The Biot Jar - An ancient French tradition

This blog is all about Biot jars. It covers historical facts, defining characteristics, and the ancient technique of making these beautiful and classic earthenware vessels.
Antique French olive jars

History of Biot Jars

Earthenware vases have been made in Biot, a town in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region near Antibes, since the Middle Ages. Artisans from Biot followed ancient techniques to craft pottery. Jars from Biot served a purely practical purpose originally. They were created to store and transport food and liquid such as olives and oil. Not only has the quality of the craftsmanship stood the test of time, but the sublime and simple shape has as well. The famous Biot Vase is still highly sought after as a decorative item today (credit: The Office of Tourism in Biot).

Discover Chez Pluie's amazing collection of antique pots. Chez Pluie has available for purchase online 18th and 19th century French biot jars

Characteristics of Biot jars

Biot jars are round, bulbous vessels and made from terracotta endemic to the town of Biot in southern France. Terracotta from this area is an unusual beige color. As Biot jars were traditionally used to preserve olives, the rim around the neck of the urns always is glazed. This prevented olives and oil from seeping into the terracotta. This interior glaze is a definining feature of Biot jars. The jar was sealed traditionally with a wooden lid or bouchon - sometimes it is still possible to unearth the original lids.

Antique French Biot Jar
Eighteenth-century Biot olive jars are a more upright shape (see above) and resemble the form of an olive, while nineteenth-century olive jars have a noticeably more bulbous form. Antique olive jars of various sizes can still be found today and are often available at the Chez Pluie online store.

How to make a Biot jar

The technique for making Biot jars is fascinating. To give a brief summary, first a wooden armature is assembled and ropes are wound around the framework. Wet clay is then 'thrown' over the tightly-wrapped rope.

hand made artisan biot jars french olive jar

The ancient technique of rope-thrown pottery uses timber spines wrapped in a coil of rope then clay is applied by hand. The largest biot jars weigh up to 150 kilograms or 330 pounds.

Handcrafted Biot Jars bespoke olive jar

Once the clay begins to dry and hold its shape, the rope is carefully unwound and the timbers removed. The rope makes a beautiful horizontal pattern on the inside of the jar, which creates a lovely texture.

Bespoke biot jar artisan olive jar French

Traditionally-made Biot Jars are all hand-crafted using the rope-thrown method and are imprinted with the atelier's seal. To learn more about the mesmerizing making process see "Building a Jar" by Lauren Kearns.

Biot-style jars made in Anduze

Bespoke Biot Jars can be ordered online through Chez Pluie. Artisans in Anduze will make your jar exclusively by hand following the traditional methods for making Biot jars that date to the Neolithic period.

Biot Jars made by artisans in Anduze brand their vessels with a shell. The exact same shell is used to brand each piece and embodies the pride and skill of the craftsman who create them.

18th century biot jar 19th century French olive jar buy online

Every piece is unique, one off, and made to order. And the results are breathtaking! The love and care of the artisans and the quality of material that is invested into each piece is evident.
Biot jar and antique toy horse
When comparing our range with other Anduze Pottery makers, Chez Pluie recommends you ask two simple questions. First, are the products still handmade or are they now made with industrial manufacturing equipment? Second, how much material is used in the products and how does the weight of the pottery compare to genuine handmade pieces? Explore our collection of bespoke biot jars and olive jars here
Biot jars bespoke French pottery handmade in France

Our pottery can be found at the Château of Versailles, Château de Mons, Château de Flaugergues and the Manor of the Garde. Biot jars and pottery made by the artisanal workshops of Anduze also line the streets of Nice on the Côte d'Azur and the exquisite village of Montpellier. These historic landmarks and discerning clients demand the best quality.

Pam Pierce designs French biot jar with white rosesImage credit: Design by Pam Pierce, photographed by Peter Vitale.

Discover our latest range of bespoke Anduze pottery.

 

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2 comments

I love the design, colour and texture of your unique handmade pots. They carry such a weight and character to them that almost reminds me of ancient civilization. I live in Canada and don’t know where I can see beautiful pieces here. Any advice? Thanks

CATHY October 25, 2020

Dear Sir or Madam

I am interested in a small – medium biot jars.

Marta July 15, 2020

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