glass is tomorrow exhibition at the saint etienne biennale 2015
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glass is tomorrow transposes the highly specialized expertise of a glass maker into the contemporary perspective of designers and makers. the european network promotes a high level of craft, aiming to introduce, re-invente and re-create an exchange of knowledge and competencies between two industry professionals. since its inception, glass is tomorrow has organized six workshops, bringing together designers from across the globe with glass factories and their makers — the 5th of which designboom attended inside the production facilities of the ‘sişecam group’ in denizli, turkey.




glass is tomorrow II – workshop at verrerie de saint-just / saint-just glassworks
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the results of these co-creative workshops are presented for the glass is tomorrow exhibition within the historic musée de la mine, salle d’energie during the biennale internationale design saint-etienne 2015. organized and curated by lise coirier, founder of pro materia, ‘the sense of beauty’ — on from now until april 8, 2015 — embodies the breadth of technique, process, material, and aesthetics that are produced through these intensive collaborative workshops, aimed to generate a dialogue about the conception, production and distribution of contemporary glass works.

long tables display presented prototypes and finished pieces for the glass is tomorrow exhibition
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the exhibition is presented within saint-etienne’s historic musée de la mine
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both large and small scale pieces are presented within the exhibition
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the results of six co-creative workshops comes together for the exhibit in saint-etienne
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designers from across the globe exhibit the pieces they’ve created during the glass is tomorrow workshops
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contemporary designs on exhibit feature glass used in tandem with other materials
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the historic musée de la mine is infilled with glass creations, on display throughout the site
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a cylindrical red lamp hangs from a support of attached straps
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delicate, transparent glass stools part of the ‘sense of beauty’ exhibit
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for one of its workshops, glass is tomorrow has collaborated with the saint-just glassworks, a company with an expertise that is unique in the world. located in the commune of saint-just-saint-rambert, france, this ‘living heritage company’ is the last of such factories in the country specializing in hand-blown glass for architectural applications. since its founding in 1826, the company has developed a mastery in producing flat, colored glass panes to be used for the creation and restoration of stained glass windows (by matisse, chagall, miro and fernand léger, to name a few), the renovation of historical monuments (including the palace of versailles), and for insulated and laminated windows.


the unique methodology saint-just has honed over the years in crafting flat planes of artisanal glass actually begins from a hand-blown glass cylinder, when fragile, three-dimensional objects are transformed into a two-dimensional materials for architectural applications. the process begins with a solid piece of tinted glass, placed in the furnace in the evening and heated to arrive at the correct temperature the next morning at 6 am, when the craftsman begin their day. an artisan on the team, nicknamed ‘the gatherer’, then collects the incandescent glass with a metal blowpipe, which is used to blow the glass. the glassblower creates a cylindrical shape with the heated material by blowing into the heavy tube while simultaneously swinging the blowpipe within a deep and narrow pit set into the floor of the factory. this swinging motion allows the glass to slowly and naturally stretch from a molten ball to a thin and delicate glass cylinder. next, the tubular shape is removed from the blowpipe, cut along its sides, and prepared to be reheated. during this process, the shape is fed into a mechanical system that slices it along its length and reinserts it into an oven, where another craftsman tends to its reheating. when hot, the cylinder opens and flattens out, almost like the blooming of a flower. finally, the glass is refired to remove the tensions created by its cooling and to prevent its breaking. the glass plates are squared off in a rectangular format and ready for use.

a glass artist inserts the blowpipe and molten glass into the flame
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craftsmen at the saint-just factory prepare glass to be made into a cylindrical shape
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the material is spun while the hot blowpipe is cooled off with water
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a craftsman swings the blowpipe and glass material through a narrow pit built into the floor

the outcome of the first step: glass cylinders are created and prepared for reheating
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preparing the glass for reheating requires the glass maker to carefully remove it from the blowpipe

getting the cylindrical glass ready for the re-firing process
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the cylinders are fed onto a machine which slices them in half lengthwise
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when fed into the oven, the glass folds open like a flower, and is made into a flat sheet
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the craftsman flattens the now flat glass pane in the oven
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the pane is very slowly cooled to avoid damage
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finally, the glass sheets are squared off and packaged
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various colors produced at the saint-just factory
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the immense variety of colors produced at the factory
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