How did you become a stained-glass craftswoman?
I first studied foreign languages. I liked it, still I felt like there was something missing. My life turned upside down in Holland when I met a glassworker. He introduced me to his practice, a practice I thought disappeared. To me, it was a job from the Middle Ages that no longer existed! Immediately, it dawned on me that I had found something special. I liked its gestures, the technical requirements, and the fact that it is a discipline anchored in both ancient and modern history…
After my studies at Olivier de Serres (French National School for Applied Arts), I worked at a stained-glass manufacturer in Lyon; then in two Parisian workshops. In the end, my desire to realize my own compositions was so strong that I decided to open my own studio, La Couleur du Verre.
Why are you so fascinated by this material?
What fascinates me the most about glass is its transparency and the infinite lighting effects that can result from it. I also find that its textures enrich color much more than paint, gouache or watercolor can ever attempt to. I’m sure a lot of that is due to the fact that the bubbles and streaks encased in the inner layers of the material lends it a dynamism and sensation of aliveness.
Can you tell us about your creative process?
I always start by dropping into the place I am standing in, fully feeling, breathing and taking in its luminosity, its architectural composition, the nuances of its aesthetic… Deeply listening and tapping into the present moment in any space I am creating in is essential if I am to produce a coherent piece that is born from a place of sincere connection with and keen observation of my muses. This approach allows me to offer an honest transposition of my experience into any project, and begin breathing life into its material manifestation.
Fully inspired and aligned with what the final creation appears to be, I make maquettes and sketches, scaling them to one-tenth of its actual size. Once I am satisfied with these smaller renditions, I get on with the production of the piece. First, I cut the glass, which is a very tricky and meticulous exercise – one that requires at least seven years to master! Then – if required – I get on to the transformation of the material. Depending on what the particular piece is calling for, I can choose to choose paint – generally in a figurative style – or sandblast – a technique that consists in projecting highly pressured sand onto the surface of the glass. I often apply sandblasting because I find it brings a lot of refinement and texture to a piece, creating contrasts and tensions in compositions that demonstrate the interplay of polarities in expression. The final results evoke a dynamic dance between abstraction and wildness, and subdued minimalism swaying into an amplified rigour of the lines.
What are your inspirations?
I really appreciate Art Deco, Franck Lloyd Wright in particular. I am very much influenced by the work of Scottish architect, Mackintosh, and his wife, Margaret MacDonald. As for contemporary glass art, I like Pierre Soulages, as well as Carole Benzaken: they both knew how to use glass and its properties as a whole material.
”The work we do cannot be time-compressed…only our hands can attentively and patiently accomplish the delicate gestures required. I very much enjoy the immersion into the hyper-focused mindfulness and meditative state of mind this type of work calls for”
Do you see yourself as an artist or as a craftsman?
I have not been able to answer that question yet. Being a craftsman-creator is a hybrid exercise. In my practice, I feel defined by the gestures of the craft, the technical quality of the execution. I am very careful of these things. That said, the accuracy of the gesture is equally important as the artistic process. Both are too narrowly linked for me to make a choice.
What does it mean to be a stained-glass craftsman today?
It is a job that is a direct derivative of a legacy of craftsmanship passed down from the Middle Ages, deeply entwined with and reminiscent of our rich artisan history. In a contemporary world, having this kind of filiation is extremely pleasant. Being able to perpetuate such a history is something very few disciplines can offer, today. Also, its temporality is particular.
The work we do cannot be time-compressed; we do not use machines – only our hands can attentively and patiently accomplish the delicate gestures required. I very much enjoy the immersion into the hyper-focused mindfulness and meditative state of mind this type of work calls for, especially in the fast-paced world we live in.
How do you see modernity in your work?
In this line of work so steeped in tradition and historical methods, what I believe helps expand and challenge the preexisting boundaries and constructs in order to convey modernity is to change the established codes – like the classical ones used in churches, for instance. Every time we imbue our work with our own explorations of aesthetics and process, leaning farther into and pushing past the collective comfort zone on what is known, we introduce new dialogues around how we relate to this practice, all of which goes a long way in contributing to the modernization of this discipline.
In my work, I am especially attracted to minimalism and abstraction. The raw textures of the glass are mesmerizing to me, as it feels to me that in this form, the matter itself speaks freely.
It is also possible to be modern technically. Soulages created a new kind of glass for example. Though I’ve yet to get a chance to innovate on that level, in the future, I would very much appreciate working on projects that allow me to experiment with new techniques, perhaps, even create my own glass, for instance…