Why are French ceramics particularly famous and unusual. We look into at Pumpjack & Piddlewick

When you think of France, do you think of French ceramics? Limoge typically comes to mind. But what about Sarreguimes, Creil and Montereau, or Moulin des Loups to name a few.

Whether you are maker conscious or not, what does stand out with French ceramics is often the sheer quirkiness. A sense of fun can often be found, or quite simply the unusual. For example, plates by Creil and Montereau often depict scenes of humour, moments in life or simply a talking point.

Bygone Days

And then there are Apothecary Jars. (Definitely one of those ‘bring back‘ items!) Something France is quite famous for as well. Not only are they gorgeously shaped, but also beautifully decorated. And let’s talk about what they used to hold…

Because of course Apothecaries (Pharmacies in their day) made up all sorts of prescriptions from a truly wide variety of ingredients, many of which are these days not readily available if not illegal. How about a little snake venom mixed with cocaine?

(By the way if you are into quirky Apothecary jars, do look at French Vintage by Manue’s shop on Etsy. She often has some truly interesting pieces.

A little History

Between 1650 and 1680, Nevers faience was used to make the first blue and white items in the Chinese style to be created in France. Following the establishment of the French East India Company in 1664, factories in Normandy would then adopt Chinese designs. By the 1750s, French porcelain producers were gradually giving up their Chinese and Japanese designs in favor of creations more French in style.

The history of French ceramics truly takes off after kaolin was found near Limoges in the 1760s, the relocated royal-owned Sèvres plant became the pioneer in European porcelain design.

French Porcelain, Ceramics and Faience

We often refer to porcelain and ceramics interchangeably. For some it depends on what is being referred to, such as a plate or a tea cup. But France also uses the word faience when referring to these items as well. So what is the difference (without diving too far down the rabbit hole)?

The difference between ceramic and porcelain is in how its made. Both are made from clay, but porcelain’s clay is more refined and is fired at a higher temperature. Then we can move on to stoneware and earthenware. Both also made from clay, but fired at lower temperatures than porcelain or ceramics. Stoneware is non-porous, whilst earthenware is more porous. Both tend towards a more rustic style in look and design.

And finally, faience. This word often gets used interchangeably with any of the above terms here in France, or particularly in referring to French ceramics, etc. What it really refers to is tin glazed pottery, a white pottery glaze that can be painted on. The blue and white Apothecary jars above in example might be called faience.

At Your Service

French ceramics, or whatever you wish to call it, of course comes in a variety of items, from Limoges little miniatures to the classic dinner services. Older services came complete with large tureens, bowls and all sorts of often unique serving items, as well as the actual plates.

These days not all the larger items may get used or even kept, but to have a dinner set of larger and smaller plates, and maybe the odd diamond plate (brilliant for asparagus) is still typical. And remember, in France the dinner plate is not monstrous. I like to refer to it as normal size. At least that’s my take on it.


You can find more on France here in my French Findings. And if you enjoy my musings, find them helpful or insightful, consider nourishing my writings through nourishing Pumpjack & Piddlewick.

If you are into all things French, do check out My Shop. Here’s a taste…

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