Emmanuel Babled: The Murano Glass Designer That Chose Portugal ♦ Emmanuel Babled is a Murano glass designer and has chosen Portugal as his workplace. The Murano glass designer works in the heart of the city of Lisbon with five other people, and also as a showroom for the interested in his work. All his pieces are scattered through the space: the Quark tables, an Arcana sideboard, Digit lamps and while running the generous windows overlooking the Church of Madalena and five Pyros jars. Emmanuel believes that he can contribute to the modernization of Portuguese artisans by introducing new tools and helping them to find new markets, and is loving every single part of our beloved country. Secrets from Portugal went to his atelier and is going to tell you all about it. Keep reading down below.
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Emmanuel Babled was born in France in 1967 and graduated in Industrial Design at the European Institute of Design in Milan. He has been an invited professor and has developed workshops at Domus Academy in Milan and the Design Academy of Eindhoven. He started his activity as a designer in Paris and moved to Milan in 1992, the city where he founded his own studio and worked for 18 years. Before settling in Lisbon in early 2016, he lived for five years in Amsterdam. Since the start he has developed a wide range of unique pieces and limited editions in self-production and for prestigious manufacturers such as Venini, Baccarat, Rosenthal and Covo. These pieces are part of private and public collections around the world. At the same time, he has also designed industrial products, furniture and lighting. Clients include Baccarat, Rosenthal, Venini, Bulgari, Ittala, Dupont de Nemours, Fontana Arte, Oluce, I&I, Laurent Perrier, Waterford Crystal, Felice Rossi, Henge, Covo, Giannini, Idee Co Ltd, Marzoretti Ronchetti, Viceversa, Vistosi among many others.
At the entrance of the Lisbon apartment, we can find several low tables with irregular rounded shapes. There are marble, copper, wood and cork tables. The latter is the first piece thought by Emmanuel Babled since he settled in this first floor in downtown Lisbon. “My work is a process of immersion in territorial capacity. The Quark series is a classic design I started eight years ago. Of course, in Portugal he had to work with cork, although he could also work with marble, “explains the glass designer, born in France 51 years ago, half of whom spent in Venice working with the masters of Murano glass.
It is this long bond that explains why Emmanuel continues to produce almost all his pieces in Italy. But today the process of creation takes place in Lisbon, which calls home about two years ago. He came to Portugal for the first time in 2006 in leisure, came by beaches and nature, returned several times with his children, until eight years ago he met the number 85 of Rua da Madalena, the blue tile building where he installed the studio and the Third Floor, co-work space facing the future of design and craftsmanship. “When I was in Amsterdam I kept thinking about Lisbon”, considering that “Portugal could be a good opportunity because there are still many craftsmen here, there is still a lot of manual work, like Italy and unlike the Nordic countries.”
The apartment is his atelier, where Emmanuel and a team of five people work, and also, a showroom. There are pieces scattered throughout the space: the Quark tables, an Arcana sideboard, Digit lamps and while running the generous windows overlooking the Church of Madalena, five Pyros jars. One of them “is albino” and Emmanuel explains that the idea is to draw attention to the dangers surrounding the future of Murano glass. “Because of environmental laws, some materials can not be used. Arsenic, for example, is needed for glass to have fewer bubbles but is being banned from Europe. “The same will happen soon with cadmium, used for yellows, which combined with selenium makes red and the whole range of oranges. Thinking about these challenges, Babled joined António Pires de Matos, a chemist at Universidade Nova de Lisboa, at Vicarte – Glass and Ceramics for the arts.
As in Italy, the designer believes that he can contribute to the modernization of Portuguese craftsmen by introducing them to new tools and helping them find new markets. “In Italy, we are working with robots and here I still see companies working with hammer and chisel. Today’s craftsman is not the same as a century ago, today he thinks the project, he does it with his hands, but in the middle there will be a machine that helps him to be more precise, “says Babled, giving as an example the lamp Supernova, Carrara marble suspended from the ceiling, machined to millimeter with milling machines.
Just as he used cork to produce the Quark table in partnership with the Portuguese company Sofalca, he is also working with the Ricardo Espírito Santo e Silva Foundation, in a collaboration that resulted in a new cabinet that was presented in October in New York. “Its part of a bigger project that’s being done through the Association Passes to the Future, which is on the Third Floor,” says Emmanuel, speaking enthusiastically of Fatima Durkee, the New Yorker who settled in Lisbon with the goal of the preserve, promote and activate handicrafts in Portugal through design thinking. “Fatima is working with UNESCO to map out all the capacity of artisans and connect them to designers or industries.”
The arrival of Emmanuel to Lisbon is not foreign to the moment that the city and the country cross. In relation to the capital speaks of a new era, but was mainly “the dimension of the city, which is part of the quality of life”, which led him to move. “It’s a city with a human size, it’s easy to access everything, it’s not like London and Berlin,” he says.
Emmanuel lives in Mouraria, a stone’s throw from the atelier, just below the Castle of São Jorge, one of the most touristic areas of Lisbon. Although he recognizes the changes the city has undergone, there are moments, such as when he arrives at the curvilinear street of St. Christopher’s Church, where he seems to be “in a village.” “Yes, there are many tourists who go to the castle, but the locals still resist. It’s not what it used to be, because there is gentrification, but I love the authenticity I find in my day-to-day life. “
Lisbon serves as a base, but the designer maintains an “international and Portuguese context”. “I would not live in London or New York, I’ll go there to do an exhibition or a conference, but I decided that my life had to have the quality of life, of time, of peace. I choose Lisbon for serenity. “
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