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Know-how serving giants

Dunkirk's Carnival, Lille's Grande Braderie...: for centuries, the Hauts-de-France region has cultivated a festive spirit that has even been recognized by UNESCO, with the Cassel and Douai festivities and their impressive Giants being listed as part of humanity's intangible cultural heritage since 2005. These extraordinary figures are custom-made by specialized local craftsmen.

Timeless folk art

While an estimated 700 large traditional figures regularly grace the towns of the North, Dorian Demarcq alone has created some 50 in his aptly named Atelier des Géants. This makes this enthusiast one of the last creators in Europe of these representatives of the Nord's festive identity, with his workshop in Ronchin having been awarded the "Living Heritage Enterprise" label since 2016.

This is a fine accolade for a skill that involves designing new Giants every year, as well as preserving and restoring these impressive articulated puppets, which appeared in various European cities at the end of the 14th century. At the time, they had a religious meaning, but today they have an essentially playful dimension, with the characters, animals or dragons incarnated being highly entertaining to observe.

Combining different skills

For the past 17 years, Dorian Demarcq has been keeping these living traditions alive by juggling different crafts.
To give birth to a new member of the great family of Giants du Nord, you need to know how to draw, sculpt, model, assemble, sew, paint...

You also need to know how to juggle a wide range of materials, including:

  • wood, wicker or rattan for the overall framework,
  • paper and molded cardboard for the bust (head, shoulders and chest),
  • leather and horsehair for the hands,
  • or clay, wire mesh, paint...

To dress his Giants, the Lillois calls on another regional player perpetuating an ancient savoir-faire, the Fil'ambule sewing workshop. Founded by Gaëlle Lopez and Laurie Ysmal, both from the 59 department, this small travelling company joined the Giants adventure in January 2022.

They are pieces of living heritage.

Dorian Demarcq de l'Atelier des Géants

Since then, the two enthusiasts have put their different "hand-made" skills to work in Atelier des Géants, having gradually assimilated the particularities of XXL costume making. It's an essential step in bringing these characters to life, embodying a specific story for each commissioning city.

Like the Atelier des Géants, which is often open to the public, Fil'ambule enjoys sharing its skills in its lovely travelling caravan, which covers the area from Fourmies to Valenciennes every summer. So don't hesitate to climb aboard this atypical sewing school if it's passing near you, where you can design a totally unique bag, cuddly toy or garment, or contribute to the eco-responsible approach dear to its 2 founders by donating old pieces of household linen, buttons, spools of thread or unused scraps of fabric.

So many recycled elements that will perhaps have a 2nd (glorious) life on a Northern Giant?

To find out more about these passionate craftsmen, click here to see how the festive Northern emblems are made, and here to see how they are creatively dressed to order.

Valérie from Comme des Français



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