Une Journée de Découverte à Marseille
Curious Provence is one of the official bloggers for Provence Prestige in Arles. My Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône Tourisme, hosted a blog trip last weekend in Marseille and the Camargue. I was proud to be the only anglophone out of the seven local bloggers invited!
What is Provence Prestige?
Provence Prestige is an upmarket Christmas market held in Arles. For the last 22 years, the popular event celebrates the best of Provence gastronomy, décor, beauty, and design. Every company or artist participating is chosen because they represent the highest quality of their craft.
The festive ambiance is wonderful. There are more than 150 stands to wander through. You can do all your Christmas shopping under one roof! The event is from the 24th to the 28th of November.
A Passion for Provence
As a Provence blogger, Curious Provence was chosen to spend a day in Marseille discovering the art of Santons, eat a delicious meal, and finally, see the most authentic process of Savon de Marseille production.
Located amongst the many artist ateliers in Marseille’s old quarter, Le Panier; you’ll find the creators of Santons Arterra.
Santons are traditional figurines made of clay. The original size is 7cm but there are now various sizes. Santons are normally brought out for Christmas where they are used to decorate a household’s nativity scene. The entire traditional Provencal village is represented. The variety of santons is astonishing. There is every profession you can imagine. Including circus people!
Equally as popular as the very traditional religious characters, are the symbolic persons of Provence. For example, L’Arlesienne. Or, literary figures and artists from the region. Some of my favourites:
Souffle de Lavande, Arlésienne Coiffe à la Giraffe Bleu, Berger dans le Vent,
Atelier Arterra’s signature santons are their monochromatic figurines. These are considered as updated versions of the traditional santons. They are popular with more youthful buyers.
I was surprised to learn that although these figurines are displayed at Christmas, Atelier Arterra is busy all year round with orders particularly from Switzerland, Germany and Belgium.
The making of the Santons
Marseille Atelier Arterra was kind to spend an entire morning with us explaining their techniques.
Firstly, a santon is shaped by hand. Then, a plaster mould is created. From that mould, a second mould is created. The first mould is used as the mother mould. Only 200 santons can be made with the same plaster mould. With time, the plaster wears down.
After the clay is taken from the mould, the joints are smoothed out with a paintbrush.
Then, the figures are left to dry for a few weeks. If they are not dry enough before they’re placed into the oven , they will explode.
As many santons are baked at once, if one explodes, it can be a disaster!
“Figé comme un santon”; “rigid like a santon” is a French expression. As the figures are pressed into a mould, it’s difficult to create a lot of movement. Consequentially, some figures are made using 3-4 moulds.
After baking, the figures are painted with incredible detail and a rather lot of patience!
The santons are painted right in the store for clients to see.
To visit the Store:
15, rue du Petit Puits
Otherwise, you can buy some santons for your home at Provence Prestige.
Palais des Congrès d’Arles
Avenue 1ere division France Libre
13 200 Arles
Comment below if you’d like to be in the draw to win 2 places to Provence Prestige!