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Ateliers of Europe Book

Ateliers of Europe: A visual love letter documenting the few remaining traditional decorative arts workshops, including Bauwerk’s very own German castle headquarters.

Ateliers of Europe Bauwerk Colour production office
Bauwerk HQ © Ateliers of Europe | Photo by Oskar Proctor

For centuries across Europe, Ateliers served as spaces where artists could practice their crafts and pass on their skills. Sadly, this tradition has waned in modern times, leaving only a handful of these establishments. However, the surviving ateliers, whether historic or contemporary, are responsible for producing some of the world's most renowned objects across a wide range of crafts such as bookbinding, mosaics, ceramics, fabrics, and more. During the restoration and redesign of several historic French brasseries, interior designer John Whelan discovered the quiet world of ateliers and was captivated with each visit. "What struck me was how accidentally beautiful these spaces were," Whelan reflected. "Nearly every atelier I visited had exceptional natural light, but most importantly, there was an authenticity to the spaces that appeared to be the result of prioritizing function over style". These encounters inspired Whelan to compile a visual anthology, a tribute to these workplaces, the artisans, and their enduring generational techniques. Collaborating with photographer Oskar Proctor, they travelled across Europe, capturing these workshops in their unaltered states, preserving them for posterity in the beautiful coffee table book "Ateliers of Europe: An Atlas of Decorative Arts Workshops."

Although Bauwerk Colour may not possess the historical weight of a 15th-century atelier, we do produce paints with a legacy spanning centuries. Our limewash paints were initially crafted to serve restoration projects, which is apt now that our headquarters and home is an 18th-century schloss (German castle) under perpetual restoration. All that being true, it's still humbling to be featured in this book alongside such skilled artisans. The book is undeniably captivating, from its subjects to the atmospheric imagery, as well as Whelan's passionate documentation and writing.

We couldn't help but ask John Whelan to share a little more about his experience researching and developing this project...
Colour Inspiration
Nettle
Sandalwood
Cleanse
Dune
Moreton Bay Fig
Daffodil
Balance
Umber
Modern Lime Wash Paint | Bauwerk Colour
© Bauwerk Colour
Ateliers of Europe Book Bauwerk Colour paint testing room
Nettle
Bauwerk Testing Room © Ateliers of Europe | Photo by Oskar Proctor
Ateliers of Europe Book Atelier Lorenzi France
Atelier Lorenzi Workshop © Ateliers of Europe | Photo by Oskar Proctor

Q: What is important to you about preserving and honouring these working spaces and studios?

A: Everything! For me, these ateliers encapsulate everything that is good and dignified in the world - sacred, you might even say. The ennobling endeavour of working with one’s hands. The unpretentious beauty of the spaces that are created by the ordered repetition of tasks. There is humility in the face of work, that seems to contrast with the hubris of the technological age in which we live.

Q: Did you have any major surprises –finding something you’d never imagine you would see in a workspace?

A: Yes. I would say that the colour library at Orsoni in Venice was something that blew my mind. Shelves and shelves of the minutest gradient in coloured glass tile. There was something serene and majestic about It when the lights were turned off and the colours rang true in the natural light.

Ateliers of Europe Book Bauwerk Colour Limewash production
Bauwerk Workshop © Ateliers of Europe | Photo by Oskar Proctor

Q: Was there anything you took home from the workspaces you visited? Anything you want to incorporate into your workspace or home–whether it’s a piece of decor, a colour, a ritual…or an outlook on life?

A: There are many things that I’ve metaphorically taken home, or rather, internalised as a personal ethos. There’s a French expression which translates as ’the cobbler always has the worst shoes’. As I designer, my living spaces are not quite as glam or polished as one would expect. I spend the majority of my time thinking of other things, and therefore place little importance on the objects that surround me. I do however insist on ‘atelier-esque’ proportions with high ceilings, natural light and order. As with the majority of then ateliers featured in this book, everything that surrounds me is invariably an antique, as I don’t really buy new stuff.

