How to recognize real handcrafted Santons?

The santons, from the Provençal “les petits saints” are figurines used to decorate Provençal cots and decorations. It is advisable to buy them directly from an artisanal manufacturer, for example, a santon workshop. Authentic santon figurines are made of clay and meet precise quality and manufacturing criteria.

Genuine santons made in Provence

Nowadays, too many Santon figurines made somewhere in a hurry are invading the Christmas markets. One of the top producers imitating this thousand-year-old Provençal craft is, of course, China. If you want real santons and not a counterfeit, you will have to be careful, as some have become masters in imitating santons. A simple way to recognise real santons, but one that is difficult to apply, is to take the figurine and throw it on the ground to see that it is indeed made of clay or terracotta and not of plastic, ceramic or resin. But the method is difficult to apply! It is important to know that the making of a real santon is the result of a very precise process and craftsmanship.

A detail which does not deceive

To be sure you are buying real santons and not crude copies, just look under the base of the figurine. Indeed, a real santon always bears the signature of the santon workshop that created it. If the santon does not bear any signature, there is something fishy going on and it is better to look elsewhere. Failure to respect this trademark leads to a substantial fine, because industrial property rights apply to everyone and one cannot improvise oneself as a santon maker. A santon workshop is registered and protected. To make authentic figurines, cots, wells and mills with their hands, the Provencal santon craftsmen use exclusively natural components that they look for in the Provencal countryside: small stones to build the houses and natural decorative elements made in Provence for the ornaments.

Craftsmen proud of their craft

Today there are about 250 santon craftsmen, three quarters of them being installed between Nice and Nîmes. They make real santons and are very proud to maintain ancestral working methods. Counterfeits at low prices, coming from all over the world, do not stop them and success is on the agenda. Inimitable colours, finesse in the modelling, an artist’s work for a neat and precise rendering, inimitable characteristics to have real santons.

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