Villeri & Boch

Ceramics production

Villeri & Boch

Villeroy & Boch is three centuries of craftsmanship and innovation, it is the most elegant works of art and always stable quality, it is both art workshops and high-tech industrial production. Villeroy & Boch is a famous brand known all over the world, which has passed through many twists and turns of European history for three hundred years, survived bloody wars on the continent and absorbed the best that was and is in art.

These are traditions, hardened by time and constant work on new things, in the name of beauty and humanism. No one could have predicted such a success of the enterprise when, in 1748, the founder of the company, Francois Boch, decided to change his profession and engage in the production of ceramics. Francois Boch was nicknamed "Bombardier du Roi" because he was a caster of royal cannons.

Together with his three sons, he starts the production of ceramic tableware. And this event marks the birth of Villeroy & Boch. The first manufactory was built by the Boch family in Luxembourg in the city of Setfontaine, 20 kilometers from the capital. Pierre-Joseph, the son of Francois Boch, applies to the government for permission and becomes the only one among many who receives such permission from Empress Maria Theresa.

The Empress favors the enterprise and gives the highest permission for the name Manufacture Impériale et Royale. It was then that the production of the Old Luxembourg (Alt Luxemburg) series of tableware popular to this day all over the world with the characteristic brindille ornament (twigs) was started. These ornaments were designed by Pierre-Joseph Boch in 1770. Francois Boch's son Pierre was a gifted artist, with an excellent sense of entrepreneur, so he made a number of artistic ceramic products, and launched them into a series. Some of them can now be seen in the Metlach Ceramics Museum, for example, a crucifix with a snake, or flower pots in the Rococo style. In 1797, businessman Nicholas Villeroy acquired a pottery factory in Wallerfangen. He calls specialists from England and France to modernize production and becomes one of the first ceramic manufacturers to use coal as fuel for furnaces. The technology of ceramic decoration is also undergoing modernization. First of all, he starts experimenting with the English transfer-printing technique (printing a pattern on ceramics), which significantly reduces the cost of production. At the same time, Jean-Francois Boch, the second son of the founder of the Boch family enterprise, acquires the former Benedictine abbey in Metlach on the Saar River. In a Baroque building, he installs modern and widely mechanized tableware production systems. He designs many production machines himself.

His inventions facilitated the production cycle and made it cheaper. In fact, he led his company to the industrial production of ceramics. While the second generation of the Boch family achieves optimal product quality by experimenting with materials, the third generation makes a decisive breakthrough in technology with Jean-Francois Boch, a chemist who graduated from the Faculty of Exact Sciences of the Sorbonne. Jean-Francois has developed a type of snow-white ceramics, very similar to porcelain, but much cheaper to produce. He discovered for his company a practical way to democratize earthenware without losing its quality and appearance. At the first trade exhibition in Berlin in 1822, the company received a gold medal, which was the beginning of many national and international awards. Boh and Villeroy factories are located not far from each other and both companies are very successful in the market. But in order to develop further and successfully compete, first of all, with English high-tech industries, which have already ruined more than one enterprise, it is obvious that it is necessary to unite. This is how Villeroy & Boch was born — a company that combines the strengths of both enterprises: creative talent, entrepreneurial spirit, innovative potential and production capacity. The company became one of the first global players of the XIX century.

This association was subsequently consolidated by family ties: the clans married their children and nephews, and the company began to be inherited. The children studied in the best educational institutions in Europe, and in 1892 the noble prefix "background" was added to the surname Boh. The Villeroy-Boch family also gave the world great artists - Anna and Eugene Boch (the fifth generation of the family), famous impressionists and friends of Vincent Van Gogh, who painted a portrait of Eugene, which now hangs in the Orsay Museum in Paris. By the middle of the XIX century Villeroy & Boch had a full range of products and supplied large quantities of its ceramics to Paris, Warsaw, London, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Scandinavia, Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey and Switzerland. Around 1850, the first shipments of ceramics were made across the Atlantic - to North and South America. And at the end of the XIX century Villeroy & Boch was chosen to participate in the famous World Exhibition in London. London was the beginning of a series of prestigious performances at major World exhibitions: in Philadelphia in 1876, in Paris in 1878 and 1900, in Chicago in 1893, in St. Petersburg in 1901 and in St. Louis in 1904.

Among the most interesting inventions of Villeroy & Boch at the end of the nineteenth century was Phanolith (Phanolith) - semi-transparent porcelain, combining the characteristics and advantages of jasper Wedgwood (jasperware) and the technology of pâte-sur-pâte- pat-sur-pat or paste on paste - a method of porcelain decoration in which the relief, is applied with a brush to unburned, unglazed ceramics in successive layers of white slip. The creator of the phanolite was the ceramic artist Jean-Baptiste Stahl, who headed the modeling section at Villeroy & Boch. The phanolite achieved wide recognition at the 1900 Paris World's Fair, where Villeroy & Boch received a gold medal for it. The second ingenious invention of Villeroy & Boch is the so-called "broom tile". In general, many good ideas can be found in the storerooms of history. When archaeologists stumbled upon Roman mosaics in the immediate vicinity of Metlakh, Evgeny Anton Bokh (the fourth generation of the family) engaged in their restoration. Inspired by these archaeological finds, Eugene and his technologists began experimenting with the material for the production of tiles. As a result, they develop a production process that allows them to produce tiles with phenomenal wear resistance and sensationally beautiful appearance. Since 1852, the production of tiles based on ancient mosaics has been started in Metlach, which is now known worldwide as Mettlacher Platten. The demand for it is so great that in 1866 the company had to build a separate "mosaic" factory specializing in the production of only this tile. And in 1879 Villeroy & Boch acquires a ceramic factory in Merzig, where it turns into the world's largest manufacturer of floor tiles. Evgeny Bokh understood exactly where the markets of tomorrow would be located. Therefore, he built another ceramic factory in Dresden to open up new export opportunities in the north and east of Europe.

The production was initially focused on tableware, but it quickly shifted to tiled stoves and tiled tiles for wall cladding. The greatest contribution to the reputation of the Dresden factory was made by the tile cladding of shops, for example, the dairy Pfunda today is one of the most popular tourist attractions of the city, thanks to the amazing beauty of the tile tiles with fine Renaissance paintings on the walls. The cafe at the Ceramics Museum in Metlach is an almost exact replica of this historic dairy store. Equally important for the company was the production of architectural ceramics from terracotta. Under the management of Alexander Schmidt, the company's atelier has developed a unique clay mixture based on terracotta for the cladding of buildings. Moreover, the technologists of the atelier have improved the material so much that it surpassed even stone in its technical characteristics. Suffice it to say that the hygroscopicity of the Metlakh tile is less than 0.3%, which allows it to be used in almost any climatic conditions. Terracotta reliefs of the company were actively used primarily to decorate buildings - cathedrals, banks, palaces, rich estates. One of these buildings was, for example, the Herrenchimsee Castle, where the architectural ceramics of Villeroy & Boch have not lost their original appearance until now, although the stone would have been covered with moss and partially destroyed over the years. Villeroy & Boch creates a mosaic floor for Cologne Cathedral, a building of national symbolic significance. During the reconstruction of the cathedral in the XIX century in five years, the company created and laid more than 1300 sq. m. meters of mosaic.