Mathias «Nothing is impossible for Baccarat»
Prestige issue 259, February 2015
To mark the 250th anniversary of Baccarat, Manasseh, exclusive agent of the brand in Lebanon, celebrated the event in the presence of Mathias, designer and creator of the House. In a long interview with Prestige, Mathias tells his fascinating story with Baccarat, the most famous international manufacture of glassware.
Mathias, designer of Baccarat. «My favorite item is the floor candelabra, on foot, commissioned by Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorovna. In Mille Nuits, I realized a floor candelabra in tribute to the Empress.»
You are in Lebanon for the 250th anniversary of Baccarat. What are your impressions? I visited the downtown, I was impressed by the beautiful Lebanese architecture.
For how long have you been working with Baccarat? I have been working for Baccarat for eighteen years. My first collection before Mille Nuits was Rencontre, which included ten exceptional objects. I had carte blanche and I created Scheherazade, a pot which was a huge success and a wonderful candelabra was called Arabian Nights in memory of my grandmother. The story goes back to the beginning of the century. My grandmother was a painter and loved all the countries of the Mediterranean basin, where she lived with my grandfather, a military stationed in these countries. I knew in the cradle about these tales of the Arabian Nights that my grandmother read me and which fascinated me. She even completely reconstituted an oriental Syrian salon. As the name Mille et une nuits was long, it was simplified to Mille Nuits. Rencontre was at the origin of this collection.
Your inspirations are loaded with poetry … I think the success of the collection Mille Nuits is due to its emotional charge, which helped me to transcribe it in the crystal. Creation is an act of generosity. The object I create is no longer mine, it belongs to others. True creation is a little maternal, we bring it to life, we simmer it, then it will have to take off, we abandon it to revive with others.
In Mille Nuits you innovated with the low voltage … When I started working with Baccarat, in 1995, I was already known through the press. I had previously created mouth blown glasses and light fixtures. For ten years, Philips and Osram sent me electrical components to incorporate them in lamps. I mastered lighting and the exhibition of my lighting products met a brilliant success in Japan where I had very large purchases. The exhibition has traveled throughout Japan, it was exceptional, with a special scenography. Regarding low Voltage, I have emphasized on it because once placed on the crystal, it falls within the prism, like a diamond. It took me three years of research. During the exhibition of the collection Rencontre in New York in front of 800 people, I presented chandeliers and lighting arrangement mounted completely in “lego”. A whole architecture, turntables with clips without electrical wires. A success.
An achievement where the past is conjugated to the future in history and the collective memory of Baccarat.
What were your first steps? I had a very hard childhood, with the loss of my father at the age of 10 years. I have vegetated at school where I studied with Paloma Picasso. I was short of money and I had harsh high school studies. Imbued with myself, I decided at some point to have another life, to take another name, I chose the one of Mathias. Everyone calls me Mathias, I’m famous with that name. My mother pushed me to create with my own hands. I then started doing mirrors with men and women profiles, cutouts in the mass. I persisted for ten years and the press was very encouraging. I just wanted to sign Mathias. Baccarat allowed me to have a more stable vision, to be more serene.
You are self-taught … Being a little jack-of-all helped me not to stay in a mold, to be a stereotype. In 2002-2003, I managed to have my own house. Since I love the decor, sculpture and painting, I had the opportunity to make an exceptional home in Paris, a house with a soul. These were workshops in poor condition that I put together. In 2013, I did a story on this unusual house, which has been very successful. It will be condensed into a book, to become immortal, a kind of recognition.
Do you have pieces signed Mathias? Yes I have. Mirrored furniture, profiles, lamps, metal chairs with the king and queen, a beautiful Gothic inspiration.
What do you think of the colorful pieces like blue Scheherazade? For the collection Rencontre, we did not create new colors. Baccarat has always worked with color. For me, I chose the blue cobalt, gold caps. I had carte blanche and I felt that nothing is impossible for Baccarat. You have to fight to innovate. We must feel the merits of our request and to be in the right. We are in a state of grace that allows us to teach or give a boost to a creation. Cézanne said he had the hand of God. We need a lot of humility.
In Rencontre, the pieces were limited to 12, 8, while Mille Nuits was more “commercial”. The purpose of creating them was different? Creation is not permanent, there are things that fit. In the creative process, I knew in my imagination what was suitable. Baccarat was longer in development. Each time, we added something but it was beneficial because it finally gave a continuity to the piece. For Mille Nuits, in US marketing, there are so-called “pillars”. For Hermes it is the horse, to Cartier it is the panther coming back. Baccarat Today, I am very proud of Harcourt and Mille Nuits.
Maria Nadim and Mathias the creator, poet and charmer.
In 250 years, what would you like people to tell about Mathias? It is the mark you leave, the magic, the festive spirit of beauty and art of living in the French way. It’s attractive, it is a spirit of beauty, balance, it is not sad, but a good luck charm. It is the joy that you give to others.
What is your definition of the art of living? The art of living, as I see it, is total harmony, aesthetic, moral, the taste.
There is a lot of sensuality to touch your objects … I am very touched by what you say. What is beautiful in the success of Baccarat is precisely this complete transmission, this wonderful love marriage. You have to go see Baccarat universal exhibition at the Petit Palais.
What is your best encounter? I think this is a personal matter. But the beautiful encounter was with Baccarat.
What would you wish Baccarat for the coming years? To keep its strong identity, values, this excellence and taste very safe and very French. It is imperative to preserve the soul of Baccarat.
Interview by Maria Nadim