Time to Reflect on Design

Travel Notes from Paris

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Every September, the European home design industry returns from their summer break in August to present the best of their new creations at the International Maison Objet show in Paris.  The market is focused on home decor, interior design, and lifestyle concepts, with a very inspiring combination of innovation and new talent throughout the halls.

Simon, Jay and I traveled across the Atlantic to walk the market, meet with some of our partners,  and find new resources or makers we can potentially work with on products. The show also gives an opportunity to spend time discussing, brainstorming and sketching out our approach to design for the next season.  We debate over what can be integrated into our product categories, what new ideas we can bring into existing collections, and where we could layer on new decor concepts.

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“The market gives you a perspective on what is happening in the world with design, and home furnishings, and we distill what makes sense for our line, whether we are buying or designing”, says Simon.  Maison Objet also gives us a sense of what direction glass is heading in, and in a world with the majority of the glass being machine made, we find we are well differentiated with the ‘hand’ being the core value of what we do. We further defined our design mission while traveling. We monitor what is happening in the market but take a great deal of  inspiration from nature, and we blending that with our humanistic approach to design and making things. To capture the essence of our designs, we use a reductive approach of taking away that which isn’t needed to arrive at refined simplicity. The intent of the designs are to amplify the handmade aspect of our products, resulting in objects that are a joy to live with at home.   

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One takeaway from the show was a growing interest in the handmade with small batch production, and a traceability story about the materials.  We found a few other European glass makers, that Simon truly enjoyed talking with, from building furnaces to raw materials used. Glass has also become quite pervasive, as a material of choice for designers.  

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During the market, all across Paris, the whole city was celebrating ‘Design Week’, with interior design events and companies launching their latest products in their retail outposts. 

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We had the opportunity to meet with our Italian linen partners, Bertozzi, and reviewed several new designs that they worked on with us, and also some new offerings they created.  Their hand block printed patterns are one of Simon’s favorites. While travelling through Morocco Simon discovered Bertozzi linens at one of the hotels he was staying at. When Simon returned from the trip, we pursued the company and since developed a great partnership with them as they have a similar ethos, with the handmade approach to their products.  

New concepts from the trip will appear in our Fall Holiday season of 2020.

Beachstone Pottery

Earthy poetic in form & technique

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Artistry, concentration, and the hand all contribute to the remarkable objects we turn out at our pottery workshop everyday. The challenge of building things from the ground up, with earthy clay takes a blend of virtuosity, muscle memory and a keen eye to what looks balanced and well proportioned.

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Our latest artistic creation from the pottery is our Beachstone collection.  The inspiration comes from the natural elements here in Vermont.  Along the shore of Lake Champlain, particularity in the area of Shelburne farms, there are beach stones and rock formations that are made of 450-million-year-old, Iberville Shale.

The stones have beautiful graphic striations and veins of the mineral calcite, that inspired the sedimentary effects we wanted to capture in our clay.  By experimenting with different colors  of clay pushed together; we created the effect we wanted to achieve.

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Jeff, our master potter, has a great deal of experience with unique techniques and has perfected marbling the clay and throwing forms on the Potter’s wheel that reveal the graphic striated layers of clay.

Links to: Round Vase / Classic Vase / Bowl

See how it’s done below.

In Good Company

Twin Farms/Opus One Collaboration

Gathering around the Table

We recently had the pleasure of joining forces with Opus One Winery and Twins Farms, to provide a beautiful Vermont based dining event for guests at the Twin Farms.  The aim of our efforts, was to bring people together for an elevated experience around the dining table, with the combination of great food, amazing wine, and handcrafted excellence in glass.

This dinner event, at Twin Farms, featured seven courses, by guest Chef Sarah Steffan, of Blackberry Farm, and Nathan Rich, of Twin Farms. France Posener, who is from Opus One, told amazing vineyard tales of the company history, it’s evolution, and gave an in depth background on the wines being tasted. To compliment the theme of the evening, each couple attending the event received a Bristol Wine Decanter from Simon Pearce.

