« I’ve been wearing this copper bracelet for the past seventeen years, it’s helped me avoid a couple of surgeries on my back… » Etienne Dulin waves a round shaped copper piece in front of our eyes : on top of being aesthetically pleasing, copper has therapeutic virtues. Established in Villedieu-les-Poêles, Atelier du cuivre has been open to visitors for more than thirty-three years.
Etienne Dulin’s Atelier du Cuivre is one of the last functioning copper workshop today. « We do commission work », explains the craftsman who accounts for twelve employees. « We do a lot of tailor-made work for the high-end establishments, just like these tables for a restaurant in Nice » points out Etienne Dulin in the 800 m2 workshop located off Villedieu-les-Poêles’ main street. The same town that received the prestigious label of « Ville et métiers d’art » thanks to its copperware tradition and heritage. It is in this small town of the Manche department that the eight new bells of the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Paris were made in 2013.
A bathtub for the mayor of New York…
As our visit of l’Atelier du cuivre continued, the owner lists a few of his professional accomplishments. Amongst the names of prestigious clients, he surprises us by stating : « I made a bathtub out of solid copper for New York’s mayor (former mayor Michael Bloomberg, NDLR) », smiles Etienne Dulin who specifies that commission work as such are quite common although most of his orders are for restaurants : « Famous chefs come to us, le Fouquet’s, le Plaza Athénée, le George V, etc. » It’s at this moment that the Normand craftsman takes out a chef’s hat made out of copper. He explains that they are trophies given to the laureates of a cooking competition.
L’Atelier du cuivre accounted for more than a million visitors since opening to the public. Delighted visitors that get to explore these corridors steeped in history and discover the craft on display in this workshop. « What we are most interested about is seeing the craftspeople at work ! », says a visitor that morning.
Waiting for the next owner
« Today, the most important thing is to ensure the workshop’s sustainability and I’ve been working hard at it for the past ten years », concludes Etienne Dulin, as he is preparing his retirement. « Actually, I should’ve stopped years ago ! » but not without the guarantee that this beautiful workshop will continue… At seventy years of age, the craftsman confesses that he has been in negotiation with a possible buyer for some time now.
L’Atelier du cuivre
54 Rue du Général Huard 50800 Villedieu-les-Poêles
+33 2 33 51 31 85
Open Monday to Saturday from 9 am until 6 pm.
Closed on Sundays.