Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Enchanting World of Pascale Palun

I have great admiration for artisans (artists who craft work with their hands.) I put them at the same level as painters and consider their work as much "fine art" as any portrait, still life or painting.
A painter paints what he or she sees in front of them. With an artisan it’s different, an idea or experience plants a seed, the seed becomes an idea, the idea percolates in the artisan’s mind until…viola! It comes to life.

It took 2 years to sync schedules with artisan Pascale Palun, but I finally did and it was worth the wait.

The door to her Avignon atelier is massive, dark wood. The doorbell is a pull type; I grasped it, pulled it toward me and heard the echo of a bell resonate inside.
Slowly the door opened and there stood Pascale Palun with a huge dog lumbering at her feet.

In the moment it took for my eyes to adjust to the dark interior I was transported, whisked into the spectacular world of Pascale Palun. Natural light poured in through soaring floor to ceiling windows. Thick wood floors creaked underneath my feet. Double doorways between the large rooms gave a labyrinthine feel to the space, inviting me to wander from room to room and vignette to vignette. Moving around the atelier I realized I was walking among the physical manifestations of Palun’s imagination.

Wire birds perched in cages with fabric tails floating behind them. Tables that, upon closer inspection, were fashioned of wire with a taut skin of linen covering, making it look for all the world like a table upon which I could rest a glass of water. An enormous gilt, carved frame rested on the mantle, instead of holding a picture or photograph, it framed a selection of mirrors and paintings leaning between it and the wall.

A violin, found abandoned, absent many of its parts, deftly repaired with wire. Dogs fashioned from scraps, peeking out of vignettes.
And lighting...perhaps what Pascale is best known for (at least here in the USA) is her spectacular lighting. Wire, dancing in scrollwork in and around itself, curving and dipping, cradling light bulbs, casting magical shadows.

A minuscule crown, crusted with glitter; skulls sculpted out of antique lace, sconces dancing across walls. The flotsam and jetsam of life’s cast-offs artfully meaning given to forgotten objects.

This is the crux of Pascale’s studio...her work is so evocative one cannot look at it without imbuing it with meaning.

A man on blended knee, pleading with a woman...or perhaps asking for her hand. She, wearing a fluff of tulle, looks down at him from a balcony. Is she turning him away or will she join him? The story is yours to tell.

Pascale’s Story

I find it fitting that she was born and raised in Avignon; an ancient city surrounded by the work of artisans; 2000-year-old Roman aqueducts and bridges, outstanding examples of craftsmanship at the highest level...and she amidst it all.

Palun began as a fashion designer (many people mistakenly say she was a "set" designer, not true.) After putting together a line of clothing she staged a fashion show-garnering great reviews and getting many orders. Alas, it’s one thing to put together a show, but another to get the pieces into production. Searching for financial backing proved impossible. Even with orders ready to fill, banks turned her down, unwilling to risk lending money to a clothing designer.  She cancelled the orders.

Pregnant at the time, she decided to concentrate on becoming a mom.

"We had very little money so I set about making decorations for my son's nursery. Wire creatures graced his walls; a nightlight cast an engaging shadow. Friends asked where she found such charming objects and, when they found out she made them, asked her to make things for them. Orders poured in and, along with her son, a business was born.
Magic hands. If you've ever worked with wire you know it has a mind of its own. It naturally curves, resists sharp corners, and springs back into itself. It is not easy to tame. Pascal generously gave me a lesson in wirework. 
I watched, transfixed as Palun massaged the curve out of the wire between her fingers. She put it to rights, not coaxing but rather fashioning with a deliberate hand. She used tools when cutting wire or when putting 2 pieces together, nipping and tucking, squeezing and pinching until the desired shape is revealed.

I often think of Alexander Calder when I visit an artist who works in wire.  I came to the conclusion pretty quickly that Palun is Calder reincarnated. Her circus lights remind me very much of Calder’s famous circus, he would be pleased and charmed with her work.

Now world famous, Pascal’s work can be found in some of the worlds finest stores-ABC Carpet and Home in NYC for example.

Palun is surprisingly low key and modest about her talent. She says her son is her greatest creation, which I'm sure is true...however, the fantasy of imagination that comprises her work is a close second.

Pascale Palun
17 Rue Thiers
84000 Avignon, France

Many thanks to Madam Montigaud for the transportation and to Corey Amaro for the translation services. This story could not have been done without you.

Pictures are from pinterest or are my own.


  1. An amazing artist. I am fortunate to have several pieces acquired through Anthro a number of years ago...they still bring delight.

  2. Oh my! I bet you had a great time there! Very interesting!

  3. Wow... What a wonderful story about a fascinating artisan. You did a great job capturing her spirit. The photos are superb.

  4. Jackie I adore this amazing work; the art is exquisite! Thank you for making our Parisian Journey with Anita so very special!

    A Parisian Party
    Art by Karena

  5. What an amazing story you just told us about Pascale Palun and the picture were wonderful. Thanks for sharing your trip with all of us.