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).
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.
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.
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.