Arts & Crafts in Provence: 5 museums for a voyage into heritage!

The age of banquets, china crockery and masked balls may be over, but it has left a rich legacy of treasures and memories in its wake. Various museums continue to fly the flag of our ancient traditions and uphold the memory of those magnificent times, illuminated by the region’s craftwork and artisans. Enjoy a plunge into the golden years with a relaxing tour.

Musée de la Faïence, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

The beauty of crockery

If you feel nostalgic when the “special occasions” crockery comes out, treat yourself to an escapade inside the colourful walls of the Musée de la Faïence earthenware museum in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. A precious collection of over 300 pieces has set up home in this refined setting, retracing the history of our traditional earthenware makers. The tour is the epitome of elegance: at the time of Louis XIV, crockery made in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie was considered as the finest in the kingdom! And it’s no surprise when you consider that the village possesses everything you need to produce high-quality ceramics: water, wood and clay. The Musée de la Faïence was created by passionate historian and patron of the arts Marcel de Provence – a true lover of Provence who took it upon himself to rekindle the furnaces of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.

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La Cité de l’Art Santonnier Thérèse Neveu, Aubagne

From clay to “santon” figurines

Everyone adores these typical figurines made with clay and used to adorn our Christmas nativity scenes: in fact, “santons” are a bit like family to the people of Provence… Located in Aubagne, the Cité de l’Art Santonnier pays homage to these endearing little characters and to Provence’s ceramists and santon makers – an intrinsic part of Provencal heritage. Among them, Thérèse Neveu, nicknamed “The Lady of Clastre” – a 19th-century santon maker with imagination to spare – began to think outside the usual nativity box and create many additional characters symbolic of Provence. Her Margarido figurine, easy to spot thanks to his typical Provencal costume and red umbrella, is the most famous of them all!

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Musée de la Poterie, Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie

Flying the flag of tradition

Lined with pretty lanes and colourful facades, the charming village of Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie boasts a pottery tradition dating back several centuries. Today, around forty pottery and arts & crafts workshops continue to fly the flag of this ancient know-how, earning the village the prestigious “Ville et Métiers d’Art” heritage label. Head to the beating heart of the village and the ancient, 16th-century oil mill now transformed into the “Maison de la Terre”, where you’ll find the Terra Viva gallery and Musée de la Poterie (pottery museum) with its fascinating collection of traditional pipes and glazed, unglazed and utilitarian pottery. Also a holder of the “Qualité Tourisme” and “Sud France” labels, the village is definitely worth going out of your way for!

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Terra Rossa, Musée de la céramique architecturale, Salernes

Earth and fire…

Salernes is the region’s ceramics capital! Enjoy roaming its little lanes, lined with tile manufacturers, murals and decorative panels, before heading to the iconic Terra Rossa (meaning Land of Fire) House of Architectural Ceramics. Its mission? To honour ceramists, promote local production and safeguard the memory of this ancient tradition. The museum showcases a fabulous collection of ceramics, some dating back 7,000 years and renowned throughout Western Europe. You’ve probably already heard of “tomettes“, the little hexagonal red tiles now coveted throughout the globe. The museum unveils every stage of their manufacturing process – so get inspired for your future interior design projects!

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Mathieu Museum, Gargas

Fairytale lights

Acclaimed light manufacturer Régis Mathieu and his Mathieu Museum promise an enlightening tour for all the family. Installed inside an ancient ochre factory, Regis’s passionate team of leading specialists is committed to restoring and reproducing ancient light fittings for such exceptional venues as the Philadelphia Opera House and Galerie des Glaces in Versailles. During the tour, you’ll see them hard at work on the other side of the large bay window adorning the workshop. Curiosity-seekers will love the Mathieu Museum too, located just a short hop away and showcasing an exceptional collection of over 200 Régis Mathieu light fittings paying homage to five centuries of decorative arts. Simply switch on and gaze in awe… And of course, all the light fittings use LEDs for minimal environmental impact. Tip: the museum tour is free but only available from Monday to Friday lunchtime.

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