(smow) blog compact Milan 2014 Special: Le Feu Sacré. Designers and glass blowers at Institut français

“With Milan design week, as with life”, we noted in our Milan Design Week 2014 preview, “the best, most interesting, most enjoyable discoveries are invariably to be made on the by-ways. And often as the result of spontaneous, unconsidered, chance, decisions.”

And so it came to pass.

On the Sunday before Milan design week we were busy completing all those important, unacknowledged, thankless, tasks without which this all wouldn’t be possible, when by pure chance we walked past the Milan dependence of the Institut français and saw that they were staging an exhibition. The existence of which we were until then unaware.

But which we are very thankful for having discovered.

Presenting works created by 17 design studios in cooperation with the Meisenthal International Glass Art Centre, Le Feu Sacré premièred at Grand Hornu in 2012 and is as much about the continuing importance of traditional crafts in contemporary design as it is about the works on display.

Tracing its roots back to 1704 the Meisenthal Glassworks fell victim to the harsh economic conditions in post war France and closed on December 31st 1969. In 1983 a museum was established on the site before in 1992 a group of enthusiasts established the Meisenthal International Glass Art Centre: an institution which not only reignited the Meisenthal kilns but also the tradition of experimental glass making in the Vosges mountains, a tradition that began in the late 19th century with Emile Gallé, arguably the most important French Art Nouveau glass artist.

We first became aware of Meisenthal through the Mesh Vase by Werner Aisslinger, an object created by blowing the glass inside a glass fibre textile bag, and so were delighted to see examples from the project on show in Milan alongside projects by international design studios such as V8 Designers, David Dubois, Andreas Brandolini, Jasper Morrison, etc, etc, etc.

One of the joys of seeing industrial designers working in an experimental fashion with glass is that it reminds us that, when all is said and done, design comes, in effect, from craft, industrial design from the desire to make craft more accessible and more affordable.

Le Feu Sacré is a delightful demonstration of this, and that despite all our alleged advances and sophistication, traditional crafts still feed the design process, still inspire, excite and drive designers to realise projects and to experiment with processes which they otherwise wouldn’t.

Many of the projects on display at Le Feu Sacré have no future as mass market products. But all contain research and experimentation that can be used elsewhere.

A fact that makes an institute like the Meisenthal International Glass Art Centre so important. And Le Feu Sacré so enjoyable.

Le Feu Sacré. Designers and glass blowers runs at the Institut français, Corso Magenta 63, Milan until May 16th.

The vernissage takes place on Thursday 10th April from 6.30 pm until 11.00pm, should you be in Milan we can think of worse places to be.

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