The three men sat in a row, talking, laughing and expertly modelling the clay on their potters’ wheels. They were two brothers and a cousin, the third generation of the Not family to carry on the family tradition of working as potters. When the friend who had taken me to their pottery introduced me as English they couldn’t help immediately making some jokes about the British royal family (all in good taste of course).
The three work at Poterie Not Frères, which is a pottery just outside the hamlet of Mas Saintes Puelles, by the side of the Canal du Midi, about 5 kilometres west of Castelnaudary. A pottery has been on the site since 1830, passing through various owners but in 1947 was taken over by Emile Not, the grandfather of the Not family. It now has 2 claims to fame: it is the oldest pottery in the South of France and is the one place in France where the cassole is still made by hand. This is the vessel from which cassoulet takes its name, and according to locals, is the only vessel in which cassoulet should be cooked.
But the Not family don’t only make cassoles. They create all types of pots, bowls, plates, vases, jugs and decorative pieces and will also take orders for specific items. The pottery is a big place and there are pottery items, large and small, for sale everywhere, all made from clay extracted nearby, modelled by hand on a wheel and once made and dry, fired in a wood oven. There is even a section where items that didn’t quite work out are sold at a discount, although I couldn’t see much wrong with them.
On my visit I didn’t buy a cassole, although I intend to one day when I feel brave enough to cook a cassoulet. Instead I bought 2 little 3 legged pots, which I was very pleased to find and have put to perhaps quite an unusual use. My father spent the last 15 years of his life in Laurabuc, a nearby village, happily enjoying the local wine and the view of the foothills of the Pyrenees from his garden. He is buried in the local cemetery and as all the other graves there are well decorated I thought his needed something as well. The pots planted with lavender are perfect.
When I bought my two pots one of the brothers left his wheel to take my payment. The change was given to me from a tin cash box, which added even more to the traditional feel of the place. However the Not family have used modern technology to put up details of their pottery on the Artisan Aude website , together with some lovely photos.
The day I do buy a cassole from Poterie Not Freres I know it will be unique, made by a potter following traditional methods and who maybe even cracked a joke while making it.
If you’d like to visit here is the information – in French but it’s easy French:
Infos Pratiques :
POTERIE NOT FRERE
ROBERT, JEAN PIERRE et PHILIPPE NOT
La Poterie – Lieu-dit Le Médecin
Le long du canal.
Tél. : 04 68 23 17 01 Fax : 04 68 23 17 01
Visite de l’atelier du lundi au vendredi de 8h à 12h et de 14h à 18h
Portes ouvertes avril, mai et juin du lundi au samedi de 8h à 12h et de 14h30 à 18h.
Le dimanche de 14h30 à 18h.
Congés annuel en août. Pour venir à la poterie, depuis Toulouse;sortie Villefranche de Lauragais,direction Carcassonne,traverse de Labastide d’Anjou a l’Hostelerie Etienne, prendre a droite, faire 2 KM.
De Carcassonne; sortie Castelnaudary direction Mas Stes Puelles.