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Gobelet, création de Catherine Hervé, photo. Matthieu Bussereau
Gobelet, création de Catherine Hervé, photo. Matthieu Bussereau

Birth of the appeal of the porcelain material

Photo Edition de la lettre du père François-Xavier d’EntrecollesSince the beginning of the Christian era until the seventeenth century, exotic Chinese objects sought, rare and expensive, are transported to Europe by land (Silk Road) or by sea opened by Marco Polo.
While the fascination with porcelain grows throughout Europe, a Jesuit, Father François Xavier d’Entrecolles, born in Limoges February 25, 1665 and died in Beijing July 2, 1742, reported by a detailed account manufacturing porcelain in China, in 1712 and in 1722. This story describes many stages of pulp manufacture, shapes, decor, ovens … but it does not completely penetrate the secret of porcelain.

Across Europe develops the will to produce porcelain “will rival that of the East Indies”

This is in Meissen, Saxony (now Germany) as Johann Friedrich Böttger, an alchemist, pierces the secret of porcelain in 1710.
In 1751, the factory Paul haunt a hard porcelain factory in Strasbourg.

Mark of the ore and the development of the dough

We now know that kaolin deposits form at the expense of the primary decomposition of granitic rocks (rocks acids) found in several regions of France: Limousin, Auvergne, Brittany, Drôme …

Discovered in 1768 in the towns of Saint-Yrieix-la-Perche, then those of Marcognac, Saint-Paul-la-Roche, La Jonchère-Saint-Maurice … the presence of kaolin finally opens the way to the kingdom of France to manufacture its clean porcelain.

Tests are conducted in Sèvres and Limoges. Sèvres produces hard porcelain in 1765 and Limoges manages to produce a hard porcelain in 1771.


The first Limoges porcelain factory is actually a “Fayancerie Royalle” based in Limoges in 1736 by Massie. It is at this working earthenware with a royal amusement we began manufacturing and baking tests of Limoges porcelain from 1770.

The development of porcelain factories became from 1773:
Fabrique du Comte d’Artois (1773), The Seynie (1774), Manufacture Royale (1784), Monnerie (1795) Alluaud (1797), Tharaud (1817), The Fabric of St. Brice (1825), Coussac-Bonneval (1825), Pouyat (1832), etc.
Factories are born and die, be bought, sold, modernize, move … but some of them are still in business today.

The first factories and their strong development during the nineteenth century

The growth of manufacturing has been selling porcelain throughout France, especially the complete dinner services for weddings; and also export abroad, especially to the United States.

Year 1837 1875 1913
Manufactures 24 20 30
Hovens 40 85 114
Workers 4550 8450 8200
Turnover x 4 750 000 11 800 000

The example of Haviland

Tonneaux remplis de pièces en porcelaine à destination des USA, Manufacture Haviland & Cie, carte postale.
Photo Barrels filled with porcelain pieces to the USA, Haviland & Cie, postcard.


Year Number delivered packages
1842 753
1843 909
1844 1847
1845 1630
1846 2087
1847 2650


First buyer of white, Charles Haviland secured the scene before sending the bulk of its production to the USA, where his sets were designed and where he enjoyed an excellent distribution network. To cope with its tremendous success, he formed many decorators and began to produce his own white porcelain.

Photo Tasse Bambou,1879, photo. Haviland & Cie
Photo Tasse Bambou,1879, photo. Haviland & Cie

In the nineteenth century built an industrial fabric conducive to the activity of manufacturing

Several kaolin mines are opened in Haute-Vienne, and kaolin dryers and mills which processes the raw materials and preparation of pasta.
There were 16 mills in operation in 1837.
“The Factory of the castle” in Aixe-sur-Vienne, very old mill pulp, is still operating under the name KPCL (Kaolin and Pasta Limousin Ceramics), Imerys group.

The wood needed for cooking

Wood was cut by loggers in Creuse (neighboring department) or in the east of Haute-Vienne, several tens of kilometers, before passing over several river tributaries to reach Vienna Limoges where wood was stopped by a dove. Loggers and wood floats were a powerful corporation because their activity was decisive for the porcelain industry.

Year Floated wood volume over the Vienne
1789 10 000 stères
1814 23 000 stères
1855 107 000 stères
1865 45 000 stères

In 1881, timber floating stopped in favor of transportation ferroviaire.En 1897, the dove of Limoges was demolished.

