When the Dutch designer Kiki van Eijk first visited the Saint-Louis factory, she was immediately spellbound. Surrounded by forest in northeast France, the centuries-old cristallerie held an air of mystery and magic. “It’s still emotional to me, to this day,” van Eijk puts it, “how objects can carry so much meaning.”
Founded in 1767, Saint-Louis is France’s oldest glass manufacturer and has become celebrated for its classic silhouettes and quiet luxury. The work of van Eijk—an Eindhoven-based designer whose oeuvre ranges from furniture and lighting to glass—embodies a contemporary creativity and childlike wonder. So it was an unlikely, but fruitful, pairing when the two initially joined forces several years ago. Van Eijk released the first iteration of her noted Matrice collection with Saint-Louis in 2013, and added sparkling new vases to the 15-piece collection that debuted this spring. Referencing a “matrix,” the collection of lighting and vessels draws inspiration from the thousands of historic crystal molds she uncovered at the Saint-Louis factory.
“Over the course of more than 430 years, Saint-Louis has accumulated 6,000 molds in which molten crystal, blown by the talent of master glassworkers, is able to get into shape,” she explains. By tying her modern forms back to these historic references, van Eijk was confident that she had created something fresh, yet honored the lineage of Saint-Louis.
The new vessels are created using both diamond and bevel cuts to maximize light refraction, and are realized in a deep “flannel” gray and a piercing indigo blue. Cylindrical in shape and slightly tapered at the mouth, the vases are each ringed with an intricate, glittering disc. Each begins as a glob of melted glass and is shaped, cut, and polished by hand by Saint-Louis’s artisans. But this humble origin story is easy to forget when unwrapping such a crystalline wonder. Van Eijk is equally enchanted: “It’s like working with nature—wild, perfect, free,” she says. “You can be part of this magical process to transform melted glass into a real physical presence.”