Melen is a small village in the east of Belgium, about 15 kilometres outside of Liege, and 110 kilometres from Brussels. A typical wallonian setting with red brick houses and a red brick church, surrounded by green hilly pasture. Founded in Melen, 35 years ago, is the modest wood turnery, Ploumen. At Bautier, an essential part of designing and producing objects is the idea of collaborating with local craftsmen and suppliers - Ploumen is one such example.
‘I really love wood, I guess that is obvious looking at my designs’, says Marina Bautier, ‘and with these containers you can hold the object in your hand and feel its softness’. The first time Marina contacted Ploumen was in 2011, when she needed some turned elements for a furniture prototype. A few years later she approached them again, this time with the idea of the containers. ‘Around Brussels there are only a few turneries, and my first experience with Ploumen was so convincing; they got it just right, at the first attempt. The turning technique is fascinating, as it shows how, only by carving and turning, you can create a beautiful, natural and smooth product out of a piece of solid wood.’
The wooden containers, made at Ploumen, have been in the Bautier collection for several years now. Initially consisting of two low round containers, one 25 centimetre, the other 30 centimetre wide, the family has now been extended to also include another sphere of 13 centimetre plus two small jars, all lidded practical helpers to place and keep stuff, without getting dusty; whether for bedroom accessories like jewellery, make-up and cotton pads, hallway items like keys and headphones, or kitchen and pantry basics like salt, sugar and spices. The food-safe oil finish on the wood ensures that edibles can also be stored well.
‘The craftsmen at Ploumen are both very skilled and precise’, explains Marina, ‘This shows, for instance, in the way they select and glue the wood pieces together. You have to be careful picking out matching grain and colour.’ During the last 10 years, Gil Ploumen has managed the turnery which was originally founded by his father. ‘My grandfather was a woodworker too, and it just seemed natural for me to keep up the tradition. I did train and work in other companies before taking over the family business; it’s a serious decision to make,’ says Gil. At the time being, it’s just himself and two employees handling the tools and machines. ‘I do not wish to grow a bigger business than what we have now; even as the owner, I still have time to work with the wood myself. And, very importantly, like this, we can carefully control the quality of our work too.’
Ploumen turnery produces a range of objects; homeware accessories like the Bautier containers, salad bowls, pepper grinders, chopping boards as well as interiors and furniture like lamps, stools, tables and staircase elements. ‘Some of the machines we use are quite old, my father bought them when he started out, and since then, we have added CNC machines in the workshop too. There’s a fair bit of manual labour included, despite all the new technology, and I really like to work on the early sturdy machines - we can create a lot of different things on them.’
Recently brought in from Melen, is a complete stock of wooden containers, in all five sizes; we call them: large, medium, small, tall and low. Inspect them for yourself online or at the store, where they are already in use in the café.
Pictures by Eefje De Coninck