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The decanter, is a special glass vessel for us, which started out much like the Bristol Tumbler adhering to proportions from the golden section ratios found in nature.  Simon brings a keen eye to proportioning, and attention to detail that is a hallmark of our design philosophy. We carry these values through every new design, and it is innate to this modern decanter.

We blend distinctive form with function. The character of the design first started with renderings on paper while considering the right capacity for a bottle of wine, and creating the proper amount of interior surface area for the wine to decant. Through the sampling process, we tested them and made  revisions, before the process of manufacturing began, right here at our workshops, in Vermont.

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With our trip to Napa last spring, we set out to form relationships with companies like Opus One, and cultivating a deeper connection with handcrafted American wine.

Our first collaborative dining and wine tasting experience around the table was at Ocean House, an amazing destination in Rhode Island.  The culinary expertise for the food was a combination of Twin Farms with Ocean House, and France Posener eloquently spoke about the Opus One wine being served, and I gave the guests insights about the design and making of our Barre Pitcher which we featured that evening.

 

The Barre Pitcher is a contemporary fluid form that  is a joy to use, and is reminiscent of the silhouette of an Egret.

Awards in Design

Pratt Fashion Visionary Award

As part of a larger design community, Simon Pearce has cultivated relationships with several higher education institutions, and promoted the awareness of handcrafted Design and the cultural impact it has on our lives. An example of this, is Pratt Institute’s Fashion Visionary award, which is a glass object designed and handmade here at Simon Pearce to celebrate the accomplishments of a designer in the Fashion Industry. The development of the award changes from year to year, with new forms being explored in R&D, that can express the nuances of fashion in glass.

Our most recent creation started with a hand rendering, and was the result of working with riverstone shapes in glass, applied around the form of a modern vessel.  The organic characteristics of the hand formed stone shapes, show off the quality of the glass, particularly with the way light refracts through them.

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 This year, the award was given to Kerby Jean-Raymond, for his notable achievements in Fashion Design as creative director at Pyer Moss.

A prior award design that we provided, took inspiration from a twist of fabric pulled around a shape. The Initial sketches lead to building an armature, that Jan Mollmark masterfully assembled with a wood buck, that he used to locate exactly where the steel wire needed to be to create the creases in the glass form.

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The result was an alluring vessel with curving surfaces of glass, that are accentuated by the creases that form the twisting look of a flowing dress.

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Rose Byrne presenting the award to Francisco Costa

Past recipients for this glass award have been,

Gabriela Hearst, Created her own brand of luxury ready to wear and accessories, and is well respected for her commitment to quality, sustainability, and social activism.

Francisco Costa, Creative director of women’s Calvin Klein collections.

Fern Mallis, Fashion Industry Lifetime Achievement Award from Pratt Institute – presented to her by designer Calvin Klein.

 

 

Finding the Twist

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“Like anything we create, the ideas go through phases of distillation until we happen upon something we love.”  -James Murray

The simplicity of the Woodbury line, finds it hallmark characteristics in the pursuit of trying to produce an object that is geometric, yet handmade.   The brilliant glass of the original Woodbury vase appears to be rectangular but have soft surface changes and a gentle radius that forms at the rim.

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Simon started the vase design back in 1990, and it has proved to be a favorite, and is an icon within our collection.  The original intent of the Woodbury line was to form squares and rectangles in glass that bring some beauty and pragmatism to everyday life.  On the glassblowing floor, while making these items he discovered that the glass flows in it’s own way to form more humanistic surfaces and curves.

Blog post on the full Woodbury glass line here.

In our design studio, we explore ways to continue these concepts of working with geometry and organic soft execution in glass.  While experimenting with ways to re-interpret the rectangular vase, we did some bristol paper models, creasing the center, and adding water to it to soften the paper in the center to form a twist.  The result was intriguing, and so some renderings of the idea followed to further investigate what the effect could be.

