by Jessie Combe
Hailing from a family of esteemed artists, Mathilde Carron-Astier de Villatte and her son, Charles, are born creatives. Launched in 2015, their brand Carron Paris, reflects the pair's reverence for tradition, history, Art and a lifelong commitment to seeking and celebrating Beauty as well as their sense of humour and play. When Catherine and I met Mathilde and Charles in Paris in September 2019, we felt such a deep sense of connection. Two Mother-child partnerships, four hearts and minds so passionate about their purpose and each other. The love in the room was palpable and transcended any language barrier. Enchanting, tender-hearted, cheeky with the most romantic sensibilities, Mathilde and Charles are the real deal and it was such an honour to interview them for Love Stories and to have them share some of their spirit with you. BUT consider yourself warned, if you weren't in love already, you will be by the end of this read! Lovers? Meet Mathilde et Charles.
Mathilde, tell us the story of you… I was born in Paris into a family of artists. My father is a sculptor and a painter. My mother is a painter as well. They met at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Grand-fathers of different professions: engineer, naval architect, pilot, sailor, vet, and Newfoundland fisherman. With that mixture, we did not have much in terms of material comforts during our childhood but we were extremely rich culturally and intellectually speaking. What I do today is the natural continuation of everything I have heard, seen, read, invented, imagined, transformed in my childhood. Sculptor César made me sit the Beaux-Arts competitive entrance examination in Paris. I joined Georges Jeanclos’ workshop. Meeting him was a great event for me. From there, I did my first exhibition called “dishes". The theme was “Robinson" (i.e., Robinson Crusoe) and I did “Robinson’s dishes" out of plain red clay with stylized white pottery paste inlays. They were my first plates. Afterwards, the great Astier de Villatte adventure began with two of my brothers. Then I needed my independence, so it was a natural step for me to set up my own workshop to create and produce ceramics. I travel between Paris and the south of France.
Charles, tell us the story of you…
I like to do multiple things in life so I never had a plan. I’ve studied clothing design & manufacturing, shoe manufacturing, graphic design & art, computer coding. I’ve worked in London’s kitchens, in Paris Saint-Germain French Brasseries & bars, inside large Paris design store, in French tech companies, made websites for multiple companies & brands, launched my clothing & accessories brand and I am preparing a new one. What I love about CARRON is that it channels both Mathilde and I different creative energy, maybe one day we will see CARRON’s clothing & shoes!
Tell us the story of Carron…
We wanted to have fun creating a brand and sharing our vision of what a French Made in France Craftsmanship Company could be.
When are you happiest?
Mathilde: In the mornings, I like to go into my studio when there is no one else, when all is quiet and peaceful. I check what has been done the day before. Then the team comes in and that’s when I go back into my studio. I play really loud music when I am by myself and I do DIY, I draw, I have fun. I am lucky to have big French windows open onto the garden. I look at the birds flying around. There is a lot going on in the bushes and the trees. An idea is formed. I began to carry it within the clay, to make it concrete, to make it exist, or I draw a picture. Then, what I like to do the next morning is to rediscover what I have made the day before, to improve it or not and then start again the next day. It is very stimulating. I open an oven. I look at all these beautiful pieces, well enamelled, shiny, dazzling and ready to be on their way to the customers who, in turn, will love them. I also love the spring, the summer, the sun, after the fall and the winter which I also love, as I love to wait for the rebirth of nature in springtime, to swim, or to share a drink on the beach in the late afternoon while the sun sets. And if the temperature is high, I like to swim again. My dream is to have a seafront home as in « Big Little Lies ».
Charles: When we are together with family and friends, having a bottle of the Mouton Cadet and sliced saucisson. I think it does not get better than this.
What was your first great love? What does Love mean or look like to you?
Mathilde: Quite mundanely, my first great love was my father. But love is always is a big deal. In the end, love is all that matters. I try to put love in everything I do. I thus wish to convey a special feel to my works of art, which I hope is reflected in them !
Mathilde, what do you love most about your medium, terracotta? What does it mean to you to work with your hands?
