Benoît Batissou is the head of the workshop at La Coutellerie Nontronnaise. He tells us about his job, his career, his favourite knife, the Nontron knife and of course… La Coutellerie Nontronnaise.
Benoît, you are the head of the workshop, what does that involve?
Cutlery is a field where the work is both very individual and very collective. Making a knife involves many stages and interventions that can be done either by the same person or by different people. Being a workshop manager means above all to have a good capacity to listen and to share. Sometimes question is about technical problems, sometimes it is about more general kind of problems (smile); so, you’ve got to be available. Secondly, you must distribute the work rationally and efficiently and, if necessary, suggest solutions. In other words, you need to have a good knowledge of the different aspects of the cutlery and woodturning trade.
How long have you been working at La Coutellerie Nontronnaise?
I joined the company twenty-one years ago. I was trained as a cabinetmaker. Because of an accident that prevented me from standing for long periods, I had to change jobs. That’s how I became wood turner and knifemaker. And for the last four years I have been workshop manager.
Do you still make knives?
Of course, I do! I am even in charge of training. At La Coutellerie Nontronnaise, I am responsible for the assembly and manufacture of the Nontron knife from A to Z (smiles).
What is your first outstanding memory?
The first time I saw the workshop and the knives coming out of it, I said to myself: this is not going to be easy. There are knifemakers or woodturners who have natural dexterity, which was not quite my case. But I thought, I’m going to make it and I said to my boss: if you can do it, I don’t see why I couldn’t, which made him smile.
What was your biggest challenge?
Each handle is different because of the gesture, which is personal and specific from start to finish. Each of us knows and can tell who made the knife by looking at certain details. So, it is important to execute each moment in the right way. But my biggest challenge is the number one knife because of its “wow” effect, it has a hoof handle, and it is huge. The model is still available to order.
What is your favorite knife?
Without hesitation, the double ferrule knife. I find it beautiful and elegant.
What does it mean to you to work at La Coutellerie Nontronnaise?
When you join La Coutellerie Nontronnaise, you know that you are benefiting from an ancestral heritage and know-how. Like all the employees of La Coutellerie Nontronnaise, I want this heritage to continue even after my departure. There is a dimension of being anchored in the territory and in a history. However, La Coutellerie Nontronnaise is open to the world, there are no well-kept secrets, no mysteries, everyone can visit our workshops. Moreover, it is a company that understands that to continue, it is necessary to create new models. It is a real source of pride to be part of this process.
What do you think La Coutellerie Nontronnaise cutlery represents for the town of Nontron?
I am a Nontronnais, everyone here has a neighbour or a family member who works or has worked at La Coutellerie Nontronnaise. La Coutellerie Nontronnaise is a symbol of heritage, but its strength is that it is not just that. To have built the building next to the castle was extraordinary, it was a combination of modernity and tradition. Today, La Coutellerie Nontronnaise contributes actively to the dynamism of the town and the region in terms of craftsmanship and art.