Wingen-sur-Moder is a small town in France’s Vosges department, but it is also one of the crystal capitals of the world. For it is home to the glassworks, museum, and hotel-restaurant of the Lalique family, now celebrating 130 years of savoir-faire and creative excellence as French master glassmaker
A museum showcasing 130 years of savoir-faire
The museum played host to nearly 10,000 visitors in its first three days of being open in July 2011. Over the past seven years, more than 450,000 people have crossed its threshold to see its iconic pieces and matchless expressions of French art de vivre. For an institution tucked away in Wingen-sur-Moder, a small town of just over 1,600 souls high in the northern Vosges, some 60 kilometers from Strasbourg, that is truly a feat. And here is where René Lalique (1860-1945) opened his glassworks in 1921. “To come here, you have to really love works of glass and crystal, as well as French savoir-faire,” says a visitor at the museum entrance. For those who make the trip, it is entirely worthwhile: There are nearly 650 sublime pieces to gaze upon, including 230 perfume bottles, along with temporary exhibits. The Happy Cristal exhibit, on display through January 6, presents the enchanting world of fairy tales; the exhibition coming in 2019 will be entitled The Invention of Modern Perfume.
The world of perfume at Maison Lalique
“The world of perfume holds a very important place in the company and Lalique is a leading designer of exceptional bottles. For example, we have the container the House created back in the day of René’s son, Marc Lalique, for L’Air du Temps by Nina Ricci,” explains Anne-Céline Desaleux, the museum’s communications officer. Other key pieces on display are the pendant known as Femme libellule ailes ouvertes (Dragonfly Woman, Spread Wings) dating from 1898-1900, a product of the talent of René Lalique, considered the father of modern jewelry. This creation was the first piece in the museum’s collections. Femme, faune et flore – woman, fauna, flora – were the three “Fs” the founder cherished, themes that are fundamental elements of the company’s DNA to this day.
The glassworks: a one-of-a-kind production site
The museum is open to the public, but the factory is not. This is why, toward the end of the museum experience, visitors can watch a video offering a virtual tour of the factory and presenting the work of its craftspersons. This screening provides an immediate understanding of the ancient, traditional know-how involved. The trade demands substantial strength, such as when the molten glass is “gathered” – collected from the crucible using a cane or spoon –, which involves lifting and shaping molten crystal masses weighing up to 40 kilograms to be crafted through blowing. As the institution’s director, Mrs. Véronique Brumm, explains, “It is a tribute to all the women and men whose work and dedication have given us the museum’s exhibits to admire."
Those who work at Lalique’s only factory in the world, boasting a legacy of more than 6,000 glass molds, know the importance of every movement. Using only hand-made tools, they shape each piece that leaves the hot-glass workshop, where furnace temperatures can reach 1,450°C (2,642°F) and workers perfect gathering, blowing, and pressing techniques. Some pieces take as many as 40 steps to make!
The Villa Lalique: excellence on display
The Lalique workshop also produces one-of-a-kind pieces, special orders, and creations for specific locations. The very luxurious Villa René Lalique (5 minutes from the museum) has been entirely decorated with exclusive pieces created at the neighboring factory: decorative objects, lighting, crystal features adorning the furniture, as well as original works like crystal-trimmed panels, glasses, trays, and more.
The Villa René Lalique was originally the founder’s private home. Built in 1920 and now an emblem of the brand, the site marks its 130th anniversary in 2018. In 2015, after extensive renovations, the Villa became a five-star hotel with six suites decorated by interior designers Lady Tina Green and Pietro Mingarelli.