It was natural that Juliette Leperlier became a glass artist, given that her father, uncle and great-grandfather have all won worldwide recognition for their work with the material.
The 34-year-old Frenchwoman is the new face of pate de verre－a technique of glass casting that means "glass paste" in English－and the sole female artist in the family. Her debut exhibition on the Chinese mainland is underway at Liuli China Museum in Shanghai and will run until March 31.
The Leperlier family has a long history of creating art from glass. Her great-grandfather, Francois Decorchemont (1880-1971), was a pioneer of pate de verre. His advancement of the technique and mastery of color placement solidified his standing in the history of glass art. Her father, Etienne, and uncle, Antoine Leperlier, are both internationally recognized glass artists.
Thirty-five pieces by Juliette, alongside sculptures created by her great-grandfather, father and uncle, are on display at the exhibition, Raging Fire, Icy Heart: The Glass Exploration Burns Eternal Poetry in Glass. The displays showcase the achievements of glass art in France from the mid-1800s until today.
As a child, Juliette used to play by the kiln and assist her father in his studio. For a long time, she resisted the seemingly natural choice to follow in his footsteps.
"I didn't want the glass to choose me. I wanted to be the one who decided to tame it," she used to say.
"Unconsciously, I was doing everything to get away from the glass paste. I didn't want to be pressured by the family situation."
She studied art in college and explored different media. "However, the more she learned and the further she went, she heard the glass calling to her," says Chang Yi, founder of Liuli China Museum and curator of the Juliette Leperlier exhibition.
"I would have been drawn to glass sculpting, even without my family heritage," Juliette Leperlier said later. She inherited his studio in 2014, after her father's death. In the same year, she won a competition held by the Atelier d'Arts de France. She has since "succeeded in creating her own signature", according to Laura Capazza-Durand, a curator of Galerie Capazza in France.
"Juliette Leperlier is representing the new generation of French glass artists well, daring to be herself," Capazza-Durand says. Juliette learned from her father and uncle, who themselves learned from their grandfather, how to manipulate the delicate medium of glass. "And she introduced a kind of feminine touch," Capazza-Durand says. "The forms she creates are full of delicacy. Some of them are almost anthropomorphic, exuding a character, as if they were someone you've known forever."
Leperlier says her early works were inspired by nature, and took their forms from bees, sea urchins and blooming flowers.
She learned from her ancestors how to work with the unique quality of glass, a material full of contradiction. It is transparent and penetrable by the light, and yet you can place colors inside. It is unstable and in constant movement as a fluid, "but you can capture the movement, like stopping time," she says.
Her works are usually characterized by simple forms and clear lines, such as the recent series named Vice Versa and Coriolis Force, the latter being a scientific definition of the inertial force that acts upon objects in motion. Chang observes that she "rearranged the complex to be simple and reimagined the heavy into light".
Leperlier has a friend in France who gives her acupuncture treatments. From him, she learned about the Chinese concept of qi (natural energy) and created work that demonstrates her understanding of how energy flows in an endless circle.
As the third generation of the family to become an artist, she was faced with the challenge of proving "that she deserved this legacy, that she had something special to show the world", says Capazza-Durand.
"She has a name. But most of all, she has a first name."
If you go
Raging Fire, Icy Heart: The Glass Exploration Burns Eternal Poetry in Glass
Juliette Leperlier solo exhibition. Liuli China Museum, 25 Taikang Road, Shanghai.
10 am-5 pm, Tuesday-Sunday, until Mar 31.