Erik Barray: Plant Sculptor & Urban Basket Maker

By Julie Rovero-Carrez | Published on February 16, 2017
  • Place Louis Pradel - Arboré Lum

    © Ville de Lyon/Erik Barray

    Place Louis Pradel - Arboré Lum

    © Ville de Lyon/Erik Barray

Erik Barray: Plant Sculptor & Urban Basket Maker Rue de la Poulaillerie 69002 Lyon fr

Erik Barray's desire: to weave a link between man and nature. His method for doing this? Basket making and his artistic projects which are constantly "weaving together the town." Wicker has always been his material of choice - flexible and free young shoots, just like him!

A childhood close to nature

Erik Barray was born in Perthes in Champagne, a childhood spent by the water's edge. "My parents were lock keepers. For me, it was a stationary journey, an imaginary journey!" All around him was the most beautiful playground, so, very quickly, he observed this nature, and he wove and built huts. And then there is the Marne Canal in Saône the final destination of which is Lyon, a particularly beloved city that Erik Barray would end up adopting. Determined, he went to basket making school and then worked creating bread baskets for bakers, fruit baskets, etc.

His big break as a "basket weaver artist" was probably linked to his meeting with the LVMH group in 1993: "They entrusted me with the windows of 150 shops throughout the world. I learnt to manage a schedule!" Then a long period of travel and discovery completed this initiation, enriching his palette.

Thus, from Madagascar to the Seychelles and from Beirut to Arizona, Erik Barray would thrive by drawing inspiration from local techniques, soaking up the culture and history in order to create a new artistic vocabulary in relation to his environment. "I've always wanted to travel, the further the better. Each trip makes you grow and I love the encounters!"

Adapting to his environment, he would, for example, work with candles in the landscape of a post-war Beirut, learn to weave cactus in Arizona and even to create the Maison de la Tresse on Reunion Island.

He ended up packing his bags for Lyon. With an endless curiosity, there he discovered gardens, got involved with great artistic projects, worked alongside architects and artists and participated in the Lyon Festival of Lights...

The Fête des Lumières, an old dream become reality

It was in 2007 that Erik Barray and his partners took part, for the first time, in the Lyon Festival of Lights. "It's my city, I was so proud!"

This annual event was created in 1999 and revives an old tradition born in the 19th century: the religious authorities had organised a competition for the creation of a statue at the summit of the Fourvière hill. The bad weather pushed back the inauguration day to nightfall and led the Lyon residents to place candles in their windows to light up their city.

Now the festival has over 180 artists working on roughly 80 sites. 10 years ago, Erik Barray proposed Cocons-Tiges (Cocoon-Stems) in the botanic garden, a kind of very poetic giant flower which accompanied the walker. In 2013 he came back with his wicker weaved Nid’lum, hung in the trees and subtly lit in their niches. "The idea was to provide light in the heart of winter."

The following year, this poetic stroll concept was extended with the Lumi Lierre on the banks of the Rhône, a kind of plant creeper which were covered in flowers at the top and accompanied the walker over 1.5km. "I wanted the trees to take their place again! We no longer look at them, we are too used to them. And yet, they're essential, they are our oxygen and this nature is at the origin of art!” For the 2016 project, the artist brought the forest to the Louis Pradel square! "Once the wood was cut, we rebuilt a forest with the logs which would vibrate and move with the wind."

For the first time, Erik Barray chose to combine sounds with his installation, working with Les Pilons, a Lyon sound studio. "The light and sound would change evoking the cycle of the seasons!”

Lyon, my city

A smell? "That of the brioche bread at my pork butcher."

A sound? "The water which runs under the bridges."

A taste? "Chocolate."

A sight? "Les quais de Saône."

My Establishments and Places

A gourmet restaurant? "Le Canut et les Gônes by Croix Rousse."
29 rue de Belfort,
69004 Lyon

A bistrot? "Cantabria vaise."
32 rue du Bourbonnais,
69009 Lyon

For a drink? "The Wallace."
2 rue Octavio Mey,
69005 Lyon

A place to get some culture? "La Fondation Bullukian Bellecour."
26 place Bellecour,
69002 Lyon

A place to re-energise, dream and wander? "Les Monts du Lyonnais, to get some perspective."

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