Les Argonautes

Isabelle Ferlay (1917 – ) & Frédérique Bourget (1925 – 1997)

Les Argonautes, a ceramic workshop located in Vallauris and founded by Isabelle Ferlay and Frédérique Bourguet, occupies a prominent position in the glorious era of ceramics in Vallauris. Drawing inspiration from Greek mythology, their name conjures images of heroic adventurers in pursuit of the Golden Fleece aboard the legendary ship Argo.

Isabelle Ferlay embarked on her artistic journey by receiving training in painting at the Beaux-Arts in Lyon and Luminy in Marseille. She later focused her expertise on pottery at the renowned École nationale Fontcarrade in Montpellier. On the other hand, Frédérique Bourguet pursued her studies at the Beaux-Arts in Montpellier and gained valuable experience through an internship at Sèvres. Together, they established their own studio in Paris before eventually settling in Vallauris in 1953, where Les Argonautes came to life. Initially, their creative output predominantly comprised utilitarian pottery. However, Isabelle had to halt her pottery endeavors in 1955 due to manganese poisoning, prompting them to shift their focus towards decorative plaques in both low and high relief, mirrors, vases, zoomorphic sculptures, and religious figures. Throughout the years, they ventured intovarious techniques and materials, transitioning from Vallauris red clay to grogged clay and eventually ash-glazed stoneware.

Les Argonautes actively participated in numerous exhibitions and trade shows, leaving their mark on events such as the inaugural International Exhibition of Ceramics in Cannes in 1955, the Exhibition of Contemporary Ceramics in 1961, the Exhibition of Arts and Crafts Techniques in 1963, and the Vallauris Biennale in 1970. Their creations also found a place in gift shops across France, thanks to their involvement in the Salons of the Ateliers d’Art de Paris. The workshop of Les Argonautes served as a nurturing space for several renowned ceramists, including Jacques Innocenti and François Raty, who benefited from the artistic ambiance and collaborative spirit fostered within its walls.

Following the passing of Frédérique in 1997, the workshop closed its doors. However, the legacy of Les Argonautes endures, with their mirrors serving as a key element in their rediscovery. One particularly noteworthy piece is a coffee table adorned with 16 motifs, showcasing the distinctive artistic style and vibrant colors characteristic of their productions, now showcased in the gallery.