This blog post comes to us from guest contributor Dr. J Fremont, an author from Southern California. Fremont’s debut novel, Magician of Light (She Writes Press), was published last week on May 17, 2022.
For more than 25 years, Fremont practiced as a veterinarian in addition to serving as an adjunct professor at a local university and community college. In retirement, Fremont has focused on the arts, in particular jewelry making, glass fusing, and sewing. But her passion lies in research and writing. Magician of Light is the fruit of that passion.
Set in Paris and London at the end of the 19th-century, Magician of Light explores the formative years of glass pioneer René Lalique, weaving concise factual detail with a compelling love story of the author’s invention. Lalique is an aspiring artist navigating a period of great artistic expression, who meets and falls in love with Lucinda Haliburton after she returns from a fateful trip to Egypt. Through an artful blend of romance, thrills, mysticism, and historical accuracy, we discover the origins of Lalique’s famed reputation.
As we celebrate all things glass during The International Year of Glass, add Magician of Light to your wish list and join us at The Corning Museum of Glass to rekindle your love affair with the life and works of René Lalique.
I credit my late mother, Barbara, a teacher, and an artist, for introducing me to art at a young age. The Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements, especially the decorative arts aspect, piqued my interest. While developing ideas for a novel regarding ancient Egypt during the era of Thutmose III, I discovered that this pharaoh elevated the craft of glassmaking and manufacturing. Wanting to learn more about glass production, I dived into the research and found a picture of the famed glassmaker, René Lalique. An artist whose work spanned these two art movements and was considered by many to be one of the founders of the art nouveau style. Lalique was also fascinated by ancient Egyptian motifs, incorporating them into his work. Ultimately, he became the subject of this story while Thutmose III and his cohorts would have to wait for another day.
Desiring to learn more about Lalique, I found the book, Enchanted by Glass (published by The Corning Museum of Glass, 2014). I immediately ordered it and began to learn all about him. Well-researched, this reference includes substantive information that proved invaluable to me, as well as prolific quantities of high-quality photographs. I gained wisdom through studying the visual aids relating to Lalique and his art.
Writing historical fiction entails a considerable amount of research. An incredible asset, Enchanted by Glass energized the beginning of my delving into Lalique’s life. The book is well-written and filled with details about him and his 60+ year career. I became illuminated and enchanted simultaneously. The title even helped inspire the title of my book. One of the most practical things in the book was the inclusion of a timeline of his life. This list gave me a starting place to begin to organize my ideas. It would be an understatement to say that René Lalique was a busy and productive artist. He had so many remarkable accomplishments and events that it was difficult to choose what to include in my novel. I wanted to create a historical narrative, not a historical recounting.
An artist at heart, Lalique was also a businessman, industrialist, and inventor. Initially, a jeweler by trade, Lalique elevated the use of enamel in his designs. As he became a proficient sculptor, he incorporated more glass in his pieces. In 1891, he applied for a patent for one of his techniques. Later, he started casting more substantial items using the cire perdue method, where the molten glass is poured into a mold created utilizing a wax model, thereby creating a one-of-of-kind piece. As Lalique became fascinated with the material, he experimented and, along the way, received many patents regarding his innovative applications to glass production. Fashioning molds of all sorts and then finishing the glass pieces with cold-working methods such as acid-etching, sand-blasting, and polishing. He continued to create larger and larger works until, at the end of his career, Lalique focused exclusively on architectural elements.
Many publications concern his phenomenal art and professional success, but my fictional narrative focuses on Lalique’s personal life and the people most important. One of those people was Francois Coty, a pivotal player in Lalique’s transformation into a master glassmaker. Coty commissioned the famous jeweler to produce beautiful perfume bottles. Together, they brought the art of perfume to a new level, aesthetically and economically.
The cover of my book is a perfume bottle created by the Lalique company based on one of his original designs. Lalique’s favorite flower was lily-of-the-valley. Given the pleasure of co-creating with my cover designer, I helped produce this fitting image to represent my novel about an artist transfigured by nature, women, and perfume. I also wove in Egyptian themes as he did in his objets d’art. In my narrative, I threw in some adventure and romance for delight.
Magician of Light begins in Lalique’s adolescent years in Paris, following his journey as a student apprentice to a leading glass manufacturer. While his professional life drew international acclaim, he struggled to find balance away from factories and studios. Although my tale contains a fictional love story, it includes some real-life anguish he faced pursuing his dreams.
I sincerely hope that my readers will enjoy the book and gain as much pleasure as I did while writing it. Many thanks to The Corning Museum of Glass for getting me started on my voyage.
*All images courtesy of Dr. J Fremont