An interview with
Matteo Gonet

Stylepark spoke to the Swiss glassblower about water, glass mixers and the beauty of this fragile material.

Glassblower at work

Revealing
the magic

As a glassblower, Matteo Gonet is part of a profession that appears to be dying out in this era of industrial mass production. A glance at Gonet's client list, which is full of the names of well-known designers, artists and companies, highlights just how sought-after his skills seem to be.

For instance, the still fairly young expert has already collaborated with the artist Jean-Michel Othoniel and designer Mathieu Lehanneur, as well as with architects Buchner Bründler and Miller and Maranta.

Gonet's craftsmanship always comes into play when something other than standard, off-the-shelf products are called for. This was the case when it came to the joint project developed by the Axor designer brand and students at the École Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne (ECAL).

Glass in the kiln

Apparently, you decided to become a glassblower when you were just 15 years old. How did that come about?

Matteo Gonet: I did. It was by chance that I chose the profession – and my family hoped that it was just a brief phase that I was going through. It was the workshops that really impressed me: glass, that fragile material, the fire and somehow also that macho attitude.

Then, when I found out that I would have to go abroad for the training – there were no longer any training facilities in Switzerland – the prospect appealed to me all the more. After all, I yearned to travel, which I then did for four or five years.

So did glass as a material play no part in your choice of profession?

Gonet: I didn't really discover more detailed information about it until later. To start with, it was the actual work, the craftsmanship, that impressed me more than the material itself.

And what's the situation today?

Gonet: It's a craft that is very difficult to learn. For the first few years, I needed to practise a great deal. It was only later that I started asking questions: What exactly is glass? What are the limits to its malleability? Etc, etc.

These kinds of questions still preoccupy and fascinate me. We like to experiment with different uses and material properties. I find that really fascinating.

There are many different types of glass. It can be hard, opaque, transparent, coloured. It can be very fragile, but then again very solid.

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In collaboration with Axor and ECAL, students developed new ideas for a "well mixer". The results were presented at the 2015 Salone del Mobile in Milan. What was it about the project that appealed to you?

Gonet: I'm no tap expert. But it was good to work on various projects connected to this new type of tap.

The discussions with Philippe Grohe, Vice President of Design Management at Hansgrohe SE, were particularly interesting. He really does have a vision, a very clear idea about which of the designs fit in with the new approach and which of them don't. That surprised me on a number of occasions.

In what respect?

Gonet: Where water is concerned, he explains everything with great affection and masses of enthusiasm – I found that absolutely fascinating. For example, there was a suggestion from a student that didn't really impress anyone to begin with.

But Philippe Grohe saw much more in this project and he was able to explain why – starting with the way that the water moved through the mixer.

His commitment and abilities immediately made the entire Axor and ECAL project much more interesting for me. He can envisage how water moves! And he can say: "That's too tall" or "That angle's wrong".

That's the only way we were able to come up with the necessary prototypes in the extremely short time-frame of two weeks.

The prototype is marked for further processing.
Glass mixer with 3 tumblers as the top part and spout

What was the greatest challenge for you in producing the prototypes?

Gonet: There are two worlds colliding here: the craftsman's world, where it's not uncommon for an item to be two millimetres too short, and the world of the industrial workpiece, here the metal base of this well mixer which, of course, is manufactured with extreme precision, as it needs to be.

We really became aware of the limits of our craftsmanship – we couldn't take the design much further without the appropriate tools. To give you one example: the tap with the mirror. Things like this were extremely difficult to manufacture.

Do you have a favourite amongst the prototypes?

Gonet: Well, I do think that the mixer with the stacked glasses is very good. OK, the design itself isn't incredibly exciting, but I think the idea is a pretty good one. I can imagine that people would enjoy using something like that. Basically, I think that this new type of tap, which Axor developed in collaboration with Philippe Starck, is extremely interesting, because you can watch the water, the way that it moves and its dynamics. Usually it flows invisibly, through a metal pipe.

Has your work ever involved orchestrating water previously?

Gonet: We don't usually work on our own projects, we implement other people's ideas. My operation is only small and we don't have much time for designing.

We once produced an aquarium for a French designer: a table which exhibited plants and fish.

Glass often provides a window on things that radiate a certain beauty, a certain magic. It connects us to these beautiful elements.

Do you have a favourite place where water plays an important part?

Gonet: We've just come back from Iceland, where water is present in all shapes and forms. As waterfalls or geysers, in liquid or frozen states. And on this particular island it rains frequently. It's stunningly beautiful.

Time and again, glass is a receptacle for wonderful things. Whether we're talking about wine, water or light.

<span>PR Manager Astrid Bachmann </span>

Author

Astrid Bachmann PR Manager Axor