While the furnace blazes and the molten material resembles liquid gold in the crucible, Jean Sala reminisces about his early years. At the age of eight, he wielded iron rods and practiced blowing. He learned the trade alongside his father, who, like all the Salas, was a glassmaker. Despite attending the School of Fine Arts and pursuing painting as a pastime, Jean Sala remained loyal to the furnace, where he inherited the techniques of the old Venetian glassmakers.

He studies the work of the Phoenicians, Romans, and Arabs. But mere copying is not enough; the artist sketches the pieces, seeking volume, elegance, and color. Blending the whimsy of his creations with the fiery sand of the crucible brings him joy. He carefully selects metallic oxides and arranges them in the fire... In the midst of the workshop stands the all-powerful refractory brick furnace, divided into two levels: the base containing the crucible and the upper part, the arch where the firing takes place.

The glassmaker watches over the material, composed of the finest sand from the Fontainebleau forest, to which he adds his own compositions. Gradually, as the furnace reaches 1,300 degrees, he removes the mouthpiece and, using the never-ending rotation of the rod, picks up a pulsating fire orange, which becomes the nucleus of the future artwork.

He repeatedly dips it back into the incandescent mass until the rod carries a charge of glass at its end, which, when rolled and balanced, forms rounded shapes that transition from purple to bluish mauve.

Will this magical orb become a jade-colored vase, an orange-hued bowl, or a blue bird?

In a rhythmic movement, it tapers downward. The artist's breath inflates the object. If he decides to create a fantastical fish, we will see the creature take shape, open its mouth, adorn itself with gills, eyes, and scales.

With enormous tongs, the glassmaker undulates the fins, and every time he adds an ornament, he exposes the piece to the fire to keep it at a high temperature. Then, in a final sway, he gives the tail the inclination of a rudder, imprinting life-like movement onto the creature.

The fish is born. Carp? Japanese monster? It doesn't matter! It will live if it withstands the firing. So many precautions are taken to place it in the arch!

At that moment, the furnace temperature for firing is 800 degrees and must gradually decrease. Before leaving his workshop in the evening, the glassmaker ensures that the arch cools slowly. And in the morning, the artwork will either be perfect or... broken.

Jean Sala is one of the rare artists who still resort to this traditional method of glassblowers. A long apprenticeship of ten years is essential for young workers. Even after this time, the adolescent turned man is only specialized in bottle or glass manufacturing, repeating in series, with the help of molds, the models developed by a glass artist.

Jean Sala's work is different; alone in his workshop, waiting for his young son to continue the lineage, he places the crucible, heats the furnace, and pours sand mixed with manganese, uranium, and red lead, depending on the desired shades. This is how the pale amethyst, Chinese jade, and translucent white, which he keeps secret, come into existence.

Looking at so many diverse creations, one discovers the artist's passion for colors. Each work corresponds to a new inspiration, a search for tonality. With mastery acquired through years of work, he uses the rods, irons, and scissors, which are the ancestral tools of all glassmakers. But he has his way of handling them, and his reputation is so extensive that an amateur like Gabriele d'Annunzio, when staying in Paris, became his student in the same workshop where daylight falls gray on the peak of the furnace.


Sources : Images de france N°102 Novembre 1943