Interview with Eric of Provence en Couleur for Laurent Barbier Olive Wood

Who are you?
I'm Eric Mourre of Provence En Couleur, brand representative for Laurent Barbier Olive Wood in Canada.

What does Laurent Barbier create?
Hand crafted olive wood kitchenware made in France. Much of the collection still includes pieces originally designed by Laurent's grandfather in 
1929. The collection has now expanded to offer a wide range of hand crafted, individually unique utensils, and kitchenware. 

What are Laurent's tools and processes?
Laurent creates his pieces with a few varieties of woods including Cherry Tree, Beech, and Boxwood, however Olive Wood is the premium European wood for gourmet kitchenware, and is highly sought after throughout the world. The olive wood process uses many tools including hand sculptors, power sanders and saws. From the raw piece of wood, he cuts it down into varying sizes, either cross sections of 4x4s or smaller, trying to utilize as much raw product as possible. The wood is then worked down into its rough shape and then heavily sanded - to give you an idea, a spoon starts as a curved block. Once the piece is finished in the workshop, it goes into the drying stage. Drying can take up to two months and some pieces can be dried at many different stages in the process, sometimes multiple times per piece. Once the piece is dry and at its final shape, it is varnished and dried again. This is where the natural process ends and the colour begins. The pieces are then dipped into paint and hung to dry. I’m proud to say Laurent creates the only olive wood colour collection. 

What inspires the creation of the olive wood pieces?
I guess you could say the inspiration came last century as Laurent is a 3rd generation wood artisan. It's a very old tradition in the Alps region and it’s as simple as creating pieces that we use in our daily lives. 
Laurent personally created and introduced the colour collection into the family business. I remember him telling me once, that "he needed a new challenge" - a little twist on the classic to revive the tradition while molding it for the future.   

Where are they made?
The Laurent Barbier Olive wood collection is hand made in Saint-Jean-en-Royan at the foothills of Vercors in the French Alps.

Where is the olive wood sourced?
He sources the olive trees from South Italy. Laurent says “En France, il n’ya pas assez d’olivier” which translates to "In France there is not enough olive trees", so it’s better to bring them in. France and Italy have very strict laws on the cutting down of old growth olive trees, so it is all farmed which is sustainable.

Why olive wood?
Olive wood is strong, sturdy and has great oil content which helps make it last. Wood in general is more hygienic because most bacteria can not survive on wood surfaces, but the most obvious reason is the olive wood's beautiful unique grain quality, which makes every piece unique and a work of art.

How did Laurent's family business get its start? 
In 1929, Laurent’s grandfather started working for a wood company, gaining the knowledge and creating the blueprints for many of the pieces that Laurent still makes today. After the Algerian war in ’62, Laurent’s father started the company that we know now as ‘Laurent Barbier’. The grandfather then joined the son in his company, along with the rest of the family and extended family - all working together in a thriving industry at that time and specific to this area of France. Now, Laurent’s family is one of two surviving artisans in Royan, that still create olive wood kitchenware.

Shop Laurent Barbier's Olive Wood Collection online.

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