Creator Series: Poterie Renault

Written by Melissa Lauana Carter for Heirloom Art Co.

Nestled in the Loire Valley of France, untouched for years, lies the century old Poterie Renault Factory. After its closing in the early 2010’s, it remained frozen in time with pottery spilling out of the windows and doors like overgrown vines. Recently, these pieces were discovered and we are eager to give them new life.  Stanislas Renault first opened his workshop in Argent-sur-Sauldre in 1847. The Valley contains some of the richest and finest clay in France, making it a perfect home for Renault’s factory.

For over 173 years and five generations, Poterie Renault handcrafted iconic stoneware (all fired in the original kiln). Each day potters would craft 80 to 120 pieces. The pots were then placed into the kiln and, at the blazing temperature of 1200 degrees, salt was thrown in. This salt-glazing technique produces a glassy finish and creates durable pieces that do not absorb odors left behind. This technique paired with the classic look and sturdy function spread the name Poterie Renault all across France in pantries and cafes.

Today, this salt-glazing technique is not seen anymore, turning these pieces into relics. We were able to acquire a portion of these limited pieces and are excited to share them with you. We have several different collections each with rich tales and uses. Their earthy-tones, simplicity, high-quality, and charm make them the ideal vehicle in creating a home full of memories. 

Bistro Dishware

The origins of french onion soup is claimed as a toss up among the French, but became the spark of several creative legends. Some say that King Louis XV returned from a hunting expedition only to find bare cupboards except onions, butter, and champagne. He threw all of these into a pot and created the first bowl of this iconic french soup.

Others say that Nicolas Appert, the arbiter of canning, made the iconic soup first in his kitchen in Chalon-en-Champagne. He produced it at his restaurant one night, only to find that the King had stopped by on his way to see his daughter Queen Marie, wife of Louis XV. After the King’s first taste, he fervently studied how it was made, took notes, and then cooked it for his family. 

No matter the start, this savory onion soup is a staple in France as old as the country itself, and feels so inherently French with it's richly nuanced flavors. It is traditionally served in a small piece of crockery called a ramekin. Bread or croutons are placed over the soup broth and then bathed in Gruyere or another hearty cheese. The entire soup is then broiled over the soup in the oven until the cheese is perfectly melted. The soup bowl, or ramekin, needs to endure the intense heat, which these from Poterie Renault do gracefully. We made this recipe from Smitten Kitchen and it was absolutely divine!

Ceramic dishes fired in a kiln at high temperatures, like these ramekins, are needed for other French classics like creme brûlée and souffle.  Likewise, bread can be baked in the bread pans and then carried from the oven straight to the table. Explore these dishes and experiment with all kinds of cuisine in your own home!

Boisson Crocks

The Boisson jars and jugs are sturdy and classic. They make great gifts for hosts, hostesses (Mother's Day is just around the corner), and creators. They can aid in pleasing guests by serving both hot and cold drinks and are handy in the making and storage process of homemade fruit vinegar.

The tradition of fruit vinegar is centuries old and has reached all across the world. Vinegars serve in culinary, medicinal, agricultural, and cleaning purposes. Homemade vinegar is a beautiful way of using up each ounce of fruit you acquire because every part of a fruit –peels, pits, cores– can be used in the making process. Some of the best bases are apple peels and cores, strawberry hulls, cherry pits, overripe blueberries, grapes, raspberries, blackberries, and citrus peels. Not only does homemade fruit vinegar create delicious condiments and summer drinks, but it works wonders in the human body. It is a natural electrolyte and contains minerals, anti-oxidants, and vitamins that act as cough or cold medicine.

Vinegar also has been used as an all-purpose cleaner for old tools, shoes, floors, and just about anything! My favorite, creative way in which fruit vinegar has been used is as a gnat trap. Just pour some into a little dish (I recommend our Salt Butter Pot) and set aside to relieve you of your summer gnats. These jars encourage the savoring and thorough appreciation of each part of your produce and all that it can do for you. 

Storage Jars

With fondness, I can recall particular dishware in my mother’s or grandparent’s homethe butter dish, the cocoa mugs, the sugar pot. I can still hear the familiar “chink” of teaspoon meeting ceramic edge as my mother’s soft hands sprinkled sugar over my strawberries in the morning before school. These pieces of crockery capture the familiarity that is the foundation of every home. Food is the language of love and creator of fond memories. Something as simple as crockery becomes an heirloom, evoking certain scents and conversations shared over particularly memorable meals. These pieces do not demand attention, but serve as the reliable keeper of memories in a graceful and endearing way.

With their unique, minimalistic, and homey look, these jars create a subtle and timeless way of organizing your home. The salt-glazing technique used in their creation also makes odor repellent so they can enjoy a lifetime of many uses. Anything you can dream of to store in these, you can! In the refrigerator, you may find the Sauce Pot holding milk, cream, or jam. In the pantry, you could find the Crocks and Covered Jars cradling spices, sugar, nuts, honey and whatever else your cooking needs demand. The jars are especially useful in homemade condiment making. A few ideas of these are salsa, bbq sauce, pesto, peanut butter, salad dressings, honey mustard, gravies, and syrups.

I enjoy storing even non-food items in these delightful containers, such as pencils or cotton balls. They are great gifts for creative and organized people and promote an eco-friendly lifestyle, encouraging home making, reusing, and minimalism.

Yoghurt Pots

France is one of the world’s best places to find yogurt… which is why they have created their own pots for it. These tiny, inspiring pots have yielded a garden of creative uses even beyond yogurt. 

First of all, a classic homemade yogurt recipe. It is simple to make, easy on your body, and good for the soul.

  • All you need is a gallon of 2 percent milk and a cup of your favorite plain yogurt
  • Pour the milk into a pot and bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking
  • Reduce heat and simmer, about 10 minutes, avoid overboiling 
  • Remove pot from heat and allow it to sit for 30 to 60 minutes
  • Dip your finger into the milk every once in a while to determine when you can leave your finger in the milk for 10 to 15 seconds without burning
  • Pour in the yogurt; there is no need to stir
  • Put the lid on the pot and carefully wrap a blanket around it
  • Place the wrapped pot in a slightly warm place where it will be undisturbed for 6 to 10 hours
  • Transfer to the refrigerator to allow the yogurt to continue to thicken
  • When your yogurt is ready, you can add a bit of berries or granola to the top. Some other flavor ideas are: honey, cinnamon, chia, lemon, mint, and almonds.

These yogurt pots can serve in creative, non-food related ways as well. A few ideas of how to invite these little pots in your home are: 

  1. Candles: You can simply put a tealight in the bottom of the pot or you can make your own wax from beeswax and rosin. Essential oils can also add to your candle.
  2. Mini vase: Collect your favorite wildflowers or blossoms from around your home. The closest grocery store may also provide tiny flowers such as Baby’s Breath for your purposes. Trim the flowers to the perfect length for these little pots. Add some water and scatter these bursts of fragrance and color around your home. 
  3. Bath salts: Pour your favorite bath salts into these pots. They can easily be reused because they do not collect odors and are durable through the humidity and water of your showers. 
  4. Paints: These pots are the perfect size for holding paints. Durable and easy to clean, these mini crocks will see you through your painting journeys. 

written by Melissa Lauana Carter for Heirloom Art Co.

April 27, 2022 — Heirloom Staff

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