The French Revolution was followed by the Industrial Revolution: in 1790 three merchants from Strasbourg arrived at Sarreguemines in Lorraine in order to exploit water, fire and earth for their own purposes. Nicolas-Henri and Paul-Augustin Jacobi set up an pottery factory here with Joseph Fabry. But the business soon failed and the factory was taken over in 1799 by Paul Utzschneider. Thanks to the introduction of up-to-date techniques, his business sense and that of his son-in-law, the turnover increased and the factory flourished until it was renowned throughout the world around the turn of the 20th century. 3000 workers made faience articles, majolica ceramics and enamel signs here. Since 1982 the subsequent business "Sarreguemines-Batiment" has devoted itself exclusively to tiles.
The kiln is cold. An eleven meter high brick cone rises up into the sky between a car park and some high buildings in the middle of town. Nowadays visitors can go inside and listen to the echo of their own footsteps, but in 1860 it was completely different. Then it was one of thirty red-hot kilns waiting to be fed with ceramic articles by workers sweating in the heat. Now it is the only remaining example of its kind in the whole of Europe. By contrast, the old residence of Paul de Geiger is elegant and colourful. It now houses the Faience Museum. The heart of the house contains a winter garden, a mecca for lovers of the culture of representation. Temporary exhibitions on the theme of ceramics make a welcome change to the every day life of the museum.
The path of clay to the unglazed clay body, to "Obernai" faience plates is traced in the New Museum of Faience Techniques in the Blies Mill. The methods and materials used in producing ceramics are illustrated by a multimedia show in several languages on the tripartite basis of "explain – recount – display". The only other place in Europe where you can see something similar is in Staffordshire, England. Two working-class housing estates in town bear witness to where the workers once lived: these are part of the "Faience Trail". The dwellings (erected in 1869 and 1926) are situated between the "Casino" arts centre with its beautifully tiled rooms, and the Blies mill. Whereas the buildings in the older housing estate comprise two dwellings under a saddle roof with different types of doorways and annexes, the new estate has been set out in a geometrical fashion. Renovated in 1988, the completely identical houses run along five parallel streets. There are four dwellings to a house, and each house has central washhouses and vegetable gardens.
The tableware shop not far from the "Casino" arts centre contains many souvenirs, including replicas of older items.