Steaven Richard, spring 2023
Steaven Richard evolved his craft as an apprentice to several artisan blacksmiths over many years and in many countries, before establishing his own atelier in Paris specialising in artistic metalwork.
As demand for his work grew, particularly from architects and designers, he realised he needed more space to accommodate the expanding workload. So he moved to a large warehouse in Valenton and added to his team of blacksmiths and metalworkers who combine traditional skills with new technology.
Atelier Steaven Richard has become famous for its artistic metalwork. Prestigious designs include a bespoke metal floor for the studio of Karl Lagerfeld, the elevator doors for the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, and a ‘Steaven Richard’ limited edition bottle for Remy Martin.
Metal flooring, Studio Karl Lagerfeld, Paris
Decorative elevator doors, Hotel de Paris, Monaco
We began our interview with Steaven in front of a wall of gorgeous wall samples in a colourful array of textures, patinas and designs, then went through to the workshops.
We also toured his huge hangar-like workshop buzzing with activity and the thrum of machinery.
Enormous shelves hold sheets of carefully labelled metals. There’s large-scale equipment and workers hand-finishing on long benches. It is artisan work on a grand scale and at the end we see some impressive finished samples.
Mike Axinn and I took the train 50 kilometres south of Paris, through the suburbs, to the dense wooded area of Bois le Roi, next to the forest of Fontainebleau. As the train slowed into the station a bright blue sky become visible above the dense forest of wintry trees while the lanky figure of Steaven waited on the platform to greet us.
Steaven Richard (00:16):
In the beginning, I really wanted to understand the traditional artistic French wrought iron. So I work and I draw a lot of French wrought iron. And when I traveled in different country, I always try to understand the different style. During my travel, I spend every weekend to go in different city. When I’ve been in London, I spend so many times to walk in the city, to explore the architecture, to visit museums, Dublin it was the same, so for me, the travel was my university.
Sarah Monk (01:02):
Hi, this is Sarah with another episode of Materially Speaking where artists and artisans tell their stories through the materials they choose. Today, Mike Axinn and I take the train 50 kilometers south of Paris through the suburbs to the dense wooded area of Bois-le-Roi next to the forest of Fontainebleau. Here we’re meeting Steaven Richard, whose love of horses led to a stint in the army as a farrier making horseshoes. He apprenticed to several artisan blacksmiths in France, Germany, England, and Ireland, where he also discovered a range of architectural styles before establishing his own studio in Paris.
Atelier Steaven Richard has become famous for its artistic metal work. Prestigious designs include a bespoke metal floor for the studio of Karl Lagerfeld, the elevator doors for the Hotel de Paris in Monaco and Steaven Richard limited edition bottle for Remy Martin. As demand for his work grew, Steaven needed more space and moved to a large warehouse in Valenton where his team of blacksmiths and metal workers combined traditional skills and new technology.
As the train slows into the station, a bright blue sky is visible above the dense forest of wintry trees and we see the lanky figure of Steaven waiting on the platform to greet us. He drives us to his facility and welcomes us into his office where busy assistants answer the phones and slip in and out of the workshop. He shows us a gorgeous wall of samples in a colorful array of textures, patinas, and designs. And we also tour his huge hangar-like workshop, which is buzzing with activity and the thrum of machinery.
Enormous shelves hold sheets of carefully labeled metals, his large scale equipment and workers’ hand finishing on long benches. It’s artisan’s work on a grand scale. On trolleys, we see some completed pieces engraved, etched and crafted in the styles for which he has become celebrated in Europe and around the world.
I understand you’re both an artisan and an artist, and so this is like the application of art to a practical solution.
Steaven Richard (03:04):
Exactly. This is very interesting because it’s exactly my [foreign language 00:03:11], to have a foot in the artistic area and the other foot in the technical area, so I have to manage all of the time the two kind of situations and find solutions for artistic issue and technical issues.
Mike Axinn (03:30):
Did you study architecture?
Steaven Richard (03:31):
No, no, never. I was a farrier, so I work with the horses, but I learned how to forge orthopedic horseshoes and for this reason I could, in Germany, work in a workshop who made the restoration of the gate of the Castle of Karlsruhe And when I work in this workshop, I beginning to learn the work of artsmithing, blacksmithing, but in a artistic way.
Sarah Monk (03:59):
I like the word, I’ve not heard it before, but it’s perfect.
Steaven Richard (04:01):
David Dawson said Artsmithing.
Sarah Monk (04:04):
Where were you born?
Steaven Richard (04:05):
In Brittany, in the Finistere and I moved in Paris when I was five. So I grew up part in Paris, a part in Limousine, which is a very wild region in the center of France. And after beginning my apprenticeship in Normandy.
