In Saint-Brieuc (Côtes-d'Armor), the world toothpick museum has just opened its doors for a few days.
On view until February 20, this burlesque and traveling exhibition is the work of artist Claudine Orvain, who makes stylish and quirky toothpicks in her workshop.
This project started from a nod to Alfred Jarry, the famous poet and writer who had asked to have a toothpick on his deathbed.
It is an everyday object that dates back to the dawn of time.
Since prehistoric times, the human species has taken a liking to cleaning their snags with a toothpick.
Older ones were made with bones or wooden twigs.
Over the centuries, the toothpick then became gentrified.
To distinguish themselves, the aristocrats used prickly sticks made of solid gold, silver or ivory at the table.
Always used after meals to flush out the remains of food stuck between the teeth, it is today an accessory without charm, in wood or plastic, which is sold in boxes of hundreds of pieces at the supermarket.
An artist has been trying all the same for a few years to restore her letters of nobility to the toothpick.
This is Claudine Orvain, alias Carry Bridge.
According to legend, she was born in the late 1950s to a poor London family, picking the teeth of her ten siblings to eat the crumbs.
More realistically, it was at the end of the 1990s that this former dancer fell in love with the toothpick.
About sixty toothpicks on display
At the time, the team of the Les Uburlesques festival in Laval, organized in tribute to the poet and writer Alfred Jarry, was looking for ideas for its programming.
"I discovered that Alfred Jarry had asked, as his last wish on his deathbed, to have a toothpick," says Claudine Orvain.
From this anecdote, I started tinkering with quirky objects.
This is how the World Toothpick Museum was born, an ephemeral and offbeat exhibition presented for the first time in the capital of Mayenne in 1999.
It was only twenty years later, in the midst of the Covid crisis, that these absurd and stylish creations came out of the closet.
Co-responsible for the Théâtre de l'Échappée in Laval, Claudine Orvain was then bored.
“I took the toothpicks out to display them, but I found them ugly and untidy,” she says.
So I took advantage of the confinement to customize them and redo others with everything that came to hand.
“In all, around sixty toothpicks, all more original than the other, which have been on display for a few days at the Saint-Brieuc tourist office, which this year celebrates the 150th anniversary of the birth of Alfred Jarry.
Every toothpick has an unlikely story
The creations are classified into several themes (utilitarian, decorative or playful) with each time an improbable story specific to each toothpick.
The visitor thus discovers the "special seafood" toothpick, "a superb specimen, gilded with leaf, which was found in the wreck of the Titanic", or the "L'Amérindien" toothpick, accompanied by its small arc, "to clear unwanted interdental debris".
There are also celebrity toothpicks like the “Gainsbourg”, made up of a rolled up ticket, or the “Yannick Noah”, which is “big enough to get stuck between his two front teeth.
Crazy and faithful to the spirit of Alfred Jarry, the world museum of the toothpick is to be discovered until February 20 in Saint-Brieuc.
And maybe soon in other cities.
"We hope indeed that he will travel in the coming months", underlines Claudine Orvain.
Reims: Free museums for three months to attract visitors
Rennes: The Brittany Museum acquires four precious Gallic sculptures
Did you see ?