Agnès Debizet’s Stoneware Chair Is a Little Bit Terrestrial, a Little Bit Fantastical

The irregularly shaped seat is inspired by morel mushrooms, woolly sheep and 18th-century wigs.
Agnès Debizet's stoneware Bergère chair and Morille side table on the white shore of a pink sea
Agnès Debizet’s hand-sculpted Bergère chair sits alongside her Morille side table, which doubles as a stool. Photo by Stephan Julliard

French ceramicist Agnès Debizet takes a rather unusual approach to her craft. “She’s not really part of the system and has a very singular aesthetic,” notes her London-based dealer Mélissa Paul. “There’s always a very strong narrative to her creations.”

Since taking up pottery in 1980, she has deliberately avoided mastering traditional techniques. “I prefer to let accidents happen and to repair them, if necessary,” says Debizet, who splits her time between Paris and an atelier in Burgundy. And for decades, she created solely sculpture, rather than functional pieces, displaying little concern for commercial success. “I wasn’t really bothered about being exhibited,” she continues. “I just lived for my art.”

A closeup of the chair back of Agnès Debizet's Bergère chair
Part of her “Morels” series, the chair is dotted with holes, like a morel mushroom cap.

That changed a decade ago when she was approached by Galerie May in Paris with the idea of transforming some of her pieces into lamps. She started producing lighting and furniture using the same vocabulary of forms as her sculptures. Much of her inspiration comes from the natural world, and her series to date have included “Roots,” “Trees” and “Creatures.”

“Agnès has an incredibly profuse and fertile imagination,” says Paul, who worked as an embroidery designer, most notably under Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, before segueing into the decorative arts. She opened her current gallery in the East London district of Hackney in 2022.

French ceramist Agnès Debizet sits on top of one of her multi-piece coffee tables.
Debizet sits atop one of her sectional coffee tables. Portrait by Karel Balas

Debizet’s Bergère chair belongs to her “Morels” series, comprising pieces that recall the texture of the edible mushroom’s distinctive pitted cap. Yet, for her, the chair also evokes a whole host of other associations. It’s named for its resemblance to a sheep’s fleece and to the extravagant 18th-century wigs worn by the likes of Marie Antoinette, who famously liked to dress up as a shepherdess, or bergère in French.

Its dimensions were dictated by those of Debizet’s kiln, which accommodates a maximum height of 37 inches. It is made from stoneware covered with a layer of porcelain before the first firing. “As the porcelain retracts differently with the heat, it creates lots of mini-cracks,” she explains. These she fills with black fusible clay before the second firing in order to highlight the pattern they make.

A closeup of the foot of Agnès Debizet's Bergère chair, etched with her stylized signature and the number 19, indicating the piece's creation in 2019.
Created in 2019, the Bergère chair is signed and dated by the artist.

While the end result may be extremely sculptural, it is also apparently quite comfortable. “Agnès has really managed to adapt its form to the human body,” Paul says. “There’s also something very fluffy about it. Despite ceramic being a hard material, she’s given it an incredibly cozy feel.”

Loading more stories …

No more stories to load! Check out Introspective Magazine

No more stories to load! Check out Introspective Magazine