Sarah Monk (04:24):
So what brought you to be a farrier?
Steaven Richard (04:26):
I ride horses when I was young and I really want to work with horses. So for this reason I was fascinated by the man who came at home to make horseshoes for the horse. And I really wanted to be a farrier. In Normandy there was a very good school, school is closed now. At this time the apprenticeship in France was three years, so it was quite strong. And after this apprenticeship of three years, I made my military service in the Garde Republican, the National Guard because they need some farrier to shoe the horse of the guard. And I spent one year with them.
It was very interesting because they continued to forge in a very traditional way with three men. So there is one smith and two help with big hammer front of the smiths and they forge with the three hammer and it’s a very difficult technique. It was from the 19 century. So some of this horseshoe that we learned to forge was complete torture for us because that was not efficient at all. But the technique to forge them was very interesting. So they continued to forge this kind of horseshoes.
After my military service I beginning to work in Avignon in north and in a region of Paris as a farrier during two or three years. After this I met some German artisan and I decided to organize a travel in Germany. I really wanted to go in the artistic way, so I had the technique to forge orthopedic and traditional orthopedic horseshoes. It’s really necessary to learn very precise forge technique. So I beginning to work in Germany during one years. I work in Fulda, in Zollstock, in Mannheim, and in Ludwigshafen, which is quite close.
When I arrive in the workshop of [inaudible 00:06:51] in Mannheim, it was very easy for me to forge leaves, rose in a completely German tradition because I learned to forge orthopedic horseshoes. And after that I decided to go to London. I stayed half year in London and one year in Dublin. After this I worked in Lyon, in Paris again. And I stay a little bit, a few weeks next to New York. During my travel, I spend every weekend to go in different city. When I’ve been in London, I spend so many times to walk in the city, to explore the architecture, to visit museums, Dublin it was the same. So for me the travel was my university.
Mike Axinn (07:45):
How does your own personal taste influence this work?
Steaven Richard (07:48):
Well, I said that I come from the forge. So in the beginning I really wanted to understand the traditional artistic French wrought iron so I work and I draw a lot of French wrought iron. And when I traveled in different country, I always try to understand the different style. And in Germany for example, the ornamentation is in forge. In France you can see the ornamentation in sheet metals. This is completely different technique and this is very interesting to see that. You can see in [inaudible 00:08:29], Germany for example, the technique that the smiths use was very, very German. This is a deep forge, but the drawing of the ornamentation is very French. In Spain, the gates is very vertical and you see this kind of gate also in southwest of France. The representative of Christie’s is here. I make a exception to make restoration for Martin [inaudible 00:09:05].
Sarah Monk (09:05):
So we are in your workshop space. Can I ask how big it is?
Steaven Richard (09:09):
1,000 square meters on the floor and with the mezzanine we have 1,600 square meters around.
Sarah Monk (09:18):
And this is why you moved out of Paris I guess?
Steaven Richard (09:21):
My old workshop was very lovely, but 100 square meters was not enough to continue to make our research with every project that we have. So we moving from Paris, but with the community [foreign language 00:09:38].
Sarah Monk (09:37):
With the passion still?
Steaven Richard (09:39):
Yeah, with the passion still and it was a very old workshop with a courtyard, with a glass enclosure. So the light was perfect. There was so beautiful atmosphere.
Mike Axinn (09:51):
How many people are working here?
Steaven Richard (09:53):
Here today, 15. And when we were in Paris, it’s only possible to work with four people.
Sarah Monk (10:06):
Do you want to show us what you wanted to when we came in?
Steaven Richard (10:06):
The workshop, I have two parts. First part, it’s the part of sheet metal and the second part, it’s a profile area. Here we have the stock of the sheet metal in the entrance. We work a lot on plans, to think how to have the best organization because a good organization is less tiring. On the right, a cutting machine to cut the metal when it’s necessary. After this a CNC drilling machine, we can cut, drill and prepare to bend the sheet metal. The big creation, it’s with the texture and with the patina. The second step of the creation is the form of the design. And in this case there is two possibilities. Sometime we propose a completely new design to architect and sometime they arrive with the idea that we continue to improve together.
Mike Axinn (11:08):
Is there some work that you’re especially proud of?
Steaven Richard (11:11):
The first that I want to present to you is completely unique in the world because this is artistic lamination that we developed 10 years ago when we had the order from Karl Lagerfeld to make a floor in his Chanel office. We call that one Chanel texture because this is the texture that we use for the floor in Karl Lagerfeld’s office. That one, it’s a point texture. So this possibility of texture is completely infinite and we make this kind of texture with two kind of patina. The first one, it’s a bronze patina that a lot of people knows because it’s quite usual. And the other one is the warm patina that is the oxidation of the metal. And we can do this with the torch and pencil and different product.
