Mickaël Mariaud, “Compagnon du Devoir et du Tour de France*”, settled down in Murlin with his tools, the time to achieve his duty…16 April 2021
Originally from Corrèze (in the same department as Tonnellerie Saury), Mickaël first intended to work as a cabinetmaker. With a STI (Industrial technologies and sciences) baccalaureate in applied arts in hand, he went, on the advice of a friend, to the “Compagnons du Devoir et du Tour de France” with the idea to attend a practical formation in connection with wood. But he rapidly understood that there were few outlets in cabinetmaking when he was then offered to attend the cooper training.
The work pleases him. The relationship with the unprocessed wood is there. He is therefore embarking on this path for which he was by no means predestined for. No family link with the wine nor the cooperage industry… Mickaël by the way entrust that at that time, he wasn’t even aware of the existence of the cooper profession. And yet…
During his training, throughout which Mickaël was adopted as “applicant” before he was received as a traveling companion, the young apprentice-worker completed the steps of the “Tour de France” during five years, in several cooperages, some of which were related to the Charlois group. He finished his training in Chile at Nadalié, where he worked particularly on a cooperage workshop project for a Panamanian rum factory.
When he returned to France in 2020, he took on the role of trainer at the CFA (Apprentice Formation Center) in Beaune (Burgundy). He divided his time between the training of apprentices at the training center and of the coopers at Tonnellerie La Grange where he will remain until the end of the school year 2021/2022.
Transmission, inherent in companionship, is at the heart of his priorities. Passing on what he has received from his elders is essential today for Mickaël: “I really appreciate the fact that we stimulate young people, help them push their limits and outperform themselves. And then, they are always happy, despite the difficulties, to see the final result of their work. ” For him, training must go hand in hand with personalized support: “Training must be adapted to each individual. You can’t approach anyone with the same way because no one evolves or react the same way.” With a basic premise: to introduce to those whom he trains and supports the various techniques and working methods of the cooper. With all the keys in hand, everyone can then assimilate the techniques that suit them best and thus create their own working method from a common base of know-how. And remember that, as in stave mills, reading wood is essential in cooperage, especially when all the manufacturing steps are carried out in an artisanal way.
The formation of La Grange’s coopers
The production at Tonnellerie La Grange is unique in the way that the relationship to the material and the finished product is not the same as in a mechanized cooperage. Handwork at all stages of the production creates a special feeling between the cooper and the barrels he makes. The time spent reading the wood, shaping the parts, optimizes the raw material but makes it more difficult to handle breakages or leaks on the finished products.
For now, the coopers at La Grange are training themselves by making bentwood objects and small containers (buckets, vinegar jars, kegs and quarters). Mickaël notes that if “the base is identical, no object is the same in terms of finishes in terms of strapping, manufacturing details such as the height or shape of the rim. Each object bears the mark of the cooper who produced it. And since the coopers at La Grange already have a lot of experience, I push them to their limits by encouraging them to be daring. Because some small manufacturing defects can be caught up with the heating. It is up to each cooper to create his own level of tolerance. It is essential to give them this freedom during their training because I do not want them to do “Mickaël” during their career. I want to see “Dany”, “Antoine”, “Romain”. But you have to be realistic. We can afford this luxury because they are only three to train at La Grange.”
The size of the factory allows Mickaël to provide support on a case-by-case basis, depending on each person’s skills and knowledge. In this, Mickaël has sometimes more leeway at La Grange than at the CFA where he currently follows 13 young apprentices.
At the same time, Mickaël is supporting Alexandre Zefner, workshop manager at La Grange in his presentation for the MOF (Meilleur Ouvrier de France) competition which he will present during the next session.
A competition that Mickaël will perhaps present himself one day. But for the moment, he does not wish to project himself beyond his commitment to the CFA of Beaune and La Tonnellerie La Grange: “In a year and a half, a lot can change. Then I will want to take a break, to travel. Or why not take part in an interesting overseas workshop project like the one I worked on for Panamanian rum. Afterwards, I like the training and the transmission very much. I really enjoy following the apprentices and watching them grow. So why not continue along this path… but in a framework other than the one from the CFA.” A journey that we will follow, whatever his future direction is, with the greatest interest.
Training and transmission are essential to sustain the know-how of the Charlois group. They are at the heart of its social policy. And it is in this spirit that the group called on Mickaël Mariaud to perfect the training and knowledge of the coopers at Tonnellerie La Grange. Alexandre, Antoine, Dany and Romain thus benefit from his experience. He accompanies them individually, depending on each individual’s background, in mastering the techniques, gestures and know-how of the art of the cooper.
*Duty and Tour de France’s companion
Visual: The coopers of La Grange. From left to right : Romain (crouch), Antoine, Alexandre, Mickaël and Dany