We thought this had potential and brought the concept to the glassblowers, who then spent some time trying to capture the nuances of this idea. They ultimately found that heating the center with a torch made the vessel more malleable and they were able to achieve a light gestural twist effect that we loved.

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A visual benefit of the fluid twist in the vase, is that it obscures the stems and branches of flowers, while marrying nicely with the artistry of arranging flowers.

Find the Woodbury Twist vase in the website store here.

 

Designer James Murray featured in Surface Magazine

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James Murray pictured above, full article in Surface Magazine here.

“Whether ideating biomorphic chandeliers or sleek barware sets, the glassblowing aficionado searches for exciting new ways to honor Simon Pearce’s ethos of combining character with function.” -Ryan Waddoups

Some of the featured Simon Pearce products below.

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“I’m most excited about Alpine, my soapstone and glass barware collection. The soapstone elements can be frozen, and once chilled, can keep drinks cold. It’s been well-received and demonstrates how uniting different materials can be a great source for new design concepts.” -James Murray

As the weather turns warmer, and we look for ways to stay cool, sipping chilled drinks can do the trick.  Ice is the usual cooling element, but if you don’t want to water down your drink we propose using frozen soapstone, paired with our handcrafted glass as an optimal way for tasting drinks, particularly bourbon.

The Alpine Collection was also featured on this blog here and on our website here.

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“The Vine chandelier is a new direction for Simon Pearce—we can combine glass in near-limitless combinations with metal for lighting.”

In partnership with the Modern American Blacksmiths of nearby Hubbardton Forge, this handcrafted light fixture is designed to illuminate your dining table, kitchen island or entryway in beautiful hand-forged metal and handblown glass.

The Vine Chandelier was also featured on this blog here and on our website here.

Future development in streamlined, glass-handled bar tools, prototypes shown above, also mentioned in the article.

Check out the full article in Surface Magazine here.

Shaping the Wine Tasting Experience

Introducing the Vintner Collection

 

“We set out to build a glass line with characteristics that are designed for the serious wine taster.” -JM

Last May, Jay Benson, Dana Sabatino, and James Murray ventured on a trip to the California wine country to visit tasting rooms and meet with wine producers we are considering for partnerships. Being inspired, we came back to Vermont and created new stemware to appeal to people serious about wine tasting, and lovers of thin, hand-blown glass that enhances the tasting experience, without having a glass that overtakes the wine, in weight and physicality.

 

The pulled-stem technique that we use, results in a thinner, more lightweight stem and bowl typical of a classic Sommelier’s glass.  The thin stem and base offer functionality and grace.

 

The line was designed with modern proportions, taking cues from our Bristol red wine glass in form.  The glasses are generously scaled to show off the wines within.

There are many options of wine tasting glasses by European makers that are machine made, and have a seam on the stem.  The Vintner Collection from Simon Pearce does not have seams because we hand-craft each glass.

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The thin bowl of the glass is designed to have a lot of volume, and room for air to circulate with the wine, and yet not be heavy. Ripple lines of our handcrafted process still appear in the bowl of our glass, different from machine made glass by other wine tasting glass companies in the industry. Our bowl shapes are ideal, and relate to how quickly  we want the wine to pass into the taster’s mouth, which effects the experience and flavor.

 

An additional benefit of the thin base, is that it is easy to swirl the wine while holding the foot, during a wine tasting.

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The Vintner Collection is sure to please anyone looking for the “whole wine tasting experience”, with the refined balance of the preferred wine in a high quality hand-crafted glass.

The Waterbury Collection

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In design, we continue to be inspired by the natural surroundings here in Vermont. The immersion in Nature easily influences our perspective on developing objects, as the natural elements are filled with interesting forms, textures and colors.  When we consider a new glass line, we strive to capture the artistry that comes from the handmade formation of glass, and the impressions that Nature makes on us.  Fluid and malleable glass is almost unlimited in the possibilities of what can be achieved, and we impose our ideas and reflections on it.

