When a self-taught designer works with a master craftsman, the result can be magical. Perhaps it's the mixing of the craftsman's rigour with the free thinking of the autodidactic designer. Who knows? But the belief of Michel Bernardaud, the head of the French porcelain company that bears his family's name, in the value of this creative mix has produced some remarkable results - such as this enamelled porcelain vase by Olivier Gagnère.
While the design itself is not new (Gagnère created it in 1998) this incarnation of it is the outcome of a workshop that Bernardaud held at its factory last year, inviting five leading designers to work with its most skilled porcelain artisans. The purpose: to discover new ways in which porcelain would behave when exposed to different finishes - in this case, a water-based enamel solution that was applied then fired at a volcano-hot 2,550°F (about 1,400°C). The extreme heat meant that the surface and colours of the material would change in ways that were impossible to predict or control.
As Gagnère said at the time: "We never know the result before opening the door of the kiln. This risk-taking is important; it is an additional challenge." How refreshing, in this era of play-safe design - when commerce, not risk, is the main consideration. The resulting, limited-edition piece has an almost industrial, tough edge to it in the "raw metal" tone of the main glaze - yet the delicate blue of the interior epitomises traditional fine porcelain. It's a wonderful mix. And the three-dimensional gold circles and lozenges sunken into the body of the vase add an almost jewel-like, Byzantine quality. All of which takes the elegant, contemporary look of the original Panaréa into a completely different dimension.
Panaréa vase by Olivier Gagnère for Bernardaud, 35cm high, from Bernardaud, 11 rue Royale, 75008 Paris. Dh14,690 by special order from Tanagra, Mall of the Emirates and Wafi in Dubai, and Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi.