Thursday, December 24, 2015

Eric Goujou and La Tuile à Loup

It is becoming increasingly rare to find a person who devotes his life, not only to his passion, but also to inspiring others to live up to their passion and potential.

Eric Goujou is one of these persons. He is the proprietor of La Tuile à Loup (the Wolf Tile), a ceramics boutique in Paris' 5th arrondissement.

Eric Goujou
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La Tuile à Loup - façade
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The Wolf Tile
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Goujou took over this 41-year old establishment in September 2006, when the previous owner retired. Having been a customer of the shop prior to becoming its owner, he already had firsthand knowledge of the quality of the merchandise sold there. He left a career in private banking and finance to dedicate himself full time to the preservation of the craft of ceramic making in France.

A native of Cameroon, Goujou describes himself as "métissé culturel" ("culturally mixed"). He says that he's French with regard to nationality and mores - particularly with regard to his love of fully enjoying time spent around the table at mealtime as well as being surrounded by beautiful, carefully selected objects, each of which tells its own story. He is Anglo Saxon with regard to a desire for practicality (though not for its own sake) and he attributes his love for the colors and raw materials that go into his merchandise to his African roots.

In telling me this, he took great pains to describe for me the method used to create "aptware," ceramics made from earth of different colors and molded (not turned) and polished into the vividly colored objects that he sells in his boutique.

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Aptware - cross section
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Goujou loves what he calls l'art de vivre, the ability to construct one's life according to a preferred lifestyle. Buying fine ceramics and other household items and USING THEM (as opposed to setting them on a shelf or hanging them on a wall for display) are manifestations of this art.

La Tuile à Loup display
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Goujou's commitment to his customers is extraordinary. As an example, her related a story of a client who, after looking around the shop and admiring an item that was beyond his financial means, purchased another item that he could afford and took it home. The gentleman returned that same day, saying that after having seen the object that he truly wanted, he couldn't feel satisfied with the one he had purchased. He asked whether he could work out a payment plan for the item he truly desired. Because client satisfaction is Goujou's uppermost priority, he agreed and the man was able to purchase the piece that his heart truly desired.

Just as extraordinary is Goujou's attention to details about his customers. During our interview, two American men came into the boutique to buy gifts for one of Goujou's clients. Goujou immediately went to his computer to research the last item that the client had purchased and then proceeded to search his cabinets until he found the perfect items to accompany it.

While Goujou's colleague carefully wrapped the gifts, the men and I struck up a conversation. They told me that their friend is a regular at the boutique and spends hours there each time she visits Paris.

Another man visited the boutique while I was there. He also struck up a conversation with me, expressing enthusiasm about the exquisiteness of La Tuile à Loup's merchandise. He said that he comes by the store just to marvel at it almost as often as he comes to buy things. Seeing the expression on his face and the way he threw his hands in the air with delight as he glanced around, I thought to myself that he looked like the proverbial "kid in a candy shop"!

Ceramic trays
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Fine linens
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Ceramic "Lucy"
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Jar with cat lid
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Goujou spends a fair amount of time during the year traveling to visit his vendors, who are located throughout France. He uses these occasions to encourage them to continue to create works that require long and often arduous hours of effort, to give them new ideas for products based on what he's learned from his clients, and to assure them that he prefers that they produce beautiful, quality items instead of shifting toward mass production in the quest for a lower price per item.

Goujou is committed to explaining to new customers why the objects in his boutique cost what they do - each is hand crafted and one of a kind.

For his regular clients, no explanation is necessary.

La Tuile à Loup
35, rue Daubenton
75005 Paris

Open Monday: 1 PM to 6 PM; Tuesday through Saturday: 11 AM to 6 PM


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