So you can see here on different metal or alloy, the warm patina. We use copper, zinc and brass, silver, nickel and sometimes kind of aluminum and normal steel with different acid to control the corrosion. So it’s not only to put sheet of metal under the rain and get corrosion. It’s necessary to control and to make a kind of clouds but not figurative, very abstract and make patina on metals. Two others now that I want to present to you is a CNC engraved drawing with the CNC and the CNC can open more possibilities.
Sarah Monk (12:58):
So you do the design on the computer?
Steaven Richard (13:00):
Sarah Monk (13:00):
And then it is carved by machine?
Steaven Richard (13:03):
Exactly. Engraved with the machine. And after we made a hand patina. The last is acid etching that we develop to make other kind of design on sheet metals.
Sarah Monk (13:18):
That reminds me of that beautiful velvet that you use with acid. You take out some of the-
Steaven Richard (13:24):
Exactly. This is a technique. We put protection on the part of the metal that we want to protect against the acid and the other part of the metal which not have protection get eaten away.
Sarah Monk (13:41):
So it ends up with a beautiful lace effect, doesn’t it? Is it a little bit like a lace?
Steaven Richard (13:46):
Yes. This is the kind of possibility that we can do with the warm patina, but some of them are only experimental. So for example, we never use this purple-
Sarah Monk (14:03):
Steaven Richard (14:04):
… patina. The expectation of the designer are more in this kind of color, blue, green, but purple, it’s not the time of the purple color.
Sarah Monk (14:15):
Is this a French fashion thing?
Steaven Richard (14:16):
There is always a mode and it’s very interesting that the expectation of the architect in London are completely different than in Brussels or in Geneve or in Paris. In Zurich for example, we have a lot of demand to work with zinc because the color on this metal a little bit soft and not so brilliant. So they prefer to have the kind of color. In London, it’s possible to be more exuberant and it’s difficult to speak about Paris because it’s too close from me, but in Brussels for example, I was very surprised that they are very Nordic.
Mike Axinn (15:00):
What projects are magic for you? Which ones have you done which are wonderful for you?
Steaven Richard (15:05):
I think because it was a turning point, the floor of Karl Lagerfeld studio was a very important project for me. The two champagne cave that I made for Hotel [inaudible 00:15:19] which is also very important for the demonstration of the possibility of the new know-how of artistic lamination that I wanted. And I really appreciate the collaboration that I have with Pierre Yovanovitch because his design is very close of my sensibilities and I made for him some very beautiful pieces in the curtain effect.
Sarah Monk (15:47):
We saw a very beautiful collaboration, I guess, or invitation maybe from Remy Martin and that looked to me like Remy Martin were asking for your artistic style on their bottle. And I wondered whether you either sign your work or whether now your work is so well known that you are asked to maybe do a touch of Steaven Richard work on somebody else’s project?
Steaven Richard (16:11):
When they contact me, they explained to me that they want to make a limited edition and they asked me if it’s possible for me to create a sculpture according to the atmosphere of Remy Martin. We stamp every works with our signature.
Mike Axinn (16:30):
And what is the inspiration for all of this work?
Steaven Richard (16:32):
There is many possibilities of inspiration, but when I work with architect, I have to make attention to not be in concurrence with the other material. I never begin a creation for a project without to ask the designer to send me the 3D plans of these designs and make sure that my proposition will perfectly match with the other material except when the order is to make the artistic panel. And in this case, we have the possibility to be more present in a decorative way.
The other example that I have to present to you is elevator doors, lift doors for English. This elevator doors was made for the Hotel de Paris in Monaco and it was the first order for lift doors. We made 40 doors like this. Because we made these doors which have quite a lot of publication, we have now a lot of order for decorative lift doors. There is a big misunderstanding in architecture, the lift industry or elevator industry doesn’t really understand the architecture and the architect are completely disappointed when they have to use the corrective proposition of the industry, of the elevators. And they are very interesting when I propose to be between the elevator’s company and the architect to find technique and aesthetic solution. So this is, for us, a new business because we have a lot of demand for decorative lift doors.
Mike Axinn (18:26):
What a journey from horseshoes to elevator doors.
Steaven Richard (18:32):
Yeah, horses was my first passion.
Sarah Monk (18:36):
Thank you. That was wonderful.
Steaven Richard (18:38):
Sarah Monk (18:42):
So thanks to Steaven Richard. You can discover more about him on his website, steavenrichard.fr or find him on Instagram @ateliersteavenrichard. And thanks to you for listening. As with all episodes, you can find photographs on our website, materiallyspeaking.com, or on our new Instagram account @materiallyspeakingpodcast.
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