Saint-Louis artist Fleur HA Reboul finds success in ceramics
Flower HA Reboul always liked doing things by hand. The Frenchwoman holds a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Toulouse-Mirail and worked as a props maker in Paris for several years before moving to Saint-Louis with her husband in 2015. Since moving, Reboul has found new ways to use it. talents. She divides her time between her home studio and the Intersect Arts Center in South City, where she first encountered ceramics in 2019.
How did you start ceramics? I met Emma Vidal. She’s French too, and she used to run the studio here [at Intersect]. She taught how to make handmade sculptures. I took the course and she taught me all about how to put two pieces of clay together, drying times, consistency, basic stuff like that. Then the pandemic started and I asked Sarah Bernhardt, the general manager here, if I could borrow a wheel. So my partner was doing Zoom meetings upstairs and I was in the basement all day playing with mud. I watched a lot of YouTube videos and worked on the wheel until I had something usable. People were excited about [her works]so I continued.
So it’s quite new for you. Yes and no. I never used clay, but I was a prop and did a lot of sculpting. I used to work in the movie industry and make whatever I needed, like fake mousse cakes that actors could throw over and over. I liked it a lot, because they said, We need it, we need it to look like this, but it can’t make noise, and it can’t break, and it has to behave that way. You have to adapt each technique in order to create something that looks realistic on screen.
Was it in France? Yes. I lived in Paris for six or seven years making props for music videos, movies and TV shows. I worked for the French version of Mythbusters, making props and everything. [After moving to St. Louis,] I got a job making props in a haunted house. In France, we do not have [the same] haunted house culture, so it was fun to find out.
Do you like horror movies and scary stuff? No, I hate that! But I’m very good at the painful stuff. It’s fun to do. You have to think of all those twisted things to do to make a zombie-like puppet really scary.
What is your ceramic manufacturing process? Most of the things I do will be a mix of hand and wheel building. Basically you can only do one cylinder on the wheel. You can go really fast doing this, but then you have to cut it, refine the shape, maybe do a footing. And then if you need to tie anything, it has to have some consistency, because when you throw [on the wheel] it’s very sticky, so you have to let it dry.
It seems that you mainly use black and white in your pieces. It’s not really just black and white, because I overlap them. I’m really looking for something that’s controlled but also has some degree of letting go, like a controlled crash. He creates his own thing. That’s why at first I wanted to just use two glazes and just push and try to find ways to make it interesting. When I glaze, I try to be quick and not overthink things. If something happens, like I accidentally put my finger on something that isn’t dry enough, I drop it and fire it anyway. I really try to stop myself from fixing things. I just let things happen; I think it builds a lot of character. If you want something that has no traces of human hands, that’s possible, but that’s not what I do.
What are you working on at the moment? For spring, I want to do more plant-related stuff. I started a series of terracotta pots after German artists Hilla and Bernd Becher. They photographed industrial objects, and a series concerns water towers. It’s always the same type of photography: in black and white, with a very neutral sky. So you are comparing different shapes of an object that is supposed to serve the same purpose. I take inspiration from it. I make cachepots that have the same purpose, but I see if I can adapt the shapes. It’s like a little challenge for me, trying to push the shapes a bit further but keeping it practical.