Industrial activity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

The porcelain industry has experienced delays in its development during the 1870 war, and during the two World Wars.
Production declined in 1914-1918 for the sake of the war effort and lack of manpower, the men away at the front.
In 1939-1945, production was even more sharply for reasons of restrictions related to the war effort and to occupation: more than enough raw materials, restrictions on coal and wood …
But after each difficult period, Limoges manufacturers have quickly returned to growth and profits.

Industrial activity after 1950

1950 to the present, the factories employ designers Raymond Loewy, Roger Tallon, Marc Held, Martin Szekely, Olivier Gagnère, Hervé Van Der Straeten, Andrée Putman, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Sylvain Dubuisson, Andrea Branzi, etc. .
From 1980, consumption habits have changed and the industry experienced a sharp decline in sales. Many companies had to be restructured or disappeared.
Today, manufacturers are condemned to reinvent itself by diversifying their activities on luxury, jewelry, decorative objects, partnerships with designers, while still producing the traditional table service.

The main market players today

  • About 20 companies at present
  • 1100 direct jobs in Limoges porcelain companies
  • 300 induced jobs
  • About 120 million euros of annual turnover
  • 70% of production export share, the majority of the US
  • The most famous manufactures are: Bernardaud, Haviland, Raynaud, Royal Limoges, R. Haviland & C. Parlon, J. Seignolles, Arquié, Carpenet, Pergay, Medard de Noblat, Jean Louis Coquet Sylvie Coquet …

The action Esprit Porcelaine for 30 years, bringing together established artists and younger generation.

Creators mind Porcelain Limoges is a collective of designers ceramists who imagines the objects of today and tomorrow. By mixing different artistic backgrounds: designers, craftsmen, designers forms, artists … the association has a creative dynamic in perpetual renewal.
Artists Vivier, laboratory of ideas, the creators of Ghost Porcelain -through personal features that are always going in the direction of innovation -oeuvrent in a constant concern for the image they want to develop renewal Limoges porcelain.
Anchored in its territory Spirit Porcelain cooperating closely with local companies for the production and editing of its models.

The formation of ceramic and porcelain in Limoges tomorrow

High School of Arts and Crafts “The Jambost Mas”
– Occupation Patent artisanal ceramics Art
– Certificate of Professional Competence of decoration on ceramic

Association of Vocational Training for Industry
– Higher National Diploma in industrial ceramics

National School of Art
– Higher national diplomas in art and design
– Post-degree in contemporary ceramics

National School of Industrial Ceramics
– Industrial Ceramic Engineers


A PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) to Limoges porcelain

A project PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) aims to establish labeling and check the provenance of products stamped “Limoges Porcelain -France” to prevent counterfeiting and fraud, and protect local industry. This label requires that the product is completely manufactured in the department of Haute-Vienne: manufacture of form and decoration.

Manufacturing – Plaster

Gypsum is the main material for the creation of forms. It is used for both models for molds, plaster metering options giving it great versatility.
For the realization of models, we can cut, carve and sculpt the plaster, but also drag and rotate it using templates, templates and tournasins.
Plaster, its porosity, is ideally suited to the production of molds for porcelain: the plaster mold gives shape while it absorbs moisture; it can be used to make prints on sculpted models, or from “nature”.

Photo Un tournazin, outil incontournable du modeleur. Source La porcelaine de Limoges de J. d’Albis et C. Romanet, 1980.
In principle, and because of the decisive nature of the workshops, each factory has its mold shop where one works plaster. This is a separate workshop from the other to prevent the plaster from contaminating the porcelain paste. This is also the workshop, which expresses the creative nature of each factory.
In this workshop working modellers, who create forms templates and sample molds.


Since the molds can only be used 30 to 50 times, it must be renewed regularly. It is for this reason that the dies are made to duplicate and renew the molds.
After the modeler takes the établisseur. He made the first mold and dies from models or samples molds. The dies are made of plaster, resin or silicone.
The mold of color produces the molds in series from the matrices.

The work of modelers and établisseurs is essential in any factory, and as this know-how is specific, it can be carried out only by specialist staff.

Manufacturing – Dough

The porcelain is not a “land” existing in nature, but a “dough” human-engineered from three main rocks:
kaolin, quartz and orthoclase pegmatite.
The overall composition is:
50% of kaolin
25% of feldspar
25% quartz
In the slurries, a small amount of deflocculant is added (sodium carbonate, sodium silicate) which allows the paste to be the fluid with the minimum of water, and which prevents it from freezing.

