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DH McNabb took a resolutely experimental approach for his residency at the Cristallerie Saint-Louis. Working for the first time with crystal, the American glass artist identified a ‘wish-list’ of technical challenges, in projects designed to test the material’s properties to the limit.
How to capture a bubble in crystal? Or a ring? Or light? Artist DH McNabb is an explorer in form. For his residency at Saint-Louis-lès-Bitche, mentored by Richard Fishman, he examined the intrinsic properties of crystal, working closely with the workshop artisans. His research led to the production of a number of pieces taking pure geometric forms: CrystalPrisms, Spherical Horizons, Furnace Rings. Each is conceived as a response to a specific challenge: capturing a shaft of light inside a pyramid, capturing a ring or a bubble of air in a crystal block, revisiting optical lenses, half-colouring transparent spheres.
This is the first time artisans at the Cristallerie have welcomed a professional glass-maker as artist-in-residence. DH McNabb trained at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, in the United States. As a non-French speaker, he communicated with the team at Saint-Louis essentially through gesture, discovering the ancestral skills associated with crystal – a material new to him in his artistic career.
In addition to these highly experimental pieces, McNabb wanted to pay homage to the workshop itself. Inspired by the setting for his residency, he focused on the great clay chimneys beneath which the artisans work directly with the molten raw material. Stylised in opaque white crystal, the ‘furnaces’ form a strange forest of unique pieces, The Heart(h) of Saint-Louis, while a new work of sculpture, entitled Chien of Saint-Louis, sublimates the iconic forms of the supports holding the crystal-blowers’ canes.