We enter Vincent’s place as in Greek mythology. Between the god of fire, Hephaestus, and the god of exchanges, Hermes, both in love with the beautiful Aphrodite, goddess of creativity. This Glass blower has a thousand talents and such an insolent freshness in front of the burning furnaces of his huge country workshop. There, as at his first love, the artist gets pretty passionate and dances with the flames, to transform hot material into molten glass with sensuality shapes and transparency effects. This enchanting passer-by is also a dream-maker for the artists and in his own creations. He embellishes all what he captures with his senses and digs up inside the reality with his translucent creations, in order to question our perceptions and the impermanence of the world.
Located in Brussieu, his workplace is “the largest private hot glass workshop in France”, and soon a reference in Europe. Here, it is the campaign on the outskirts of Lyon and for him, a return to his childhood experiences. “I grew up in the Netherlands in an urban city. This has nurtured my parents’ desire for a new life, closer to nature.” He is 12 years old when his father, who became a painter sculptor, liquidated his business and settled with his family in France. Vincent kept intact the memory of this arrival “in a village of 300 inhabitants for a return to fundamentals.” By his Dutch origins, the artist also recognizes his natural need to respect the environment and communicate in full transparency. “France is my country of adoption and there is nothing more beautiful than living in this country.” There, he chose to live with his own family in a continuity with the values of self-fulfillment and authenticity desired in early childhood.
As being the eldest son of a family of artists, Vincent decided to move towards the drawing at the age of 16. He did a bachelor’s degree in Applied Arts, and then trained with a BTS in industrial design because “the object was more interesting in volume than in two dimensions.” But at 22 years old, not feeling a call to work in design offices, he decided to go into an Art school “to approach creation in a broader way”.
He will get the shock of his life at the blown glass workshop of the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs in Strasbourg. “At 22, I had never known that one could blow glass. I heard a dull thud, a purr that intrigued me and I went to see what was happening.” On that day, a glassmaker from Quebec, Gilles Désaulniers, noticed the sparks in his eyes at the view of the hot glass and invited him to try. He will take courses and learn very quickly. Then, with an insatiable curiosity, he will visit France and Europe, to find masters in glassmaking and learn the trade as close to the life of the workshops. “I was eager to master the technique in order to achieve what I had in mind. And in each place, I stayed a week to three months to help and learn.”
Back in France, Vincent Breed will become the assistant of the American glassmaker, Scott Slagerman, in the famous Viaduct des Arts in the 12th arrondissement of Paris. “He taught me a lot and after 3 years I wanted to create my own workshop.” The recognition of the public following a personal work, will also encourage him. “My master was often on the move and, instead of waiting for him, I once collected the falls found in his trash and I wanted to tinker with it.” He assembled, deformed and cut to make his first glasses around the concept of bouquet. The result will go round the press. “When one drinks wine, one speaks of a bouquet of wine. So I said to myself: Why not make a bouquet of glass!” The delicate and unusual work is a set of bouquet glasses a little twisted, like a centerpiece sculpture. And when we turn the glass, it makes a vase to put a little bouquet in it. “So I played on this concept of bouquet by making a multifunctional glass that is at the same time poetic.”
He then moved to the historic district of Vieux Lyon. Two years later, he transferred his studio to the suburbs and closed the showroom in the pedestrian zone in 2009 “to devote himself fully to the creation and production of unique pieces.” Vincent Breed has been working since 2001 with renowned artists, decorators and architects from all over the world, and his works are exhibited from Hong Kong to Monaco, including the Murano Glass Museum. Since 2014, he designs all his pieces in his workshop in Brussieu.
What is striking about Vincent is the look of the lover he has kept, as in the early days, “on the extremely sensual matter of hot glass.” It comes out from the oven at 1200 degrees in semi-liquid form “and captures me by its luminosity, its incandescent nature and its beautiful roundness.” It is also a material that has its own consistency “with a real life, a true will and a memory too”. Indeed, the hot glass does not permit the tiniest error, and this is also what appeals to him. And at the end, it’s a fusional relationship with a lap dance of a great voluptuousness. At first, Vincent blows and introduces a bubble into the glass, then he accumulates mass by playing on the colors of the hot material. Then the glassmaker starts giving a form. There, “it responds to my gestures; Strength, intensity and all the energy I put in it.” With the left hand, we see the artist constantly managing the rotation of his cane, while with his right hand, eyes closed, he caresses the glass with an infinite delicacy witnessing its creation. “Everything is so sensual, so natural and so sweet!”
Vincent Breed’s masterpieces would seem to indicate the intensity of this love encounter. His objects with nice round lines have an obvious relation to the human body. “I have male and female sculptures and there is often an encounter: a form that goes into another.” This can be a symbol of the union between man and woman, “but it is simply an interaction between two elements, the first receiving the other, the second giving itself to the other. I want to have this extremely human and natural concept, present in my sculptures.”
Then there is our relationship to reality, because the artist likes to challenge us on our subjective or objective perceptions. Glass, moreover, is a material that lends itself well “as one might wonder if it really exists (since we can see through it).” Vincent introduces ambiguity in his creations to gets us thinking out of the box. An example with his project of eyeballs for the Festival des Lumières in Lyon that was finally canceled in 2015. He wanted to present enormous eyes that lit up one after the other at the rhythm of a breathing rate. “This leads us to reflect on the importance of the eyes in our lives and the gaze of each of us which could become a harmonious whole in the end.”
Another example is his sculptures for the Hotel Murano, frequented by stars. The artist created a series of sculptures with human profiles of 1m80 to 2m high, in as many sizes as possible “to thumb its nose to the dictates of fashion“. Vincent Breed indeed likes challenges. His desire now is to work on an outdoor sculpture and especially with large pieces, “as for this customer in Hong Kong for whom I realized a sculpture of 30 meters wide and 8 meters high.”
