The Cicada de Provence : One of my Favorites…
I was searching for an original and artisanal gift for my little sister’s housewarming party.
I fell in love with these knife rests from la faïencerie of Sicard.
In addition to meeting my gift criteria, the artistry of these cicadas drove me to learn more about their history, to discover more about their artistic processes, and to meet Raymond Amy’s two daughters, who continue to run the family enterprise.
In 2015, to celebrate the 120-year anniversary of their iconic ceramic cicada porte-bouquet, which earned them much fame, the enterprise took a daring risk by releasing the line EVOCATION, in which they offered a very stylized and contemporary version of their pioneering product.
A perfect balance between tradition and modernity:
We should plunge deeper into the history of these cicadas and learn more about Sicard’s and Amy’s respective families.
A story which began as a gift.
The cicada’s story began in 1895 when la Société générale des Tuileries de Marseille (the Society of Tilers of Marseille) asked the young Louis Marius Sicard to create a gift symbolic of la Provence to offer as a New Year present to their clients. In response, Sicard designed the ceramic paper weight pictured to the left.
Next, he created this porte-bouquet which won the enterprise national renown.
For 50 years, Sicard created artisanal ceramic pieces ; later, his daughters, Théo et Georges, picked up where he left off.
In 1972, he gave the faïencerie to his friend Raymond Amy, who was stantioned at Aubagne.
Today, Raymond Amy’s two daughters run the workshop in Aubagne, in an 18th century Provencal cottage whose old wood burning is considered an historic monument.
It’s the manual fabrication that makes each piece unique.
Let’s discover more about the creative process and its implications:
First, workers order white clay from either France or Italy ; next, they hand cast and stamp the raw clay into molds (to learn more about the technique, click here.)
Once retouched (impurities buffered, cracks checked etc.), the clay pieces are left to dry for a few days before being cooked at 1040°C (1904°F). The hardened piece thus derived is called «le biscuit». Next, the workers decorate le biscuit by hand with verifiable colors, in accordance with Sicard’s original design.
Each piece is signed, and then dipped into a tub of leadless enamel (to protect against lead base food illnesses) and, finally, touched up by hand.
The workshop employs just four workers.
An authentic and chic gift !
The cicadas are well presented in a beautiful box which contains a ticket of authenticity, to guarantee the quality of the product, and to confirm that it’s truly from Aubagne.
On the back of the box, one can read about the history of the Sicard cicada; there’s an English translation as well !
The box contains 4 knife holders, either all matching or mixed.
I opted for these particular knife holders because, with 21 colors and three different types of enamel finishes (matt, glossed, metallic) I was sure to find the perfect ones. One could easily buy two boxes of different patterns or colors and mix them to add variation to one’s table!
If, by chance, one finds the cicadas too small (the knife-holder is around 7 cm) they’re also offered in larger sizes (10, 15 or 22 cm).
And, finally, to give a gift that once served as a Provencal lucky charm is a brilliant idea.
Don’t hesitate to discover more about the world of la faïencerie, by visiting the shops website: