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.