“I want to show the strength and determination of women”: Paola Paronetto on collaborating with Veuve Clicquot

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When Madame Clicquot Ponsardin was landed with the task of running her husband’s champagne business upon his death in 1805, she felt she had no option but to succeed. And succeed she did. Now often referred to as the Grande Dame of Champagne, it is Madame Clicquot who is credited with turning Veuve Clicquot into one of the most famous and respected champagne houses in the world. 

Paying homage to the pioneering businesswoman who broke societal stigmas and glass ceilings, Veuve Clicquot felt it fitting to create a champagne collection bearing Madame Clicquot’s name and in 1972, it launched its La Grande Dame premium cuvée to coincide with its bicentenary celebrations. Fast forward 50 years and the tradition of a new vintage release celebrating the founder remains, with the past decade seeing a series of collaborations with pioneering female artists elevate the experience.

For the launch of La Grande Dame 2012 in 2020, Veuve Clicquot enlisted renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama to decorate the champagne bottle with her celebrated polka dot design. 2023 – which marks the launch of the 2015 vintage of La Grande Dame – also coincides with the champagne house’s 250th anniversary and so an equally illustrious collaboration was called for. Accordingly, the brand scoured the hills of Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia to uncover the works of famed ceramicist Paola Paronetto. 

Having worked out of her family-run atelier in Porcia for the past 20 years, Paronetto made a name for herself crafting intricate objects with paper clay. “I started when I was 18 years old. I didn’t go to art school, I just took a ceramics course and there I fell in love with clay,” says Paronetto. “Over time, I’ve experimented with different techniques and I felt like doing something different. I was sick of traditional ceramic techniques which were limiting me so I found this paper clay technique and that’s what you see today.” 

Made by hand, Paronetto’s objet d’art are constructed from a mixture of clay and paper pulp which result in structures which are delicate but sturdy. Her collections include vases, lamps and bottles and it’s the latter that has formed her signature style – and drew Veuve Clicquot to her work. “The bottles were my very first collection made from paper clay so this is really close to my heart,” she explains. “I don’t really see the bottles as objects. They’re figures, people and families – that’s why you see them grouped together. 

“The dialogue between different sized bottles together represents the human race. The bottles for this collaboration are also of different sizes representing the joy of being together and that’s what drew me to this project. It’s to honour Madame Clicquot and what she tried to do.” 

For the partnership, Paronetto has created six gift boxes crafted from paper clay in her favourite hues from her distinctive 86 non-Pantone colour collection. Named a ‘master of colour’ by Veuve Clicquot, Paronetto used the brand’s iconic yellow as her starting point, before branching out into other shades inspired by her love for nature. She explains: “These boxes are 100 per cent eco-sustainable [and] made from a paper-like combination of hemp, cotton and natural fibres. The colours are very connected with nature and are matte, not shiny. 

“The fact there are six colours goes back to the idea of being part of a group and enjoying life together. To see the combination of coloured gift boxes together evokes positivity and this sense of togetherness.” 

Alongside the Veuve Clicquot gift boxes – which are debuting in the UK this summer – Paronetto has also created a composition of three giant bottles named Giganti Monumentali. This limited-edition artwork is part of a travelling international exhibition, Solaire Culture, celebrating Veuve Clicquot’s 250th anniversary that will stretch from Los Angeles to Tokyo, with its current pit-stop in London’s Piccadilly ending on 6 June 2023. 

Alongside works by Kusama and Sheila Hicks, you’ll have no struggle spotting Paronetto’s 1.35 metre-tall bottles but, for her, the exhibition’s highlight is celebrating Madame Clicquot. “I love how much it showcases her life and the progression of her work. To see that in one place is really special. I want the exhibition to show people the strength and determination of women, as well as how far we’ve come and what else we can achieve.” 

Visit veuveclicquot.com

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