Quimper’s proximity to the rivers gave it plenty of access to clay; it’s been known as a pottery town since the late 1600s. Faience, the French term for glazed earthenware (as opposed to porcelain, manufactured to be more delicate) is your go-to souvenir here. Quimperware is recognized for its bright, hand-painted motifs, often Breton figures, fruits, and flowers. One of the most popular designs is a male Breton or female Bretonne, both in profile and in traditional costume. Today this 19th-century motif is copyrighted and fiercely protected.
The best shopping streets are rue Kéréon and rue du Parc, where you’ll find Breton products including pottery, dolls and puppets, clothing made from regional cloth and wool, jewelry, lace, and beautiful Breton costumes.
One site that produces stoneware is open for tours. From April to September, Monday to Friday 10am to 12:45pm and 1:45 to 4:30pm, five to seven tours per day depart from the visitor information center of La Faïencerie Henriot-Quimper, rue Haute, Quartier Locmaria (www.henriot-quimper.com; tel. 02-98-90-09-36). Tours in English, French, or both last 40 to 45 min. and cost 5€ for adults, 2.50€ for children 8 to 14, and are free for children 7 and under. On site, a store sells the most complete inventory of Quimper porcelain in the world. You can invest in first-run (nearly perfect) pieces or slightly discounted “seconds,” with almost imperceptible flaws. Everything can be shipped.
For more Breton pottery, as well as fine tablecloths, linens, and other household items, visit François le Villec, 4 rue Roi-Gradlon (www.levillec.com; tel. 02-98-95-31-54).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.