Artist Spotlight Jean Thebault

share your creative practice:
in conversation with Jean Thebault

What influences translate into your art practice?

 

 

My approach to the glass is informed by research on glass as a raw material, it’s history, it’s processes, and how humans have interacted with it. The pieces created are deeply inspired by my observations of nature, my perceptions of landscapes and my awe of natural powerful forces; with a specific focus on geological events such as sedimentation, erosion, weathering, volcanism, and decay. My creative process echoes the words of French chemist A.L. De Lavoisier: “Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed”

 

 

Has this changed the way you approach your work?

 

 

Yes! These influences led me to reconsider everything I knew about glass-making. Not only about aesthetics, or making processes, but also about the medium itself. Indeed, I now see in the glass, not only a material, but the result of millions of years old geological phenomena, shape-able by hand. It is part of a big cycle, where glass-making and the art pieces themselves are also meant to be transformed over time, and eventually will get back to another state

 

What initially captured your imagination about glass?

 

 

At first, I was mostly interested in designing contemporary functional objects… beautiful shapes with clear glass… Of course, at the time I didn’t have the skills nor the knowledge to elaborate more about it. That said, I am still doing it and I still enjoying it sometimes.

 

 

What’s the significance of the handmade to you?

 

 

It is something very important, and there are many reasons for that. Firstly, I hate the idea of a world where everybody would own the same house, the same car, the same drinking glass. It scares me to live in a world where the objects and everything around me would be soulless. Mass-produces items is what I dislike the most, there is no interest in it. Then, I grew up in a family with strong values…it may sound stupid, but my parents taught me that there was a lot more value in a handmade noodle necklace or some freshly cut flowers from a field, rather than in an expensive thing bought from some shop. To conclude, I would enlighten the importance that handmade has in human history because I believe that this is actually what defines us as human…we always talk about fire, but in my mind, it is a handmade tool, actually made out of obsidian: a blade.

 

 

What was your route to becoming an artist?

 

 

Oh! It’s a long story, but I will be quick…

When I was 21, and after some rough years, I decided that I wanted to work with my hands. I first started to play with ceramic, and quickly moved to glass. I am from eastern France, where the glass industry is part of the history. Several big factories are around, and I first started my education in one of them: Baccarat. I passed two degrees there, as an apprentice, sharing my time between the factory, and the school CERFAV at Vannes-le-châtel. Initially, I wanted to be hired there, but after 5 years I fell in love with glass, and I wanted to learn more and faster. I left the factory to experience different ways of working with glass, and I moved to Denmark, at the Danish design school on Bornholm, where I passed a BA. There, I could work on different techniques, but also find myself as an artist.

 

 

What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?

 

 

I am a glassblower, and I am interested in all techniques. Hot glass, cold-work, installations… I sort of created my technique, inspired by geology and natural cycles. I use what I call glass sediments that collect in cold-work equipment and integrate it back into my work. Sustainability has become one of my main themes and led me to push the boundaries of glass.

 

How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary glass?

 

My work juxtaposes virtuoso glassblowing with my observations of nature. It also challenges the limits of recycling as well as notions of beauty in blown glass, and ask the viewer to pay attention to materiality by mimicking natural processes. Transparency and sustainability are central in my artistic approach, influencing my concepts, choice of material, and the management of my workshop. In action as well as aesthetics, 21st-century craft must raise awareness of our earth’s fragile equilibrium.

 

 

Who do you look up to when it comes to aesthetics?

 

 

That is a tough question. I am not sure how to answer that. I would say that my work is derived from European aesthetics and tradition, but I am of course also looking at artists from the studio glass movement. I could tell so many names from the contemporary artists’ scene….and at the same time, I am also tempted to answer that I am not looking up at anyone in particular. I think I might be somehow scared to get too influenced and I believe that even if I truly have an interest in other people’s aesthetics, I also try to step back a little and focus on what I want to achieve, within my limits and my own rules.

 

 

What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?

 

Currently, I am attracted by other topics. Before I even had the idea of becoming an artist, I used to be interested in human societies. How we behave, how we interact with each other, why, how… This might become my next body of work.

To conclude, I actually admire many artists for even more reasons, and I am afraid that starting that list and explaining why would lead me to actually write a novel, so I would pass on that one!

 

 

 

Jean Thebault

Jean Thebault, is a french glass artist, born in 1985 in Lorraine. Influenced by the local history of glass, he started to learn how to blow and form glass in 2007. Fascinated by the material, he worked as an apprentice both at “Cristalleries BACCARAT” and CERFAV glass school. After two degrees and a solid industrial experience, he decided to explore what glass could be ; more than just a simple material, he sees it as a culmination of billions years old geological processes, shapable by hand. 

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