Kaolin is a primary refractory clay. It turns into mullite crystals immersed in a vitreous mass of fused quartz at the high temperature firing.
It accounts for 50% in the composition of the dough.

Orthoclase pegmatite is a potassium rock having the effect of lowering the vitrification point of the dough.
It contains feldspar and quartz and between 40% in the composition of the dough.

Quartz between 10% in the composition of the dough.
Very refractory, it becomes glassy around 1380 ° C, with the feldspar used fondant.


The various forms of the dough

The porcelain particularities

The porcelain is characterized by a high shrinkage (12 to 14%).
The shrinkage is related to two parameters:
– The departure of the water during the drying of the dough, when changing the physical state of kaolin silicates.
– Vitrification and crystallization of the kaolin in the form of mullite crystals.

The dough tends to distort and sag while cooking. It also has a “memory” effect that causes it to deform or crack during cooking if the manipulation of the dough during production were not enough Cautiously.
The paste is vitrified and translucent, its porosity is less than 0.5%. The dough is not crumbly and not freeze.
White pasta, extra-white, ivory and celadon have been developed over time. Today, production is dominated by the “extra-white” paste.


Photo Le phénomène de retrait : à gauche, un vase Obus décoré et cuit, à droite un vase juste dégourdi. Création de Marie-Evelyne Savorgnan, photo. Matthieu Bussereau
A gauche, un vase Obus décoré et cuit, à droite un vase juste dégourdi.

The characteristics of a porcelain object has been clearly defined by a decree, the only one still in force

Decree No. 78-141 of 8 February 1978 implementing, as regards trade in porcelain, the law of 1 August 1905 amended Fraud

“It is forbidden, subject to the provisions of Article 3 of styling” china “, with or without qualification, and designate by a name containing the word, or derivatives or imitations of the word, of products which are not not made of a mixture of kaolinitic materials, clay, soft (including feldspar), siliceous and degreasing shaped by shaping before curing “powder”, “paste” or “slip”. The cooking body, enamelled or otherwise, must be composed of two kinds of crystals, mullite and quartz, and feldspathic glass. The mass shall be either white or colored by adding mineral dyes.
In the case of a porcelain enamel glaze is superimposed on the cooking body, and a distinct nature thereof.
The product must meet the following characteristics:
bulk density higher than 2.20;
Porosity of unglazed material désémaillée or less than 0.50 percent. 100;
Translucency in a thickness between 3 and 4 mm. “


Photo La finesse et la translucidité d’une coupe Dentelle, création de Catherine Hervé, photo. Matthieu Bussereau
Delicacy and translucency

Shaping techniques – casting

No shaping technique purely manual only really developed in Limoges.
The beginnings, a plastic paste was applied by stamping on plaster half-shells, then these prints were glued with slip.
Later, the use of slip casting in demountable molds have reduced the number of defective parts: revised last casting; mold between two casts. These techniques are still used today.
There are also die-casting techniques: the pulp is sent under pressure into molds, which accelerates the absorption of water by the mold and allows to produce parts “between two casts” faster. Handling parts can be automated.

Shaping techniques – calibration

The calibration forms Mogul has developed with the Faure machine (1869), and later appeared the “roller” machines that produce the parts in series almost without human intervention:
Hollow (cups, tumblers) bump (saucers, plates, etc.)

Shaping techniques – pressing

Photo Une presse isostatique, photo. Porcelaines de la Fabrique.Photo Une presse isostatique, photo. Porcelaines de la Fabrique.Pressing is dry from atomized paste (powder) containing only 5% moisture.

The molds are made of metal or synthetic material (polyurethane).




Shaping techniques – the packing and finishing

Photo Pose d’une anse sur une tasse. L’emplacement de l’anse est repéré par une gravure dans le moule, photo. R. Haviland & C. Parlon.Photo Finition manuelle des pièces crues,photo. Porcelaines de la Fabrique.Is produced by casting patches: handles, knobs, handles …
These elements are glued on wet uncooked dough using slip.
When the dough is dry but still raw, there follows the trimming seams using thin blades and wet sponges, and abrasive sanding to help …


Cooking – le dégourdi

Photo Pièces en dégourdi, à la couleur rosée, Porcelaines de la Fabrique, photo. Matthieu Bussereau.Dégourdi cooking consists of a pre-baking of the dough at a temperature lower than the final cooking, between 800 and 1000 ° C.
It causes the complete evacuation of clay incorporation of water, a permanently fixed part of the paste is removed, makes the handle and facilitates the enameling step because the dough remains porous. The dough takes on a pink color.



