In 2007, a dialogue between Clichy-based designer François Azambourg and the French glass research center CIAV, or Centre International d’Art Verrier, in Meisenthal, France, produced an extraordinary objet d’art: the Douglas vase. Made through the unusual process of blowing molten glass between two raw planks of Douglas pine, the vase emerged from the wood amid smoke and sparks, imprinted with the memory of the tree—grooves, veins, knots, and all.
On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Douglas vase, Azambourg and the artisanal glassblowers of CIAV created new shapes and scales for the Douglas series, launching them at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris before bringing them to WantedDesign Brooklyn. On view from May 19 through May 22 will be the pieces, their blueprints, and the new works from the Douglas series, made in collaboration with designer Leo Tecosky and the Brooklyn Glass team. Here, Azambourg reflects on his groundbreaking design.
What was the significance of Douglas wood? Was there something about the tree itself that initially caught your interest?
Our first attempt was in beech, and then in Douglas, because its grains are clearer and more pronounced than other species. There is no real precedent for this piece, but my preoccupation with the mold is recurrent in my work, as you can see with the Pack chair.
I know that you completed this as part of your research at CIAV. Can you speak a bit to the trial and error that went into this process, and the role that your collaborators at CIAV played in its conception?
The human scale of the CIAV really is an advantage. It allows various attempts in real time and to adjust the conception with the glassblowers. In ten years, we did many various projects and pieces. It really is a successful and easy collaboration.
Tell us about working with the Brooklyn Glass team and how their style might differ from your collaborators in Europe. Did you think they’ll have a different way of working that will influence the outcome?
The interesting part is the transfer of knowledge and know-how. I hope Brooklyn Glass blowers will come to CIAV. Collaboration with the glassblowers was key for this initial project, in the design and in the definition of the pieces. It definitely brings new elements to my practice.
Could you compare the 2018 Douglas glass pieces to the originals? How do they differ, and could you describe the process? Was this process easier than the first time?
The 2018 Douglas is a work on the plastic shape of the pieces when they just came out from the mold. Douglas mainly is a process of production, so we did many variations based on the same process: new shapes, new colors, and new sizes. It is neither easier nor more complicated.