Empreintes: a showcase for French craftsmanship

This four-storey concept store in Paris is a beacon of French craftsmanship – from bijoux gifts to showstopping chandeliers

Elizabeth Leriche, scenographer at Empreintes
Elizabeth Leriche, scenographer at Empreintes | Image: Stephanie Jayet

The Haut-Marais, specifically the area between Paris’s new cultural hub of Carreau du Temple and the foodie haven that is the Marché des Enfants Rouges, is currently the coolest place in the city to shop and eat. In the winding streets, high-fashion boutiques such as The Broken Arm and hip dining spots like Les Chouettes rub shoulders with mother-of-pearl button makers and kosher bakeries – and also Empreintes.

A showcase for the work of the 6,000-plus members of the Ateliers d’Art de France (the professional federation of arts and crafts founded in 1868), Empreintes is a four-storey concept store overflowing with handcrafted crystal, porcelain, jewellery, tableware, lighting and furniture – not to mention the organic By Season café, a library and a basement projection room. “It is a magical place filled with singular and desirable items that need time to be appreciated,” says the store’s scenographer Elizabeth Leriche. “Above all, there are real people behind these creations, and I wanted to show that.”

An example of Aline Campana’s sketch-like wire birds, from €45
An example of Aline Campana’s sketch-like wire birds, from €45 | Image: Stephanie Jayet

The ground floor focuses on gifts – the unglazed cobalt and cream porcelain cups (from €24) by Paris-based ceramicist Emmanuelle Manche are extremely popular, as are jeweller-sculptor Aline Campana’s sketch-like wire birds (from €45). On the upper two floors, more serious purchases range from the grey ridged bowls (from €1,500) in Japanese-style raku pottery by Nani Champy Schott to the showstopping compose-your-own-chandelier constellations of glass moons and planets (€4,540) by Semeur d’Etoiles, the brand run by engineer-cum-designer Ludovic Clément d’Armont. Other standout glassware includes Jorge Mateus’ organic handblown glass decanters (€140) in vibrant red and purple, and a striking artwork by Fabienne Picaud called Les Mots Doux (Sweet Nothings, €4,000) – a series of undulating handblown crystal sculptures in shades of cadmium, amber, cerulean and cobalt cradled together in a lacquered steel band.

“Half our stock is priced under €75,” says communications manager Morgane Couteller, “but some one‑off creations can reach five figures.” One such is an outstanding example of cabinetry (€80,000) by Vittorio Serio; called La Ville Vide (The Empty City) and inspired by Sardinia’s ancient stone nuraghi, it’s made from 600 pieces of zebu horn, stands 2.55m tall and houses several concealed drawers and a small safe.

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At both ends of the scale, Empreintes’ aim is to introduce new contemporary artists and craftspeople, and panels alongside the works provide information on the artist, their process and materials. And it is a concept that appeals equally to design enthusiasts, tourists and professionals. “We just had a visit from a New York architect who bought up practically the whole second floor, the lighting in particular,” says Couteller. “He was completely unfazed about having it all shipped to New York, so we were too.”

Empreintes is about to take French craftsmanship global with the launch of an e-boutique this summer. Finding thoughtful, original gifts will be just a fingertip away.

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