The unglazed piece is ready to receive the transparent characteristic of the porcelain before firing bonfire covered. Enamel is a vitreous glaze mainly composed of quartz and feldspar, with a small proportion of kaolin.
Be obtained by either soaking (manual or automated) or by sprinkling or spraying.
Finally, the piece is désémaillée the areas of contact with the kiln furniture (refractory plates and newspapers) to not stay stuck with vitreous enamel became during cooking.

The decor – the great fire

Although minority, the decor of large fire is practiced in Limoges.
The installation of high-fired decoration is on a unglazed piece.
Applying a mixture of metal oxides on the dégourdies parts using a brush, or by carrying out by spraying or by dipping.
Color large fire most common is the “Oven Blue” obtained with cobalt oxide, but other colors are possible from other metal oxides.

Cooking – the great fire

The pieces are fired at 1400 ° C in a reducing atmosphere.
The plates are placed in refractory newspapers so as to stacking.
Other forms are placed on plates of refractory ceramic.
The ovens are fuel for high temperature cooking:
Originally, the ovens used wood, then coal employed (first tests in 1785 in Lille, industrial use in Limoges from 1845).
Finally, we used the gas (first tests in 1845, but it was finally adopted by the industry in the late 1950s). This fuel is still in use today.
Using a fuel furnace is indispensable for the great fire for he alone will control the firing atmosphere. The oven, since it does not consume oxygen, never cook perfectly porcelain. This is why manufacturers still use gas ovens for baking large fire.

Finishes and quality control

Forms receive the ultimate finish: the foot parts is polished.
The pieces are then carefully controlled: deformation, crack, enamel defects apart from production.
The room are classified according to their quality. best quality parts are the “first choice”, the intermediate quality parts are the “second best” or “decommissioned”, and finally, the worst are destroyed.

Photo Polissage du pied d’une tasse, photo. Porcelaines de la Fabrique.
Photo Polissage du pied d’une tasse, photo. Porcelaines de la Fabrique.

The decor – the small fire

The manufacture of the form ( “white”) is separate from the decor:
Trainings, business, corporations, workshops and even businesses are not the same. This separation has been the origin and is still being felt today.
The original technique is the decor laid by hand:
– Colored backgrounds putoisé or united,
– Patterns and figures made by brush, freehand or using clichés,
– Color nets or precious metals carried by brush.

Then appeared techniques to produce series decorations: chromolithography. This is a printing process that works like a decal made from ceramic colors. The largest factories may have their integrated print.


The decor – keying and burnishing

The decoration with inlay is to burn a decor directly in the enamel using hydrofluoric acid, after previously protected parts in reserve with bitumen of Judea.
Most often, this relief decoration is accented with precious metals: gold and platinum.
Gold and platinum are polished with an agate stone and sand from Nemours to get a better gloss. This is called burnishing.

Photo L’étape de brunissage du décor incrusté se fait à la pierre d’agate, photo. Manufacture R. Haviland & C. Parlon.
Photo L’étape de brunissage du décor incrusté se fait à la pierre d’agate, photo. Manufacture R. Haviland & C. Parlon.

Cooking – the small fire

Photo Four tunnel de la manufacture Bernardaud, datant de 1947.Manufacture Bernardaud/ Rivière, Philippe © Inventaire général, ADAGP.Originally, cooking decor was done in small ovens to wood or coal until the second world war about.

The appearance of the electric furnace is made when the metal was able to develop electrical resistance alloys of chromium and nickel sufficiently resistant to heat. No longer fuel ovens and radiation ovens.

The first tests took place in the 1940s, and the development of these furnaces was done in the 1950s, along with the increasing number of decor workshops. They are widely used today.

Electric furnaces have made progress for decoration firings, allowing two firings per day in intermittent furnace or continuous cooking with the appearance of tunnel kilns, but they are unsuitable for cooking large fire “white.”


Photo Arbre à feuilles, création Jean-Louis Puivif, photo. Matthieu Bussereau.
Photo Arbre à feuilles, création Jean-Louis Puivif, photo. Matthieu Bussereau.
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