Working the soil, I wanted a utilitarian object that I could not find in stores. I realized I loved objects that have a history, with bumps, wears, scratches, with paint re-sprays. Working the soil which is a substance that comes from the depths of time, I managed to put a little piece of history into these objects. And the object (whether useful or not), almost organic and very decorative will take on a life of its own.
Could you conceive of a life without art?
In infancy, a child draws, paints, combines forms. Finally, art is a children’s story and a story of a child’s worldview. So no, I could not live without art because I treasure the child in me. Art is different from a job or a science, art is an unrestricted production, the expression of that freedom that one has in one’s self. Art is in all things. My work is an integral part of my life. I think about it all the time and I could not live without art, without seeing it and creating it.
Who or what inspires you both?
Mathilde : We are inspired by everything. We always want to create a lot of things. We are inspired by my father, his work, his character, his knowledge from which we try to learn all we can. Objects, museums, books, images, streets, countryside, sounds, animals, children, games, encounters, the other… There are many sources of inspiration and the ideas are endless.
Charles: My Inspirations are everywhere and are always changing, one that never moved is my Grandfather Pierre Carron, when I talk with him, conversations are like his paintings, you know where it starts and you never know where it goes, it forces you to go with the flow. This is also how I conceive creativity, the mind got an idea, the hand got it’s own way to execute the idea and when the execution doesn’t look like the idea, this is where new paths appear. Also if I had to pick someone that inspired me for the 7 past years, I would say Kanye West, I love people that take risks and think outside the box, to me he is the person that has influenced fashion & art the most since the 10 past years.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Mathilde: A typical day starts at 8 a.m. I would just drink a cup of green tea. I love to read the written press, ELLE magazine, to be taken on a journey through decor magazines. The team comes in around 9 a.m. and the workshop day begins: task allocation, production, packaging, transport. The team is working until about 3 p.m. Then I go back to the peace of the studio. I reoccupy the space and, while listening to music, I start to either work on textures, shapes, an oven, enameling, or I listen to podcasts until about 8 p.m. I am a fan of music. I would be really sad without music.
Charles: I wake up, drink a coffee, open my computer and close it 8 hours later, before sleeping. I am kidding but sometimes on very busy periods my days can be that way. I also do a lot of sports, I practice Boxing for 5 years.
Mathilde, what is your favourite way to spend a day in Montpellier? Montpellier is a city in the south of France located between Italy and Spain. It was a royal town and the pedestrian historic city center is wonderful. It is always nice to have a drink at the end of the day at Place de La Canourgue. Then I love going to dinner by the sea, my feet in the sand while listening to the sound of the waves. A dream ...
Charles, what is your favourite way to spend a day in Paris? I am lucky to have a very small workshop in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés so when I got time I love to just go out and start large walks toward parks & beige stone building, read antiques engraved letters on the walls, elevate the look to see the architecture, to discover new treasures that you’ve never seen. I always know where I am and if I get lost a bit, I quickly find my way back. I love the quays of the Seine, the port at Place de La Bastille and I love to sit down in the Luxembourg Garden, a place of my childhood.
What should we expect to see next from Carron? What is on the horizon? We want to be recognized for our craft and our creativity. We would like to get out of the tableware work a bit, and start to work more on larger, unique or limited edition pieces for decorator projects. We would also like collaborations in which we could combine our craft with another one, mix materials, experiences, and inventions. We would like to develop multiple objects different from what is made today for a certain French way of life. We started with glasses and candles and wish to pursue in this direction.
Can you leave us with your favourite book/excerpt/quote?
Mathilde: I loved Belle du Seigneur by Albert Cohen and the multi-volume diary of Julien Green. I like the movies by Jane Campion, Fellini and Almodovar. I like to walk around museums and churches. I love music, Vivaldi, Pergolese, Monteverdi, Stromae, Brel, Barbara and the violin.
Charles: The Ants of Werber made me discover this tiny and hidden world under our feet, how fascinating nature is when you take the time to look at it.
You can shop Carron Paris here.