Harcourt glassware graced many famous tables, from Napoleon III to John Paul II’s. It was only natural then for the Lausanne-based ECAL (Ecole Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne - University of Art & Design) to launch a special project between the Master in Design and Luxury Industry course students, Baccarat and London-based designers Ed Barber and Jay Osgerby, aimed at reinventing and radically transforming the historical glassware.
Celebrating the 170th anniversary of the Harcourt glassware, the project – led by Head of the MAS Luxury programme Augustin Scott de Martinville – started with a visit to the factory site in Lorraine, at the foot of the Vosges Mountains. Here students discovered crystal glassmaking, monumental ovens and the precision of the handmade production. Each student then reinterpreted the glassware, creating lollipops, turning glasses into chess pieces, designing bear trophies covered in sparkling crystals darts, stretching glasses like in a 3D modelling software or coming up with surreally playful fragile cup-and-ball sets.
Dazed Digital: How did this collaboration come about?
Augustin Scott de Martinville: The Master of Advanced Studies in Luxury Industry and Design (MAS-Luxe) is based on collaborations between students and luxury companies. With our different partners, we work on subjects as diverse as watches, accessories, tableware or jewellery. With Baccarat’s assignment to work on the Harcourt glassware, the students had to reinterpret in a contemporary way a design that has existed for 170 years. Baccarat has a long history of collaborating with prestigious artists and designers, so the students were quite enthusiastic to be given carte blanche to design new pieces.
DD: Was this the first time Ed Barber and Jay Osgerby collaborated with Ecal?
Augustin Scott de Martinville: Ed Barber and Jay Osgerby have given several workshops at the ECAL. Lately, the two collaborations with Christofle in 2008 and Nespresso in 2009 were great successes. The duo is both inspiring and friendly and the students love working with them!
DD: What was the thing that struck you the most when you visited the Baccarat factory in Lorraine?
Augustin Scott de Martinville: The visit was absolutely amazing! The crystal pieces are still made by hand today - the craftsmen’s work is like a very precise choreography involving up to fifteen artisans.
DD: Some of the pieces created by the students are very playful while retaining the quality Baccarat is famous for, did the students find this project fun?
Augustin Scott de Martinville: The theme was celebrating the 170th anniversary of the iconic Harcourt glassware and this probably gave a playful twist to the projects. Another reason why the students opted for such playful themes is that it contrasts well with Harcourt glassware that is usually found on the tables of kings and world leaders.
DD: Will some of these pieces be put into production?
Augustin Scott de Martinville: The collaboration was a great success for us because, amongst other things, the people at Baccarat were really pleased with the results. They have informed us that they want to put some pieces into production but we’ll find out more about it in future.
DD: What was the most challenging aspect of this project?
Augustin Scott de Martinville: We had to think out of the box and come up with fresh ideas, but the outcome had to be produced by artisans trained in two centuries old techniques. In the end we both learned a lot from this contrast. I think it’s important to show what companies with great craftsmen can actually produce.