While hiking the Waterbury Trail, we happened upon a small waterfall, and were stuck by how the element of water is always a delight for sense of sight, sound and touch. We also ventured to nearby Moss Glenn Falls for a more dramatic experience.  We  wanted to capture the essence of water flowing and the swirling textures that occur in a new glass.  We started R&D of the glasses based on sketches, but looked to the glassblowers to turn out each glass with a unique interpretation of the watery impression.  Each glass captures a moment in time, with an artistic gesture.

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The collection started with a tumbler, and then we scaled the same design up to a hurricane shape, which looks incredible with candlelight going through the swirling effects.

To compliment the tumbler, we created a carafe with a simple elegant form that lends itself to the layering process of gathers to create optic effects.

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Thinking about lighting, and the interaction with gathered glass effects, Simon created the Waterbury lamp in two sizes, to compliment the collection.  As the glassblowers work with these voluminous shapes, the layered effects of the double-gathered glass give a feeling of water movement that is visually stunning.  The lamps come to life when you see the light going through the glass, much like the dynamic impression from the streams and waterfalls of Vermont.

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Shimmering Trees

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Building upon the much loved Echo Lake design, that is inspired by the ice formations occuring over the waterfall at the Mill, we attempted the same technique on a few tree shapes and were excited about the result.

 

 

These eye catching wintery trees are the perfect balance of classic & contemporary design and make a statement for any centerpiece.  The perfectly imperfect strands of molten glass are finely wrapped around each tree form to create this shimmering effect.

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Echo Lake Trees: 8″, 10″, 14″

Celebrate the season, by creating a cluster or even a forest of mixed trees, for a grand tablescape, or mantle display that will be a delight through the winter months.

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Throughout the wintry months in Vermont, we take photos of the different states of water and ice over the waterfall, for design inspiration.

Elegant Designs & Enduring Connections

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From Left to Right: Jay Benson, James Lawless, Corin Mellor, & Simon Pearce

On a cool November day, we were pleased to host Corin Mellor and James Lawless, from the David Mellor company.  They made the trip from England, driving up from Boston, to visit our flagship Mill in Quechee to provide some product background about their flatware, and reconnect over lunch with Simon.  Corin is the son of master metalworker, designer & retailer David Mellor. Today, Corin carries on the tradition started by his father as the creative director, and leads the company’s design efforts with new creations, and curation of what they sell in their stores.  Corin, and James Lawless (sales manager), had lunch with Simon and Jay, to hear stories from Simon, of the enduring connection between David Mellor and Simon.  Both went to the Royal College of Art, and both had the same interest in functional and beautiful design. When David Mellor opened his first shop on Sloane Square in London, it was a destination for design and offered Simon’s glasses that he produced in Ireland.  With their connection, Simon also carried David Mellor flatware in his shop. Simon’s penchant for making glass was an influence on David, and they both were part of a maker’s movement that was happening, at the time.

 

David Mellor was from Sheffield, which was a center for flatware and metal work.  He was first trained as a silversmith, and specialized in metalwork but also designed beyond flatware, pursuing a variety of industrial design opportunities such as home accessories and even street furniture. He was a pioneer of modern design in England, and is famous for his flatware which won numerous design awards with Pride being one of the most highly regarded patterns.

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Paris 5-Piece Flatware Setting

The Paris pattern was created in 1993, and originally intended for the The Silver Trust in England, it is now a highly popular design for us, and has an incredible finish.

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Pride 5-Piece Flatware Setting

Pride is a modern classic and yet has some design cues that originate from Georgian proportioning; a very similar origin to the classic influences on Simon’s first glass designs.  Pride was designed in 1953, and was first created in silver with a bone handle for the knife, but was later redesigned in stainless steel. This beautiful flatware set exudes all the hallmarks of elegant design, with simplicity as the primary characteristic.  Corin explained the progression of making the flatware and how the buffing and finishing requires many steps.

 

The philosophy behind the Pride pattern is synonymous with what we stand for at Simon Pearce. The flatware pattern compliments the timeless quality of our glassware and dinnerware, and has been with us for decades. While style and tastes come and go, these designs stand the test of time.