An “old bazaar filled with treasures” is how Eric Goujou describes Paris boutique La Tuile à Loup as it was when he first came across it 20 years ago. “I was in love with the place. With the colours, the whimsy, the imperfection, the country flair, the heritage of French folk art.”
The cache of artisan-made pottery had been opened by Marie-France Joblin in 1974, and was named after a country custom of placing a roof tile so that it whistled when the north-east wind blew, warning of wolves descending from the mountains. “Going there just made me happy,” says Goujou. “At the time, I was working at a private bank and feeling frustrated. So when I saw that the store owner was looking for someone to take over, I jumped right in.”
When the keys were handed over to Goujou in 2006, so was a list: “Most of the artists and artisans on it had been working with La Tuile à Loup since the 1980s. I was only entrusted with the names when I took over. In France a lot of things are kept secret in that way.” Goujou continues to sell the wares of these same artisans, all of whom are based in France, none of whose names he reveals. He personally visits their workshops to select his stock – vibrantly marbled or emerald-green-glazed dinner plates; huge handpainted platters or blue-and-white splatterware soup bowls.
“The animal pieces are the most important work I carry,” says Goujou. “Each is a work of art. They are very rustic; perhaps an acquired taste. At first, I wasn’t all that keen on them. But customers were fascinated by them, so I thought, ‘There’s something I must understand here.’” Today, the earthy-hued terrines – crafted by an artist couple with intricate figurines of lobsters, pigs or rabbits in lieu of handles on the lids – are among his favourite items. They’re also the most expensive, Goujou adds, picking up a bird-adorned example that is nearly €5,000.
Plates, meanwhile, can cost anywhere between €27 and €490. Most popular are the Alpine ones – “very traditional, painted with flowers and birds by a maker who is 75 now; he’s experiencing his golden age” – and the Aptware, made in the south-east town of Apt according to a 300-year-old tradition of mixing together two different coloured clays. “They go crazy about anything marbled,” says Goujou of his clients, who include, beauty scion Aerin Lauder and Moda Operandi co-founder Lauren Santo Domingo.
Key to La Tuile à Loup’s success is the way Goujou presents the pottery – both in the fifth-arrondissement boutique and online. On Instagram, he shows his crockery within elegant table settings, using his own stash of linens and tableware. “I am like a conductor of an orchestra,” says Goujou, who doesn’t have an e-store but presents new stock on social media and takes requests via email. “This allows me to build a relationship with my clients. I know what kind of house they have. What kind of aesthetic. I want to offer the same service as a haute-couture atelier in the ’50s or ’60s. We try to fit you to perfection.” And if he thinks something won’t suit a client’s style, he’ll say so.
But despite his flair for setting the table, Goujou has no desire to become a one-stop tablescaping shop. Instead he points customers towards his favourite sources for vintage tablecloths (dealer Ana Saez), silverware (Marché Serpette seller Jérôme Chedmail) and glassware (Galerie Maxime at Marché Vernaison). “What we do is very niche,” says Goujou. “La Tuile à Loup has a distinct aesthetic – and an Hermès-like quality. My passion is to preserve this part of France’s artisanal savoir-faire.”
35 Rue Daubenton, 75005 Paris, @latuilealoup
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