Emmanuel Babled has worked with glass for 25 years, designing collections for Baccarat and Venini, whose Murano glassblowing furnaces he knows well. On a visit to Simone Crestani’s workshop, however, Babled is keen to learn about a glassmaking technique that is wholly new to him. Crestani begins all projects with a slim cylinder of borosilicate, a glass commonly used for beakers and kitchenware. But it’s not just the kind of glass that distinguishes his work, it’s that he’s developed a sculptural way of working it, pulling it into delicate bonsai branches, the tentacles of an octopus or dozens of sea anemones strung into an elegant chandelier.
As Babled dons a pair of protective sunglasses, Crestani fires up the blowtorch to demonstrate his technique: blowing gently through a rubber tube to expand the heated glass, shaping it with tongs, fusing it to another piece. Babled seems to know exactly where to stand and just when to move out of the way as Crestani whisks a hot tube from a revolving machine to shape it at an adjacent workspace. By now it is late afternoon, and as they sip water from a set of glasses made by Crestani, they realize that they don’t have the time they need to define and refine a product. Instead they will work on a sculpture shape.
“Being here I see it should be something more sensible and also more emotional,” says Babled. Crestani is glad for the chance to explore new ideas. “Even if I’m pushing limits as a craftsman, it’s valuable to take a step back and see the material with another eye.”