Magician of Light touches on the truth of Lalique’s illustrious life, the people most important to him, and the anguish of some of those personal relationships, creating a unique view of his real life and a compelling storybook love story.
In your formative years, what inspired you to become a jeweler?
I loved to draw and paint, winning competitions early on. Louis Aucoc, a goldsmith, adopted me at age sixteen after my father suddenly died. He gave me an apprenticeship in his jewelry business and taught me the tricks of the trade. This introduced me to professional life as a jeweler and encouraged my passion for the decorative arts. I wanted to take my art from drawings to miniature jewelry paintings, creating sculptural forms from stones, gems, enamel and precious metals.
It’s a rarity when someone becomes an international success in one genre, but an anomaly when it happens in two different fields. What drove you to redirect your focus on glass in the second half of your career?
I was interested in glass very early in my career, beginning with using enamel in my jewelry. My favorite enameling technique is called plique-à-jour. This is a style of enameling, where transparent enamels are fused into metal cells and then acid is used to remove the back of the cell, leaving just a metal filigree and the glass. This is an extremely difficult, time-consuming process, but it produces the most extraordinary effect suggestive of stained glass. One of my largest pieces ever created by employing this method was Femme Libellule, Dragonfly Woman, commissioned by mon bon ami, my good friend, Calouste Gulbenkian. Over time, I incorporated more glass into my jewelry designs before moving onto fabricating larger items, such as perfume bottles. Francois Coty, a perfumer, asked me to design flacons for his fragrances. These items were the impetus of my pursuit of strictly glassmaking. Everything grew from there: my production, the number of clients and employees, my factories and my works. At the end of my career, I focused a great deal on architectural glass projects.
Why has Lalique-designed art stood the test of time?
My art is my passion. Drawing inspiration from three of my favorite loves: flora, fauna, and women. Excellent craftsmanship is important to me and I strive to create distinguished works by using my imagination and my hands. Employing many methods, I sculpted extra dimension into my objets d’art. Utilizing the organic colors of nature, toying with unique materials and contemplating the interplay of light in transparency and opacity of atypical gemstones and glass, I attempted to create something never seen before.
What advice would you give a young entrepreneurial-designer today?
Study nature, and bygone styles for sources of inspiration. Instead of mimicking, use the ideas and techniques of other eras and people to create your own unique brand. Use experimentation and reinvent aspects, qualities but combine them into new configurations. Create novel constructions from your perspective. Most of all, use your imagination and be true to your artful self.
Who were the people most influential on your success?
So many people were integral to my success. Foremost, my mother. She inspired me with her love, creativity and work ethic, but she also helped me financially by paying for my schooling in France and at the Sydenham College in the Crystal Palace in England. Artistic friends, including my father-in-law, Auguste Ledru, sculptor, and, of course, Francois Coty, all contributed to my eminence. My most influential promoter and patron was Sarah Bernhardt. She introduced me to many clients, including Calouste Gulbenkian, one of my most important clients.
Did building your company in France and Paris impact the Lalique brand?
I love my city, my country and would live nowhere else. The Lalique brand is luxury and style. Paris has been the fashion capital of the Western world since the seventeenth century. As a Frenchman, of course, my company could only be based in France.
Do you have professional and personal regrets when looking back on your life?
I succumbed to my passions and sometimes got consumed by them. Perhaps I was a workaholic and should have spent more time with my loved ones.
You mentioned education at the Sydenham College. Why did you choose this institution?
I wanted to travel and explore unknown places. Sydenham College focused on aspects of art and business that I wanted to master. William Morris, Japonisme, the aesthetic movement, were a few of the influences that I wanted to absorb and it was an excellent school for draughtsman to improve my illustration. The school also provided knowledge of modern engineering, improved manufacturing techniques, innovative industrial methods and exposure to British design reforms regarding the decorative arts. Plus, I wanted to improve my English. I also met a young lady, Mademoiselle Haliburton. Elle était belle à croquer, a beautiful, desirous woman.
You met a pretty woman, Miss Haliburton, in England. Can you tell us more about her and your relationship?
Non. Please read my story, Magician of Light, to find out that information.
J. Fremont is an author and veterinarian. For more than twenty-five years, she practiced small animal veterinary medicine in addition to serving as an adjunct professor at a local university and community college. The mother of two adult sons, she lives in Southern California with her husband of thirty years. Retired from veterinary medicine, J now spends her time developing her artistic side. In addition to writing, she is a passionate practitioner of the decorative arts, including jewelry making, glass fusing, sewing, and creating mixed media for fun. She enjoys photography, gardening, and posting on Instagram, as well as building gorgeous Pinterest boards. You can find her on her website: https://drjfremont.com/
Facebook: @jfremont | Instagram: @insidetheegg