For this master glassmaker, all is about sharing and connection. The pieces of work first, that are conceived to vibrate in their environment. Then the customer relationship that is absolutely essential in all the creating process. “Each work needs a context to find meaning, and only this exchange will allow genuine inspiration.” For the artist, creation is always intended for something specific and “It is once out of the workshop that the object begins its own life”. He will therefore give birth to his sculptures from the inside, so that the work is conceived in such a way that it welcomes the environment in it. “That’s why I work a lot with the inclusions of silver and precious metals in glass. In a way, it welcome the environment as in a mirror.”
Friendliness, connivance and exchange are also ever-present, especially with other artisans and glassmakers. Vincent Breed has initiated with some passionate friends, an associative project that will soon see the light of day, and which will bring together all those who work glass in France. “A unique concept with all the corresponding trades associated from glass paste to stained glass, and with all stakeholders: students, art galleries, collectors or suppliers.” Finally, his caring about others drives him to share his Lyonnais workshop “and provide new ways of operating the co-working”. The objective is to share the 6 workstation to welcome students or professionals with real know-how, but who have a seasonal production or economic motivations. This structure will also give real prospects for success for young people leaving school, giving them the opportunity to rent a workshop at moderate prices and leave with their production. “The idea is to enable them to do what they love best and make a living with their passion!”
Vincent Breed is actually a torchbearer. By his works at first, that have the ability to refer us to ourselves. Then, through his projects and the way to approach them; always in the bond, the search for meaning and the energy that gushes to transform the world. Finally, because of what he is deep inside: a cheerful and colorful person who accept his vulnerable part as the sturdy glass he works, to build a more genuine human relationship. This is indeed his finest sculpture of transparency, because there lies the spark of creation and the source of joy. Sure, we go back inflamed with his crystalline laugh, happy to have met this extraordinary glassmaker!
Interview held by Carine Mouradian on June 11, 2017, in Brussieu (Lyon)
“Authenticity is first and foremost a relation to reality. Everything exists thanks to the light, and the glass in particular, insofar as it is transparent and more or less translucent. This brings us to the question: What really exists? Since we see through it and we can even get a glass panel if we do not see it. It is the confrontation with this matter that would make it real? Is it a material without being one? Does it exist while being absent at the same time? I like this ambiguity and the glass also lends itself very well to these mirror effects. Through my sculptures and installations, I can even deliberately disrupt reality for the public to ask question. For this purpose, I just have to measure the light according to the natural curves of glass and its opacity, or to introduce an external element into the glass such as color, precious metal or impurities, to reveal it. For example, one hundredth of a millimeter of silver associated with glass, and one gets the impression to see chromium when he draws near! It is important to be aware of all this to change our view on what is real because there is often little need to do.
For the glass craft, the eye is one of the first senses and it is essential to produce genuine works. I have a trade that offers a path of perfection, and one learns every day patience and humility, which become natural if there is passion. It is necessary to have the eye in the proportions; The eye in the correctness of the temperature (because the temperature is indicated by the color of the glass); Finally, an eye and hands coordination to shape the material and giving it form. There is also the drawing because we take a look at the sketch to know where we are going. I worked very much on the symbol of the eye in my sculptures because it is also our most obvious contact with the outside. It is the link between the feeling, which is internal and purely personal, and the external, which is the link to others and to the environment. The eye can also lead us to sometimes subjective feelings as objectives. It is therefore necessary to re-learn how to analyze things rationally. What pleases me in the eyes is not at all the intrusion, and that is what I wanted to pass in the exhibition of the eyeballs at Lyon. Look ! Feel ! Your set of eyes are not those of someone else and it is a fantastic tool that allows us to live, feel, observe, analyze and we never do enough observing. One of the keys for being there is simply in our look of eyes. Looking at what is beautiful, what is good and what gives us emotions … We are in a perfectly subjective approach of life but this is where we can find joy. And only then, we can turn towards becoming outward-looking and see what we can share together.
Authentic human contacts are very important for me and I always prefer to have a direct relation with the person who will acquire the object or the artwork. For what inspires me in most projects is the tie or link between between me and the person I have in front of me; then the link between me and the material, and also the link between the object and its environment. Based of these connections, I can create a sculpture, a light fixture or a purely poetic object, or even an art installation or performance. Indeed, the ultimate privilege is in the creative bond where there is no dilution. This is the real luxury ! The result is something unique, which exists only in a single copy and was made for a given person, for a given use and for a given place. For me, the most beautiful creations where I feel that there is a true authenticity is when it is the fruit of an encounter. I also like working with architects and designers. For them, I am no longer the artist but the artisan who tries to bring technical solutions to their creations and each project becomes an amplifier of research and challenges.
We craftsmen, we are actually dream makers! Our clients come to us with their dreams and we accompany them to realize them and to materialize them from concept to object. Dream is a marvelous and an unlimited world! And it is like an unreal world to be in the workshop. We give form with our breath, create a volume with the air we expire and give birth with this force that comes from within, to a dream that can be ours or that will be shared with the one who acquires the artwork. That’s why it’s the place in the world where I feel the best. It is the ideal world where everything is built around my sensibility, where I can find myself with what I am today, with the history that is mine. It is also a place where I can put my luggage and my worries and dare to expose myself, showing me from my angle the most fragile and the most vulnerable; This is where I take off my safety and give up all my protections. In the end, authenticity is what is true, what is transparent. And to reach it, we must find back our childlike soul and leave more room for dreams in our lives! ”
Interview held by Carine Mouradian on June 11, 2017, in Brussieu (Lyon)