The restaurants Septime and yam’Tcha in Paris. The Jane in Antwerp. Ikarus in Salzburg. Texture in London. What do all these restaurants have in common? They all have highly coveted Michelin stars, for one thing. And they also all serve their award-winning dinners on plates made by Jars, the company that has been producing handmade ceramic dinnerware from a small factory in southern France since 1857. If these stellar restaurants all endorse Jars dinnerware as the best, we had to see these plates and bowls for ourselves. Turns out—surprise!—these fancy-pants chefs are onto something.
Jars dinnerware is as refined, unique, and magical as the restaurants that use it. With inventive textured glazes, delicately rough edges, and airy, mysterious colors, each handmade piece feels decidedly distinctive. But these pieces aren’t just incredibly beautiful, and they aren’t only available in the fine dining world. They’re meant to be used daily in the home—which is why these dishes are specifically designed to be dishwasher- and microwave-safe, and why we now carry a line of Jars dinnerware in our Shop.
To introduce you to this incredible brand, we spoke with the team at the Jars factory about the history of Jars, the inspiration behind the ceramics, and the role that nature plays in every aspect of its operation.
Sarah Whitman-Salkin: Who was Pierre Jars and why did he start this company in 1857? What kind of products was the brand making then?
Jars: Pierre Jars founded his own family workshop in 1857 where he was making horticultural pottery. The workshop was and is still located in the same village in the Drôme, in southern France, a region known for its pottery. His success resonated throughout Paris when he was awarded a Grand Prize for his avant-garde and creativity at the Exposition Universelle of 1900. Since the beginning, Pierre Jars’ vision was clear: creating beautiful and useful objects. His philosophy persisted over time and is still very present today.
The alliance of the beautiful and the useful, the passion of the earth and gesture are a heritage of values transmitted over time since the very beginning of the brand.
SWS: How has the technology you use to create your ceramics evolved over time?
Jars: At the beginning, Jars used terracotta, a natural material perfect for horticultural pottery. Then, the company has grown, getting more advanced technologies. In the 1980s, the great-grandchildren started working on a stoneware paste, while modernizing the production tools and moving towards tableware.
In 1994, Jars started to work with the designer Pierre Casenove. Back in the days, stoneware was very heavy, unsightly, and mainly used for technical pieces. Fond of Japan, where stoneware was very different and used to make beautiful and minimalist crockery pieces, Pierre Casenove boldly chose to work on colors and shapes inspired by the country as cracked glazes with a French touch. The first success, the Tourron collection, was thus born and is still an emblematic Jars collection.
SWS: Currently, what is the process Jars uses to create its ceramics, from coming up with ideas for new designs to actually creating those pieces?
Jars: Driven by our spontaneous desires and all the inspirations that nourish our creativity, we imagine simple yet audacious pieces. Our inspirations come from everywhere, between travel, everyday life and art, from Japan’s minimalism and wabi sabi philosophy, to nature’s modesty and humbleness. Our artistic director and the R&D team form a cohesive team, very interactive, cheerful and lively, where new ideas come up and desires emerge. Close together, they make a lot of research and tests on shapes, glazes and textures. Very spontaneously, this teamwork allows us to enhance our creativity and keep exploring new horizons.
SWS: Who are the master ceramicists working in the Jars factory, and what does it take to be a master ceramicist at Jars?
Jars: The ceramic know-how is a slow learning that requires time and patience. In the workshop, gestures are very precise and meticulous. We train people that have a true manual affinity even if they don’t originally have ceramic skills. Trained to our techniques and our spirit, they progress and thus acquire skilled technics and a real know-how and passion of ceramist over time.
SWS: When did Jars achieve the status of Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant (EPV)? What does it mean to the brand to be a part of this label?
Jars: Jars achieved the status of EPV in 2010. This label is meant to guarantee, valorize, and protect a level of excellence in a trade. It distinguishes and accompanies renowned brands that cultivate a rare heritage. For examples, Chanel, Hermes, and Baccarat also have the EPV label. Following a thorough independent national procedure, the EPV label recognizes a unique know-how handed down from ceramist to ceramist, and a vivacious and humble creativity.
SWS: You have a commitment to ecology, recycling surplus water and paste, and reusing the heat of the ovens in the workshop. Why is a concern for the environment important to Jars and how are you using these byproducts?
Jars: Modestly and with conviction, we believe that it is our duty to protect the planet by being as ecologic as possible. We love nature for its simplicity and this is a great source of inspiration for us. In the workshop, surplus of water and paste are reused as well as the heat of the ovens for the dryers. Our products are exclusively made of natural materials, lead- and cadmium-free, thus they are non-polluting. We are working at the moment on new ideas to reinforce this bias and engagement.
SWS: How did the Jardin de Maguelone line come to be? What is special to you about this line of dinnerware?
Jars: Maguelone is an island under the pine trees, in the South of France, in front of the Mediterranean Sea. This is the place of the childhood of our artistic director, Catherine Sales-Mounier, who always had an affinity with colors. Inspired by this island, Jardin de Maguelone is a poetic and sensual line, with a play and inventiveness of colors. Plates with authentic and irregular shapes and a large range of colors to mix together.
We imagined soft, instinctive, and subtle matte glazes that are very close to the colors of nature in a vegetable garden. It is a very modern and light range that fits into an easy and everyday use. The raw and powdery touch softens with time and use. This touch is a singularity and has really taken the brand to other horizons. The Jardin de Maguelone line marked a significant shift for the brand and an affirmed personality: Jars is the first manufacturer to make such matte textures. It was very innovative and we were precursors.
SWS: The colors used in Jars dinnerware are remarkably beautiful. How do you choose the colors for your ceramics?
Jars: Color has always been essential for Jars and is still one of the singularities of our products. Color inspiration is very instinctive and especially come from nature. We usually have more colors we like than we can keep! But we really try to imagine elegant shades and ranges of colors that mix and match together. We especially love to play with effects and contrasts.
SWS: What is the role of the Jars Lab? What kinds of projects does the Lab undertake?
Jars: There has always been a lab at Jars, part of the workshops. The Jars Lab goes further in imagination and freedom. Its role is answering specific needs, creating custom-made projects for chefs, designers, and artists. It is a place for creation, re-creation, and especially research (glazes, shapes, effects). Each project is an artistic and creative approach that combines strengths of talents.
SWS: I know that Jars is one of the most widely distributed dinnerware brands in the European restaurant scene, including many Michelin-starred restaurants. Why do you think these chefs and restaurants are so attracted to your ceramics?
Jars: Chefs and restaurants especially love stoneware for its design and creativity. Chefs imagine and think of the dish with its plate. The presentation has become as important as taste. With the Jars Lab and custom-made projects, and our wide choice of shapes, textures, colors, and effects, they can personalize their crockery and distinguish themselves with a guarantee of exclusivity. Stoneware has very suitable properties for an intensive use in a restaurant. It does not chip, it is non-porous and keeps food at the right temperature. Its longevity and durability is proven. Stoneware is thus very easy and convenient for chefs to use.
SWS: What are the values of Jars that have been consistent since the beginning of the brand, and what are new values that you've adopted over time?
Jars: The alliance of the beautiful and the useful, the passion of the earth and gesture are a heritage of values transmitted over time since the very beginning of the brand. Daring, unexpected mixes, imagining a luxury in everyday life, inventing sensible and inspiring objects in a creative freedom are values that we have enhanced over time.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Have you ever eaten off Jars plates? Let us know your experience in the comments!