A ceramist's guide to Parisian café culture.
After Madoka Rindal had her first child, she would wander the hillsides of the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in Paris’ 19th Arrondissement trying to lull her son to sleep. The sprawling public park—home to an artificial lake, grotto and countless winding paths—became so intimately familiar to Madoka that even now, years later, it feels like home. Afterward, she would head to Le Marigny, a simple café facing the entrance of the park. It’s the type of place, she says, where old people have their habits and will talk about the weather, or where locals gossip with the waiter. After ordering a croque madame campagne (a grilled ham and cheese sandwich adorned with an egg) and tea with milk, the ceramist would grab a window seat and sink gently into her surroundings.
“I try to be as invisible as I can,” she says of her café habits. “I watch people passing by on the street outside and imagine their lives, I listen to people’s conversations, and, at a certain point, I dream away into my thoughts… After time spent in a café, I will always feel peaceful and come out with ideas for making or doing things.” Inspiration also comes from the corners of Paris that sit outside the city’s most fashionable districts. Madoka’s several years spent in Chateau Rouge, a neighborhood known locally as the African Quarter, are still vivid. “There are a lot of African groceries, hairdressers, street peddlers selling fruits you’ve never seen, steamed corn, grilled corn, perfume, huge Chanel logo patterned blankets, and lots of people walking in every direction,” she says. Her own life at that time mirrored the potent energy of life on the streets outside: It was a “dense and intense” existence, punctuated by frequent parties and alcohol-fueled discussions that went late into the night. Although brief, those years left an enduring mark on her relationship with the city.
“Paris has forced me to ask myself what exactly my identity is,” she says. “In this city, there are so many different influences and even more creative people. You really need to know who you are, otherwise you get lost in the stream and become a bad imitation of someone else.”