The Corning Museum of Glass has recently added the Shift side table to its permanent collection, made by the Belgian designer Sylvain Willenz.
Willenz was born in Brussels in 1978. In 2003, he earned his M.A. in design products from the Royal College of Art in London. In 2004, Willenz opened his Brussels-based industrial design office, Sylvain Willenz Design Studio, which specializes in lighting, products, electronics, and furniture. Willenz works for international clients with his partner Johanna Van Daalen, and his assistant Valérian Goalec. Willenz’s designs have received numerous awards, they have been exhibited around the world, and they are included in public collections in France and Belgium. The studio is represented by Victor Hunt Designart Dealer in Belgium.
Willenz designed the Shift side table in 2010, while experimenting with glass at the international glass and visual arts research center CIRVA (Centre international de récherche sur le verre et les arts plastiques) in Marseille, France. Established in 1983, CIRVA has invited more than 200 artists, designers, and architects to Marseille to experiment, explore, and develop ideas in glass with the assistance of skilled glass technicians. Similar to the Museum’s design program GlassLab, CIRVA actively promotes glass to artists and designers who may not otherwise have the opportunity to explore the properties and possibilities of glass.
Shift is made out of thick mold-blown glass that has been hot-worked, cut, and sandblasted to create a thick, hollow, racket-shaped tabletop that is attached to a hollow, slightly flattened cylindrical base. The table was made in three colors (opaque yellow, transparent graphite, and colorless) in a limited edition of 30 (10 of each color). The Museum’s table is opaque yellow with swirls of peach-colored glass (Figures 1 & 2).
Shift is created in one mold-blown operation, using a multi-part steel mold. Four skilled glassblowers are needed to blow one large gather of glass into a three-part steel mold for the top of the table, which is joined to a two-part steel mold for the base (Figures 3–11). After annealing, the base of the table is cut and the entire table is sandblasted (Figures 12─13). All of the process photographs are courtesy of Sylvain Willenz / Victor Hunt Designart Dealer.
The shape of the Shift side table reproduces the formal elements and details typically found in industrially-produced blown plastic products, which Willenz previously designed. The base and the racket-shaped top look different from every angle. The table will be a valuable addition to the Museum’s growing contemporary design collection. Although it is not currently displayed in the Museum’s galleries, it can be viewed using the Museum’s collection browser online: http://www.cmog.org/artwork/shift-side-table.