Design & Decoration S02 ep5 : Sophie Le Tanneur, Daum Crystal and Glass, [????]
Interview with Sophie Le Tanneur
Daum is a crystal studio based in Nancy, France, founded in 1878 by Jean Daum (1825–1885). His sons, Auguste Daum (1853–1909) and Antonin Daum (1864–1931), oversaw its growth during the burgeoning Art Nouveau period. Currently Daum is the only commercial crystal manufacturer employing the pâte de verre (glass paste) process for art glass and crystal sculptures, a technique in which crushed glass is packed into a refractory mould and then fused in a kiln. During the Universal Exhibition of 1900 Daum was awarded a ‘Grand Prix’ medal. Daum glass became more elaborate, acid etching (by Jacques Gruber) was often combined with carving, enamelling and engraving on a single piece of glass to produce creative glass master-pieces. The most complicated creations also feature applied glass elements, such as handles and ornamental motifs in naturalistic forms. The Daum brothers quickly moved on to become one of the major forces in the Art Nouveau movement, seriously rivalling Gallé, so much so that when Émile Gallé died in 1904 they became the leaders in the field of decorative glass. In 1906 Daum revived pâte de verre (glass paste), an ancient Egyptian method of glass casting, developing the method so that by the 1930s Daum's window panels used pâte de verre for richness instead of leaded or painted glass. Today Daum still used this method to produce their pieces.
Daum: Daum actually is a really wonderful brand, it’s a brand that was born 130 years ago and it
was one of the brands which actually founded the art nouveau movement. To be provocative,
Daum has nothing to do with crystal. Daum isn’t a crystal company, Daum is an art company and
has been doing art for the last 130 years.
Daum: It has a great savoir-faire, I’ll put it in French, a way to produce the products which are
mostly hand made, most of the time. It’s a really artistic and half industrial company.
Daum: There are actually 200 people who are you know glass blowers and they can only blow
glass and there’s a mission to help them put this company back on track and keep their jobs so that
was a good motivation. The second motivation of course was the beauty of the products.
Daum: There are two ways of making crystal, either you blow crystal in a steel mould which
means that you, the mould being very expensive you have to make it at the beginning, your interest
as a businessman is to make as many pieces as you can so that the cost of the mould is lowered per
piece. In doing … you’re actually making plaster moulds which break every time you make a
piece now the negative of this is that you can do 1,000 piece or 10,000 piece you’ll be breaking a
mould every time and therefore there’s no economical advantage in doing large scales. On the
other hand, of course you're very flexible and that’s why we are pushing and doing very unique
pieces which are limited to eight editions in the world because economically there is no interesting
in doing many more you know so might as well do what the people are actually looking for,
they’re looking for unique pieces and we actually have a technology that helps us doing this.
Daum: The big surprise is when you go from a cosmetic company which are very glamorous and
very, very it’s a very clean way with no germs company you know way or producing and then you
go back to actually producing crystal that’s a real shock because it’s hand made, most of it is hand
made and people you know, people have been doing that for the past sometimes 40-50 years, they
have their nephews in the company you know it’s a real savoir faire it’s also a family, that’s what’s
really touching about it, is when you get to know the company better and get to know the people
better, you realise that you're really actually working for a family.
Daum: I was managing at the time subsidiaries of the L’Oreal company for the past 15 years and
before that I was working with Colgate an American company and one day I got a phone call and
somebody actually said, are you interested in Daum and I got a you know a message in my
telephone and it was saying Daum was written “DOM” so I said no, I’m not interested and then I
realised and I said it might have been Daum, “DAUM” and I said well if it’s Daum that’s spelled
that way, I am interested because I happened to be born in … and I knew the brand and I knew that
it was a sleeping beauty, so I was really convinced that it could be a fast growing company if the
innovation was put back into the brand.
Daum: Two years before that I was approached by a head-hunter who wanted me to be the
manager of LBO dealing with cosmetics and I, we didn’t go through the story but I started saying
to myself well one day I’d like to leave those huge companies and try managing something which
was smaller which you have the hands on the gears and I luckily got chosen by AXA who was a,
AXA Private Equity who actually owns this company today.
Daum: One of the big lessons that you do take over when you come from a big company like
L’Oreal is innovation, the product is basics, I mean it starts with the products and it ends with the
products and the products have to be in line with what people actually like today, you cannot run a
luxury company if you’re doing stuff which is 130 years old, so you have to put it back into the
trends, I mean it’s easy to say but it takes the talent of a whole team to pick out the right artists, in
our case we’ve been working with over 350 artists over the last let’s say 20 years and we’re
moving from a company which was doing decoration to a company which is actually doing 30% of
its business with sculptures.
Daum: It’s collectable, it’s art, we’re actually going into editions which are limited to eight
because eight is really what counts if you’re doing art sculptures with very high-end artists.
Daum: Part of my job is actually going through the world and finding new artists to work with us.
When I pick up the phone and say look I’m a manager of Daum, I’d very much like to meet you, I
love what you do, please let’s meet, most of the time people don’t say no, so we actually got to
H… he’s an African, modern American artist and we’re really happy because we talked to him
maybe a year ago, a year a half ago and he’s getting the first prize of the Castle Document this
year. We actually got to speak with Swee Jango, he’s the boss of Beijing’s Fine Art Museum and
he’s a sculptor herself. You know that was really incredible.
Daum: I was telling you we were going through our heritage again and we happened to find letters
and projects which hadn’t been brought through with Josh Park which is a major artist of last
century, he’s actually the father of cubism and we did a whole collection of sculptures which
hadn’t been produced.
Daum: Park is not as well known as Picasso is but he was actually you know father of cubism, he
was the creative man behind cubism. It’s true that he worked together with Picasso, but it needed
the kind of little grain of folly, of the touch of madness which Picasso had as a person to make
cubism the movement it is.
Daum: In archives you get funny things like for instance the Brack collection were actually
shipped to America in 1963 to our first clients so we got the story from both ends, we got in the
archives things about Newman Marcus having had jewels shipped over to Dallas and we got the
archives of Daum writing to Park and in those archives you find everything, you find they actually
sailed on the boat France you know at the time and you got the menu and you got the name of the
Captain and you also, because sadly enough Park stayed in France because he was very ill, and he
died that year and when he arrived, when the boat arrived and she arrived in the New York
harbour, all the boats around it surrounded the boat and threw water around the France to celebrate
this great artist.
Daum: The good clients we do have you know they get to know that we’re doing those pieces
those eight pieces before everyone. Like for instance, the Park pieces which are very, very
exclusive were shown to Elton John before they were launched and actually he has a big collection
of our crystal pieces and you know he bought a very, very nice piece, very exclusive piece.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Sophie Le Tanneur, Daum Crystal and Glass, ????