2 min read

Postcard from France

The French have a certain je ne sais quoi when it comes to making functional pieces look beautiful.  The 19th century glass cloche is no exception. On buying trips to France, we would traverse the French countryside hoping to find a dealer or old farmer with the motherlode of cloches - :) Sometimes we got lucky.

 These glass structures were designed with a distinctive bell shape, hence the name cloche  which translates to bell in English.  When market gardens were at their peak in the late 19thC historical images reveal fields full of beautiful glass cloches on the outskirts of Paris. 

There are various origin stories –  but the consensus seems to be that a clever Italian glass-maker with a penchant for gardening came up with the idea in the early 1600s to protect new seedlings from the cold.      

At some point, the French adopted the cloche, matching beauty with function by adding a glass knob to the top – thus making it easier to handle. However, they underestimated the impact of the sun being magnified through the chuck of glass, which ended up burning the young plants!  In the end, gardeners removed the knob, which is why today – when sourcing, it is scarce to find one with the knob intact.  

Today, ‘cloche’ refers to any bell-shaped, domed object that protects or covers something. When it comes to atmospheric lighting, nothing compares to the aged glass that has developed from being a gardener's best friend. Each one is at least a hundred years old and the glass is very delicate ~ so buying them is risky business as we usually lose a few in shipping ...

Of course, you may find a copy – but I always advise eschewing reproductions of antique pieces - why waste the world's resources when you can buy the real thing

 


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