By Melissa Burckel, curator and artistic director
By Melissa Burckel, curator and artistic director
“What we liked above all in the dominated paper, it was the alliance between an old know-how and the modernity of the motives of the time”.
I discovered the brand “À Paris chez Antoinette Poisson” at a friend’s, a collector of notebooks made of textured paper by this Parisian publisher. An expertise dating back to the 18th century and brought up to date by Vincent Farelly and Jean-Baptiste Martin who revived textured paper by paying homage to the Marquise de Pompadour, born Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson. It is by going to meet these two passionate people in their boutique-workshop of the 11th district that I had the privilege to discover a majestic case in which they make the forgotten ancestor of wallpaper and many other wonders…
Mélissa Burckel: Hello, Vincent, how are you?
Vincent Farelly: Quite well, given the circumstances…
Three words to describe what we have been living since March 18, 2020?
It will be three words to describe our emotions during the first confinement: Parenthesis – Resource – Creation.
We were fortunate enough to be confined in the countryside and we took the time to create the motifs for our three new fragrances, a brand new project that was born in October 2020.
In 2012, you created the boutique-workshop ” À Paris chez Antoinette Poisson ” specialized in textured paper, the forgotten ancestor of today’s wallpaper. What made you want to bring this ancestral expertise back?
We have always had a real attachment to French heritage and ancient traditions, which very quickly influenced our training.
We then began our professional career in heritage restoration and, more precisely, graphic arts.
It was on the construction site of a historic house in Auvergne that we discovered fragments of paper texturing under several layers of wallpaper accumulated over the centuries.
What we liked above all in textured paper was the alliance between an ancient expertise and the modernity of the motifs of the time. Moreover, the material used to make textured paper is an art object in itself: created from rags, its texture becomes unique, precious, timeless…
I read that the Dominican craftsmen made their printing plates themselves, hand-carved wooden blocks fixed on a manual press. How did you manage to recreate a manufacturing process similar to that of the 18th century? What constraints did you encounter?
At the beginning, we wanted to fully respect this ancient technique, that’s why we tested wood engraving. However, very quickly, we encountered technical difficulties which generated important costs. We then tested other materials, and the metal alloy finally seemed for us to be the best adapted rendering identical to the textured paper of the time.
You also create motifs inspired by the 18th century: what is your working method? And what are your areas of research?
We have acquired sheets of textured paper from various antique dealers, and some of them have been found or bought at auction. We have also researched a number of antique objects, such as boxes or religious objects, which are highlighted by the textured paper. Initially, we reissue period designs, but in recent years we have been creating our own designs.
Do you now also create more contemporary designs, perhaps on request?
This is not on the agenda at the moment. Our will is above all to respect this heritage and to immerse our customers in the universe of the 18th century, in order to pay tribute to the Marquise de Pompadour, our source of inspiration, our muse…
Concerning the colors, how do you proceed to obtain shades close to those of the time?
For the choice of colors, we have created our bible in which we have compiled shades inspired by the 18th century from different fields (e.g. fashion, paintings, interiors). Originally, the textured paper craftsmen used pigments and water. Today, we have chosen to use acrylic inks because the pigments are different from those of the time. The inks allow us a better resistance to humidity and UV, offering a rendering very close to the original. All colors are hand painted using a stencil.
The sheets of paper have an imposed size of 32 cm × 42 cm. Is this a constraint for you?
For example, when you set the paper, how do you make the demarcation between each sheet disappear?
Here again, it was essential for us to respect the original format imposed by the papermakers of the time. The sheets are then glued together at the margin. The demarcation is revealed, but is hardly seen, and it is there all the charm of a wallpaper with textured paper.
You collaborated with the prestigious perfume house Diptyque to dress the entire “Rosa Mundi” collection. Did you receive very precise specifications or simply a theme to respect?
In the beginning, the Diptyque brand made fabrics, an expertise that remains forever anchored in its universe. For this collaboration, the brand’s artistic team first told us the story of Rosa Mundi, then sent us various creative ideas. Based on these elements, we were given complete freedom to create Rosa Mundi’s identity. It was a beautiful experience!
More recently, you created a capsule collection (Fashion & Tableware) for the Monoprix brand. Was it a desire on your part to democratize a “niche” expertise? Did this change your creative process?
We asked ourselves a lot of questions before accepting this collaboration. For us, meetings are essential to our decision-making. But we had a very good approach with the dedicated team at Monoprix. In addition, it was an ephemeral collection, so it was more accessible for us and more experiential as well. Finally, it’s true that it was important for us to democratize our know-how and make it available to a wider, less expected target audience… It’s a very interesting factor.
In October 2020, you launched a perfume collection, composed of the three fragrances Joli Bois, Bien Aimé and Tison, which were entirely designed and manufactured in France, and inspired by the exceptional destiny of Madame de Pompadour. Where did this desire come from?
Jean-Baptiste and I have had a real passion for perfume for a very long time.
We wanted to take our time, to choose the ideal partner, the perfect nose, in order to create three artistic identities in homage to the Marquise de Pompadour. We absolutely wanted to work with Lyn Harris whose work we really appreciate. This project seemed obvious to us, a natural continuity of the universe of our brand.
You are one of those who respect time by savoring each step of the manufacturing process, at a time when artificial intelligence is developing at a rapid pace. How do you view the technological advances which, unlike you, give us the impression that we want to go faster and faster, even if it means skipping steps?
It’s a real paradox! We have indeed chosen to respect ancient traditions and, in this respect, our manufacturing steps are longer and require patience and precision.
On the other hand, À Paris chez Antoinette Poisson is a company, and like all entrepreneurs, we spend time managing our staff, the financial part, our suppliers… This entrepreneurial life reminds us every moment of the real rhythm in which we live. It has already happened to us to refuse requests that did not respect our charter and our manufacturing processes.
What are your future projects?
We really enjoyed working on these three new fragrances. Others will soon see the light of day…
We are also working on the creation of new candles and hand creams. The olfactory universe is of great interest to us.
And we also wish to develop a whole range of table art.
Collaborations are to come, but for the moment, we can’t reveal anything yet…
Thank you very much, dear Vincent. Very nice continuation!