Biography of Fance Franck

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Fance Franck at the studio of the rue Bonaparte ©DR.

Fance Franck was born in 1931 in Montgomery, Alabama (USA). She studied literature, philosophy and history of art at Rice University in Houston and subsequently at the Sorbonne in Paris before returning to the United States to study contemporary French and English poetry at Harvard. However, these studies did not satisfy her, and, in 1950, she decided to study sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston.

But after three years of study, I wasn’t feeling much happier with what I was doing. I still had the feeling of coming up against a wall between the world of ideas and the world of creation. At this time, by chance, I entered a ceramics studio where I began my apprenticeship.

That studio is the Greenwich House Pottery in New York, and it was a « revelation » to her. Yet in 1956 Fance Franck came back to Paris to carry on her studies of French and literature, and it was there, just a few months later, that she met the ceramacist Francine Del Pierre and became her pupil. This meeting changed her life. She settled definitively in Paris in 1957, and three years later the two artists founded together the “atelier de la rue Bonaparte” (Studio of the rue Bonaparte).

During the ten years we worked together, she (Francine Del Pierre) gave me the framework of a coherent and flexible discipline, without ever trying to influence me. Her genius and her love of life and pottery have enlightened my relationship with my work.

When Francine Del Pierre died in 1968, Fance Franck took over the studio at the rue Bonaparte. That same year, the Musée National de Céramique de Sèvres both organized an exhibition paying homage to Francine Del Pierre and asked Fance Franck to produce a cup in her memory. It was the beginning of a long collaboration which opened up new avenues for her works. One of them was experimentation with red copper glazings which led her to reproduce by accident the imperial “fresh red” of the early Ming Dynasty, a color which had first appeared in China in the 15th century. Many sinologists were interested in that discovery. In 1988, professor Zhang Fukang, a great scholar from the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, was sent by the British Museum to meet Fance Franck in her studio of the rue de Bonaparte. They began a collaboration, and the following year Fance Franck went to China, to Jingdezen, the very birthplace of that porcelain.

Fance Franck and Zhang Fukang in 1988, studio of the rue Bonaparte.
Fance Franck at the Manufacture de Sèvres. ©Valérie Winckler.

Her collaboration with the manufacturing factories and with the Orient continued. In 1979, she traveled for 16 months in Japan thanks to a grant from The Japan Foundation. She started working with the Fukagawa Seiji Porcelain Manufacturing Company factory, where she created about a hundred pieces.
When Fance Franck came back, she resumed her work with the Manufacture de Sèvres and continued working in her own studio and with the Japanese manufacturing factories. She continued her contacts with the finest specialists, questioning them as well as the works of art from the greatest museums. Until her death in Paris, on August 5, 2008, she maintained the same curiosity and energy.

Learning ceramic techniques was like learning life… I felt a true happiness finding a link between scientific knowledge, imagination and manual skills. I could see it since prehistory, digging its forms into the daily intimacy and usefulness as well as in the exaltation of a sense of timelessness and the sacred. I loved this alliance between earth, water, air, fire, the eye and the hands, joined to create a living form, fragile walls but surprisingly lasting, empty but given to light.

Overall, it’s the humanity of pottery that appeals to me, and I would also say its innocence.

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