Inspired by the warehouse which stores moulds and casts, Kiki van Eijk (a designer from the Eindhoven Academy), wanted to shine a light on these tools from which all of Saint-Louis' creations originate.
She gave every object in the Matrice collection the unique shape of a mould, adorning each one with the hand cut elements that are the signature style of the company.
Saint-Louis chatted with Kiki to discover more about her and her thought process for designing the Matrice collection.
Saint-Louis — You visited the manufacture for the first time in 2012 in order to imagine a collection of lighting. How did the idea of the Matrice come about?
Kiki van Eijk — I remember this first trip very well — the train, the fields, then the forest, and finally Saint-Louis-lès-Bitche. A village with its manufacture, like the set of a fairytale. I visited the museum, archives, workshops. I remember very well when we passed in front of the shelves of moulds at the end of our journey.
I was surprised, irresistibly attracted by the presence of these hundreds of pieces. I thought of queens that create shapes. It seemed obvious to me that even though these moulds were intended for crystal making they could also design lighting. I returned home, convinced that such an obvious idea of repurposing these forms had already been used. Thankfully not!
A few years later when you were asked to name the collection you chose Matrice...
This is what we call the mould at the manufacture. The matrice — or matrix — can be metallic as well as organic. At that time, I was pregnant and the fact that the concept paralleled my personal life amused me. Matrix is the feminine aspect of a rather masculine glass world. Gentleness is also intrinsic to crystal.
In 2020, you came up with the rest of the collection: three wall lights and five vases that repurpose the same mould form. How did you think of them?
I wanted to create a family, all with the origins of the matrix. I studied hundreds of photos I had taken of the moulds, and I sketched different possibilities using cut flowers to imagine them as real vases. At the same time I was planting the garden of this old house where we’d just moved, on the border of Eindhoven and Nuenen, the city where Van Gogh worked. I wanted a year-round flower garden. My father taught me how to take care of flowers. A number of these species come from his garden. Today, there are roses and echinacea, dahlias and jasmine, buttercups and irises.
The Saint-Louis manufacture has developed many uses and creations over the centuries. To what extent is this heritage a source of inspiration for you?
I was very touched by the crystal lining technique, developed by Saint-Louis in the early 19th century. The glassmakers managed to superpose a colour on clear crystal, which allows for the creation of a certain density and reflections. I chose this intense blue, almost midnight blue, that I found magnificent. The manufacture has a unique palette of roses, reds, greens, blues... In 2004, they developed the flannel grey that I used for the large vase. I also discovered a forest green at the museum, that had already existed in the past and that I would love to use!
And then you chose the cuts?
I lived for some time with the forms of clear and coloured crystal vases, without any cutting, but something was missing. I chose a mixture of two of the Saint-Louis cuts techniques — diamond and bevel — to accentuate the reflections of the water on the table, and also create a light that would come from within. In the vases I find the same presence that makes the Matrice lamp a soft and inhabited object.