Experimenting with Glass in Paris

As you face the GlassLab hotshop on the Tuileries lawn, you can look right and see the Eiffel Tower. Look left and there’s the Louvre Pyramid. Behind you is les Arts décoratifs, a museum rich with objects from the Middle Ages until today. It’s almost surreal to be blowing glass in the midst of this.

But Arik Levy brings us back to our focus. “It’s not geographical, what we do. What design does, what art does and what glass does: it’s universal, it’s cosmic.”

Well said. Still, we’re in France and, as a result, we’ve had the privilege of working with some of the best designers in France, and an American designer who is internationally renowned. On Thursday and Friday, we worked with Matali Crasset, Sylvain Dubuisson, Francois Bauchet, Wendell Castle and Constance Guisset.


Each day starts with a fortification of French coffee, generously provided by Le Saut du Loup, the amazing restaurant of les Arts décoratifs. Then it’s an intense morning and afternoon of sessions with designers, with a lunch break, again generously provided by our partners. (Tough, but we manage through it.)

Our sessions have been quite varied. Each designer brings a different perspective, a different level of experience with glass. We are accomplishing exactly what GlassLab sets out to do. We experiment with glass with designers, who, through that experimentation, learn about the material.

Wendell Castle at GlassLabIn the case of Wendell Castle, we perfect a martini glass design we’ve worked with him on before, at the Vitra Design Museum and then again in Corning. The stem is right, with just the right center of gravity. “You can’t defy gravity, but you can confuse it,” says Wendell. He takes his martini dry, straight up, by the way.

We have three sessions with Matali Crasset this week. She’s been experimenting with organic shapes, and also a futuristic series on Friday called Nanoglasscity. Each project is a grouping of glass, where color has meaning and the shapes are distinctive, playing together. Matali has worked with glass before, but she says GlassLab is important “because it’s about experimentation.” Over the course of the week, she has learned to push the limits of the glass, but not so far that the project will not be successful.

Glassmaker Eric Meek and designer François Bauchet

Glassmaker Eric Meek and designer François Bauchet

GlassLab also pushes the glassmakers to try new things. François Bauchet, who is interested in the idea of cells, and cells building upon each other. His design was experimental, using the idea of twins and cells found in nature. The team gathered and blew bubbles on two blowpipes and then encased the bubbles together in glass. The team tried variations of this, with different shapes. The result were very elegant, organic vessels. It was the first time Eric Meek, the Museum’s GlassLab manager, had ever blown glass in this way.


Sylvain Dubuisson came on Friday with the idea of making delicate slipper vases of glass. Not, he said, clunky adult slippers, but delicate slippers like a child or Cinderella would wear. The imperfect process of handforming glass was part of the magic of the experience for him. Friday evening wrapped up Constance Guisset, who experimented with color combinations and forms. She’s designed glass aquariums before, but at GlassLab, Constance wanted to use the immediacy of the design process to try placing a round glass ball under and inside vase forms, both centered and off centered, to simply experiment.
Constance Guisset
We will present GlassLab at les Arts décoratifs until Sunday. The schedule includes Benjamin Graindorge, Antoine et Manuel, Didier Tisseyre,  Steven and William Ladd and Vanessa Mitrani.

For each session, we see a variety of people – all ages, interests and backgrounds – usually several hundred through the length of each session. We’ve seen a lot of people from home (imagine the surprise of an Elmira couple just wandering to the Louvre and happening upon us!), we’ve seen visitors from FIAC and the surrounding museums, students from Parsons School in Paris, and just the curious wandering through the park. Many bring their dogs, who roam happily through the crowd, chase each other through the park and occasionally sit and watch with us.