Montreal ceramicist Pascale Girardin became curious about clay while attending Concordia University’s studio arts program. Ten years later, she returned to study ceramics, and after graduating, opened her studio—Atelier Pascale Girardin—out of her home in the Quebec countryside. In 2010, she moved the atelier from the country to an industrial-sized space in Montreal.
Artists at Atelier Pascale Girardin create contemporary ceramics ranging from tableware to striking installations that consist of hundreds or thousands of pieces. Notable clients include Four Seasons, Nobu, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Girardin’s decades-spanning career has earned several distinctions and awards.
The newest collection, Figura II, was unveiled at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York and the Révélations biennial in Paris earlier this year. Each of the ebony-, sand-, or maroon-coloured pieces is made of vitreous slip on stoneware and stands from 38 centimetres to 160 centimetres high. She started making the large, stackable cylinders in early 2020, when an exhibition’s art curator requested larger pieces. During lockdown, the cylinders were revisited—Girardin wasn’t satisfied with the first attempts and challenged herself to create more generous curves.
At present, she observes the diversity of her students at Concordia and notes it reflects people meeting together across countries or continents and bringing children up in a multicultural world. “It’s much more prevalent to see young people not being able to answer those questions in the same way that generations before them could,” Girardin says. The colour palette of Figura II is inspired by the dynamic cultural mosaic of her students.
“I’m always looking for what brings us together, and I think part of it is the survival mechanism of someone who’s had to move around so much,” Girardin says. “This long process brought me to a point where I just realized that these sculptures really brought in one thing that we do have in common. It’s the need to belong.”
As she made more of the curvaceous cylinders, she began to see them as symbols of the human form, and the collection was named after the metaphorical figures. Figura II is her perspective on humanity from experiencing different cultures during her nomadic upbringing. Relocating often while growing up, Girardin describes her sense of identity as “fluid”—unsure how to answer the question “where are you from?” to express an identity.
Photography by Stephany Hildebrand.