very prestigious award when he was named a “Meilleur Ouvrier de France,” an award something like a “national treasure” I suspect. He proudly displays his be-ribboned photo – taken with then-president Jacques Chirac – in a glass display case, which also contains some larger works, other awards he’s received and copies of articles about his work.
Daniel and I enjoyed a pleasant conversation, and when he learned I am from California his eyes lit up and he motioned me to follow him into his workroom in the back of the shop. There he proudly pointed out his kiln. I was a bit puzzled. He pointed again and said, “Regardez, regardez!” (Look! Look!) I leaned down and read the plaque: “Made in Fresno, California.”