Makeup artist Karim Rahman has a new must-have product: clay.
But don’t expect it to show up on models’ faces in his next photo editorial. He’s using it for the ceramic creations that take pride of place at his latest project, the Hors-Series gallery he opened in Paris with framing specialists Marie-Christine Gautier and Frédéric Duarte.
Opening a space dedicated to ceramics was an outcome Rahman never imagined when he got his hands dirty seven years ago by following a friend who signed up for a hobbyist ceramics class. “I was interested but I didn’t immediately realize that I was a collector. It really hit when I moved, packing them all up. That’s when the magnitude of my thing for vases hit me,” he admits.
A first bowl, the simplest item by his account, was his gateway to practicing ceramics, which culminated in him enrolling in a five-month course without telling anyone — “not even my assistant,” he says.
What really cinched the deal was the solo practice. “No artistic director, no stylist, no photographer, no assistant, no colleagues. Just me, my teacher, and the fact that I’m building an object with my hands — the same tool as I use as a makeup artist — that won’t be erased with a swipe of remover,” says the makeup artist, whose work has been photographed by the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Patrick Demarchelier and Collier Schorr.
Glazing, too, proved equal parts scary and attractive to him. “In makeup, if I mix white and red, you’d get pink. But here, it can end up black or bubble up in strange ways because it’s chemistry, molecules that required me to really dive into the science of it.”
Initially he kept his newfound passion under wraps, out of fear of appearing a dilettante. He splits his time evenly between Paris and his career as a sought-after makeup artist, and the ceramics world he has built around his house in the Luberon, a hilly area in France’s Provence region.
Jumping from solo practice to gallery owner played a large part in that process, he says, explaining that shining a spotlight on other ceramists was essential to the project, since offering solely his own creations would have been like “a photographer launching a magazine, but just publishing his own images.”
So he formed a trio with Duarte and Gautier, who helped him structure his ceramics work. “I’m used to being surrounded by a team. When I go into my [ceramics] studio, I don’t know where to start. Even if I have 350 plates to turn out, I’ll make three, go down for a coffee, walk my dog,” he admits, adding that he was finishing large orders promised for restaurants in France and Hong Kong, including trendy Parisian eatery Rose’s Kitchen, before taking a break from orders to make room for his more artistic practice.
The gallery, located just a stone’s throw away from La Samaritaine at 91 Rue Saint-Honoré, was previously a showroom for Duarte and Gautier’s framing work. The 270-square-foot white space simply indicated by a lowercase logo — by long-term friend Ezra Petronio — offers little visual distraction, letting the ceramics of Hors-Séries’ rotating roster of artists do the talking.
Their intention with Hors-Séries was to showcase ceramics as an accessible art. “Even though some pieces border on sculpture, I wanted utility — vases, bowls, things that have a function on top of beautiful to look at — and to be affordable, so people can dream about them, but can also find one that fits their budget,” he says.
Pieces are attractively priced, starting around 100 euros and arriving just shy of 1,000 euros. Although that isn’t a hard limit, Rahman feels that higher figures “had better be justified by rare techniques or thousands of hours of work.”
For their opening exhibition, the trio offered up white vases as a symbol of this blank page in their respective careers. Flowers from trendy Parisian florist Debeaulieu — “I used to buy three vases a week from him,” Rahman confesses — brought life and color to the ensemble.
Among the pieces featured are colorful columns by France-based British ceramist Sophy Mackeith; wavy large-scale vases by American artist Luisa Maisel; the tubular shapes of Solenne Belloir, and the gravity-defying free forms of Margot Dawance, who uses drying time as one of her parameters. A range of attractive 1960s wood-effect pieces by noted French ceramist Grandjean Jourdan takes pride of place on a wall, with Rahman quick to specify they were his personal collection.
The criteria that helps an artist get into this gallery? Surprise the trio. “Everyone has references but what counts is a distinctive vocabulary, nothing too evident. That little something that tells us we’re in the presence of someone who is serious [about ceramics],” as Rahman put it.
Coming up next for Hors-Séries are exhibitions on dinnerware in March and light fixtures in September, with perhaps one on beauty objects in July, as a way for Rahman to connect the dots further between his two creative spheres. “Now that you’ll print this, I’ll have to stick to it,” he jokes.
If ceramics inspired a different approach to colors and textures to his makeup artistry, having the gallery as a fixed professional abode also brought him a sense of peace. “It was a way to feel grounded — pun intended — and be able to stop, take time. There’s something great about putting down your rolling kit and being attached to a place,” he confides. “You have a happy man in front of you.”