I lived on the French Riviera for a few years, near Grasse, long enough to come to abhor the cicada. I can't count the number of nights spent waiting for this insect, voted you know as the noisiest on the planet, to be quiet (something which NEVER happens) so that I could fall asleep. The male cicada is very busy contracting his tymbals in a desperate attempt to not end the summer single, a very sad outcome given the trouble he goes to in attracting a female.. These bugs take a cheeky pleasure in producing such a racket, the cry of a desperate lover, making the heat of Provencal summers almost unbearable! And yet, once arrived in Provence every visitor rejoices in the idea of hearing the sound of these little anoyers !
How did the cult of this incorrigible insomniac chatterbox begin? In 1895, Louis Sicard, a very important ceramist from Aubagne was invited by the Marseille Tilery company to reflect on the best symbol for Provence. He made the cicada, with as motto, Lou solèu mi fa canta, "the sun makes me sing." Since then, it's impossible not to see this decorative object when you wander through the cities and towns of Provence: in ceramic, it displays colors each one more surprising than the next, and some even sing thanks to a motion sensor, whose inventor is actively sought by the locals! These souvenirs fly off the shelves; shopkeepers whose windows were invaded by swarms of cicadas are left satisfied with success !
Because everyone loves them, and finds in these souvenirs the little piece of Provence that they're thrilled to take back home, a tangible memory of vacations with the scent of thyme burning under the sun.
And as a gift, it works every time. To give a cicada is to give more than just a ceramic insect, it's to give a little bit of our collective memory, an object completely integrated into popular culture. It's a nod to the 60s, conjuring the highly publicized vacations of Brigitte Bardot at La Madrague, her property in St. Tropez, it's departures for summer camp, or a little Pastis drunk at the bar after shopping at the market, telling ourselves that one day we'll move to Provence. We can't count the number of people who have bought this ultra-kitsch souvenir back from their vacation, to display with pride in their urban kitchens. We even have one in the editorial office here, bought back by the creative director and affectionately known as George.
The cicada exports easily, it's a collectable, making for an offbeat amateur hunting trophy. They're everywhere, always, with their two little wings impatiently waiting for your eyes to close in order to sing their biggest hit, "tsstsstsstsstsstsstsstss."
Céramist Les Deux Provençales
2 boulevard Emile Combes