Ateliers of Europe Bauwerk Colour German Office
Bauwerk Office © Ateliers of Europe | Photo by Oskar Proctor
Ateliers of Europe Book Bauwerk Colour Headquarters
Bauwerk Office © Ateliers of Europe | Photo by Oskar Proctor

Q: Nearly all of the ateliers featured had something in common—some may call it clutter, but for me, it’s like layers of history. It feels like they are creating their own time capsules. Did you get a sense of whether that says something about the focus of the work, the style of the artistry or something else entirely?

A: You are quite right in observing that - though I would describe it as ‘ordered chaos’. There seems to be a lot going on but if you look closely it all makes sense. There is very little ‘mess’ in an atelier, only things that are in their rightful place as the work is carried out, and before they are tidied away at the end of the day.

Ateliers of Europe Book Bevilacqua Venice Italy
Bevilacqua Workshop © Ateliers of Europe | Photo by Oskar Proctor

Q: If you could adopt a space as your own–which would it be?

A: I’d probably set up a desk and chair amongst all of the historic wood panels at Feau & Cie. I could sit amongst those for hours and they would be endlessly inspiring as an office backdrop. Perhaps one day I’ll make this happen somewhere (!)

Q: You focussed on Europe this trip–any atelier in another region of the world you’d love to access? Each continent must have very different aesthetics, output and emphasis on traditional methods...

A: Yes. I would absolutely love to repeat this exercise in Japan one day. I have a feeling that the mood there would be very different, but no less inspiring.

Ateliers of Europe Féau & Cie Guillaume Paris France
Féau & Cie Workshop © Ateliers of Europe | Photo by Oskar Proctor
Ateliers of Europe Book Archives of J. & L. Lobmeyr
J. & L. Lobmeyr Workshop © Ateliers of Europe | Photo by Oskar Proctor
"There is humility in the face of work, that seems to contrast with the hubris of the technological age in which we live."
John Whelan
Author of 'Ateliers of Europe'
Ateliers of Europe Bauwerk Colour Office
Bauwerk Office © Ateliers of Europe | Photo by Oskar Proctor
Ateliers of Europe Book Bauwerk Colour Headquarters Stairs
Bauwerk HQ © Ateliers of Europe | Photo by Oskar Proctor
Ateliers of Europe Bauwerk Colour production office
Bauwerk Production © Ateliers of Europe | Photo by Oskar Proctor
Ateliers of Europe Fer Emeraude Bordeaux
Fer Emeraude Workshop © Ateliers of Europe | Photo by Oskar Proctor
Ateliers of Europe Book 1882 Ltd. Stoke-on-Trent
1882 Ltd. Workshop © Ateliers of Europe | Photo by Oskar Proctor

Q: This book-making journey started when you were researching suppliers for a project. Since shooting the book have you been able to incorporate or utilize any of the ‘goods’ from these ateliers in your designs?

A: We have worked with Ateliers Nectoux on creating a giant zinc comptoir for Terminus Nord in Paris and have worked with Bauwerk a few times! We are also currently developing a furniture collection with Orsoni mosaic that will be shown first at the opening of our gallery space in Paris in September 2023.

Q: You mentioned using Bauwerk Limewash in your projects–what has been your experience?

A: Yes we have, notably ‘Baltic’ blue on the walls of a private showroom / apartment for a caviar brand and also an off-white on the walls of our gallery in Paris. Personally I think it’s the best paint for the light patinated effect that It leaves, suggesting the passage of time. I’m also drawn to its natural, breathable properties that makes the air in a room painted with Bauwerk noticeably better to inhale. No surprises there when one considers the fact that most other paints are made with synthetic chemicals.

Ateliers of Europe Bauwerk Colour Production Line
Bauwerk Colour Production © Ateliers of Europe | Photo by Oskar Proctor

A special thank you to John Whelan for not only including us in your book, but also for your insightful conversation. Also, Oskar Proctor, you've captured a slice of time in our headquarters that makes beauty out of our 'organised chaos'.

'Ateliers of Europe: An Atlas of Decorative Arts Workshops' is published by Prestel Publishing and is available to purchase now through fine book retailers.

Ateliers of Europe Book Cover John Whelan Oskar Proctor
Ateliers of Europe Book
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