Meet the glass­blo­wers


Le Four Pa­ris was laun­ched a few months ago by ar­tist and glass­blo­wer Je­re­my Max­well Win­tre­bert and his team, Bap­tiste Ha­lad­jian and Léa Munsch, with the in­ten­tion of ma­king blown glass a part of our ur­ban and do­mes­tic en­vi­ron­ment once more. Le Four is both a ma­nu­fac­tu­ring site in the heart of Pa­ris – the on­ly one – and a range of eve­ry­day glass ob­jects. We met the team in their work­shop where mo­der­ni­ty meets tra­di­tion.

Can you sum up Le Four Pa­ris in just a few words?

Léa Munsch: On the one hand Le Four is a brand with a range of hand­made blown glass ob­jects, made here in Pa­ris and ai­med at the ge­ne­ral pu­blic. On the other hand Le Four is al­so a work­shop, a place of pro­duc­tion that pro­vides the means of re­crea­ting a link bet­ween people and blown glass. With Le Four we wan­ted to reins­tate the glass­blo­wer as a neigh­bou­rhood crafts­man, as was the case in years gone by. Vi­si­tors can see how the pieces are made, by whom and then, if they want, they can buy them di­rect­ly from us at an af­for­dable price.

Why was it so important that your work­shop was open to the street?

Je­re­my Max­well Win­tre­bert: We were ve­ry lu­cky to be able to rent this in­cre­dible space in the arches un­der the Via­duc des Arts, which is a lis­ted buil­ding. There was ano­ther glass­blo­wer wor­king here be­fore us, a pri­vate Ame­ri­can ar­tist who used to co­ver up the win­dows. For eight years I bad­ge­red him saying that if one day, by some mi­racle, he de­ci­ded to leave I’d like to take his place. And then the mi­racle hap­pe­ned (he laughs). In ge­ne­ral these kinds of work­shops are ei­ther com­ple­te­ly clo­sed in on them­selves with a sort of air of mys­te­ry han­ging over them, or open and de­li­be­ra­te­ly tou­rist-orien­ted with glass­blo­wers ma­king lit­tle ani­mals for sale. Here in the heart of Pa­ris, we make ob­jects by hand, with all the hu­mi­li­ty that re­pre­sents, and we show at the same time just how com­plex our work can be.

L.M.: In our opi­nion the trans­mis­sion of know-how is ca­pi­tal. That’s why we ac­cept a lot of trai­nees and ap­pren­tices: we want to en­sure that there is a fu­ture ge­ne­ra­tion of glass-ma­kers, that people who share our pas­sion go on to open their own work­shops and that our trade comes back to life.

What type of ob­jects com­prises Le Four’s range of glass­ware?

L.M.: We wan­ted to re­move people’s re­ser­va­tions about this ma­te­rial. We have de­ve­lo­ped se­ve­ral dif­ferent types of func­tio­nal ob­jects–glasses, bowls, jars etc–to convince people to be less sca­red about brea­kage. Our pieces can be used on a dai­ly ba­sis with no pro­blem. We crea­ted Le Four in Ja­nua­ry 2016 and since then we have been in what you could call a de­ve­lop­ment stage. We are in the pro­cess of de­fi­ning our aes­the­tic: ‘In­galls’ is the first col­lec­tion that re­sults from a glo­bal re­flec­tion.

J.M.W.: The la­bel’s vo­ca­tion is to find its own iden­ti­ty, in­de­pen­dent­ly of my work as a glass­blo­wer. The idea be­hind Le Four al­so comes from the fact that when, like me, you spend 18 years ac­qui­ring your know-how, what you’d like is for your friends and re­la­tives to be able to buy so­me­thing you’ve made. In my opi­nion, the sa­tis­fac­tion you get from drin­king out of a hand­made glass is the same as when you go and buy a big ins­tal­la­tion for your home.

Where did the name ‘In­galls’ come from?

L.M.: It’s be­cause the pieces in this col­lec­tion all have small points of co­lour made with frit (me­tal oxides in the form of small grains). You pick up the frit with the mol­ten glass be­fore blo­wing and eve­ry­thing melts to­ge­ther. We thought the re­sult, with these lit­tle touches of white, blue and yel­low, was ve­ry sprin­glike. It re­min­ded us of pol­len, of fields and then we thought of ‘The Lit­tle House on the Prai­rie’ with the In­galls (she laughs). It’s a simple name and we li­ked it. In fact it re­pre­sents what we are trying to do with Le Four: to create, hap­pi­ness, warmth and me­mo­ries.

You say you wan­ted “to re­move people’s re­ser­va­tions about this ma­te­rial”. Do you al­so want to give blown glass a more up-to­date image?

L.M.: Yes. We’d like to get away from clas­sic shapes and present so­me­thing more con­tem­po­ra­ry. We are all in our thir­ties and we want to pro­duce ob­jects that speak to us in the first place and then to the pu­blic. Our shapes are re­la­ti­ve­ly simple, which in my opi­nion is their strong point. Our aim is not to try and show off our tech­ni­cal pro­wess, al­though crea­ting simple shapes re­quires a lot of skill. We are trying to present a con­tem­po­ra­ry image of the glass­blo­wer. To­day, even if some brands or de­si­gn com­pa­nies sell ob­jects in blown glass, they are ac­tual­ly of­ten mould blown, which constrains their shape. Here eve­ry­thing is blown free­hand; the blo­wer can on­ly re­ly on his/her eye to re­pro­duce a piece and so each one is unique.

Je­re­my, you have al­so crea­ted an as­so­cia­tion, L-ate­lier. What is its vo­ca­tion?

J.M.W: It’s all ve­ry new. The as­so­cia­tion was on­ly crea­ted at the end of 2015 by my­self, Olivier Dol­lé and My­driaz, who work, res­pec­ti­ve­ly, in wood and brass. The idea was born out of a fee­ling of frus­tra­tion be­cause as crafts­men and ar­tists we have no ac­tual le­gal sta­tus. It is ve­ry hard for us to car­ry out an es­sen­tial part of our trade: the trans­mis­sion of know-how. Wor­king in arts and crafts is ve­ry dif­fi­cult from a fi­nan­cial point of view; the costs of ma­te­rials and ma­nu­fac­tu­ring are ve­ry high in­deed. To­day it’s not ea­sy for us to take on an ap­pren­tice. The sys­tem is ve­ry ri­gid. With this as­so­cia­tion we will put aside a sum of mo­ney so that a mas­ter crafts­man can make a piece with his/ her ap­pren­tice from A to Z. In this way, they will be able to work to­ge­ther from the de­si­gn phase un­til the piece is pre­sen­ted to the pu­blic.

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