Fontaines Petrifiantes to exhibit petrification artworks at French Design Forum

Top Quote Fontaines Petrifiantes de Saint-Nectaire, a specialist in the traditional art of petrification since 1821, will bring its calcium-carbonate reliefs to the French Design Forum 2013. End Quote
  • (1888PressRelease) February 21, 2013 - The event, to which members of the media and the trade are invited, will take place at Chandos House, in central London (UK), on 14 March.

    Established in 1821, Fontaines Petrifiantes de Saint-Nectaire has a unique know-how in the production of low reliefs from calcium carbonate that have come about from petrification. The company will showcase its expertise at the French Design Forum, to be held at Chandos House (London) on 14 March 2013, between 10.00am and 8.00pm.

    The petrification craft was originally developed by Michel Papon, the founder of Fontaines Pétrifiantes. Based in the volcanic region of Auvergne (in central France), the company has used the area's thermo-mineral springs that are rich in calcium carbonate in order to develop the petrification-craft industry over the past 200 years.

    At Fontaines Pétrifiantes' site, which is still run by the Papon family, hundreds of rubber moulds rest on a 14-metre-high petrifying ladder. Two natural springs - with waters at temperatures of 52°C and 18°C - are canalized in order to supply this ladder with the calcium-carbonate-rich spring water, allowing for the mineral deposits to settle into those moulds and gradually build up over time. The artisans manipulate the moulds on a daily basis in order to ensure that they are filled with the calcium carbonate that is best suited to the individual artwork at the time. For example, small grains fill the moulds' finer details.

    This sophisticated technique, focused on the creation of low-relief artwork by encrusting moulds, has been passed down through seven generations of the Papon family. Fontaines Pétrifiantes now creates a range of high-end artistic objects, such as reproductions of famous paintings, cameo brooches, and modern sculptures.

    The moulds used by the company in the petrification process are made out of gum from the gutta-percha tree - a tropical plant species native to South-East Asia. The fact that this gum may be regenerated and, therefore, re-used by adding new gutta-percha gum yearly, means that the gum currently used by the Fontaines Pétrifiantes craftsmen dates back to 1870!

    Until last century, gutta-percha was used in the making of everyday items, such as cups and tea pots, and in the coating of submarine telegraph cables. The hard coagulated latex of the Malaysian tree resembles rubber. Since the 19th century, this gum has been progressively replaced by plastics and the Papon family are one of the last artisans still to use gutta-percha, more particularly in this unique creative process.

    Alongside their yearly output of low-reliefs, the Fontaines Pétrifiantes craftsmen keep on developing new fabrication concepts. Beside gutta-percha gum, but in similar fashion, the company's craftsmen have begun using alginate, plaster, silicon and wax, which all allow the creation of high-end and technically complicated pieces.

    The fact that the company combines ancestral expertise with technological innovation ensures that Fontaines Pétrifiantes' creative tradition is preserved and that the business can continue to be based in its region of origin.

    In 2009, the official label known as Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant (or Living Heritage Company) was awarded to Fontaines Pétrifiantes for its preservation of an artisanal heritage of excellence. As a result, the family's unique savoir-faire has been acknowledged throughout the design industry.

    The total mastery of calcium-carbonate deposit allows the craftsmen to create extremely fine and detailed pieces. Professional designers, corporate clients and interior-design enthusiasts seeking original works of art are particularly receptive to the aesthetic potential of calcium carbonate.

    Having opened the Fontaines Pétrifiantes site to the public for guided visits in 1922, the company is proud - nearly 100 years later - to attract no fewer than 50,000 visitors per annum.

    In 2006, Eric Papon, Managing Director of Fontaines Pétrifiantes, launched a large renovation project in order to modernise the visitor centre on the company's site, while making the workshop more functional. Thanks to improvements to the scenography of the visitor centre, visitors can now move around in an underground environment, while discovering Fontaines Pétrifiantes' creation process. All year round, visitors can see for themselves the successive stages in the production process, as they watch the artisans at work.

    In the Geology Room, the focus is on the subsoil in the Saint-Nectaire area and the volcanic origin of the thermo-mineral springs that are used. This makes it possible for visitors to better understand the part played by nature, together with that played by a unique breed of highly trained craftsmen, in the production of Fontaines Pétrifiantes' works.

    About Fontaines Pétrifiantes de Saint-Nectaire
    Fontaines Pétrifiantes de Saint-Nectaire is based in the town of Saint-Nectaire, in the volcanic region of Auvergne (in central France). The specialist company is run by the Papon family, who has mastered the art of creating low-reliefs from calcium carbonate without carving for nearly 200 years.

    The company will participate in the French Design Forum 2013 on 14 March, from 10.00am to 8.00pm. The event will take place at Chandos House, in central London. Journalists and members of the trade are welcome to attend the event at a time that suits them.

    Chandos House
    2 Queen Anne Street
    W1G 9LQ - London (UK)
    Nearest Tube station: Oxford Circus

    For further information, please go to:

    For further information, please contact :
    Quote ref. : FTPB3824
    Ms Katherine WOODS - Press Officer
    UBIFRANCE Press Office in London
    Tel: +44 (0) 207 024 3640
    katherine.woods ( @ ) ubifrance dot fr
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