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Designer Talks: Thomas Bastide

Thomas Bastide, a world-renowned design talent and the creative force behind Baccarat, attributes his success and passion to his deeply artistic family and upbringing. From a young age, by a stroke of destiny, he was acquainted with master Scandinavian glassmakers who inspired him to pursue a career in arts. He studied at the National College of Graphic Arts in Paris and National College of Applied Arts and Crafts (ENSAAMA), and honed his skills as a sculptor at CIRVA, Marseille's Glass Center, and the renowned Pilchuck School in Seattle.

Upon completing his formal education, Bastide set up his own workshop where he would bring his mixed medium sculptures to life. He spent several years working for Raymond Loewy, the renowned Modernist and Father of Industrial Design, before joining Baccarat in 1981 where he was tasked with building the company's internal creative design studio. For over three decades, he has been the lead designer at Baccarat and responsible for the company's most distinctive crystal pieces.

His unique style and boundless creativity has made him a coveted creative collaborator with the most prestigious tabletop and design houses including Christofle, Ercuis, Odiot, Lagostina, Kostka and many more.

Was there a defining moment in your career? If so, how did it shape you as a designer?

I have several defining moments that shaped me as a designer. The first being my upbringing. My mother is Swedish, and my father is Basque. Growing up in Paris, I was immersed in a Swedish household and surrounded by Napoleon III furniture and 1950's Gustavian dėcor.

From there, in 1980 I was fortunate enough to be able to design and work under the leadership of the great Raymond Loewy. After a year, Baccarat hired me to become its resident designer and I have been working with the brand ever since.

Finally, my first trip to the United States in 1985 to study at the Pilchuck School in Seattle was another defining moment which continues to inspire me.

What is the basis of your design strategy?

After 36 years I still design by instinct and passion. My travels visiting factories across France and in other countries, my upbringing in a very creative and stimulating environment have had a great influence on my design strategy.

I strive to cultivate a balance between my personal design sensibility and the essence of the brand that I am designing for. I believe that merging my vision with the image of the brand is the best strategy to a successful outcome!

How do you know when to stick it out and when to let go of an idea?

When the ideas are refused by too many people. It is better to design products that are relevant than to design products that may be beautiful but are doomed to be a commercial flop!

Is it difficult to strike a balance between your personal design aesthetic and the objective for commercial success?

When a design is a success, it means it is beautiful. Doubt is an essential part of the process. The more I know, the more I doubt. The key to striking a balance between my vision and commercial success is to keep an open dialogue and exchange of ideas with the people in the factories. This dialogue is my check and balance!

Outside of design, what things inspire you and influence your work?

For more than 30 years, I have been drawing inspiration from the strong elements of nature such as waves, wind, fire, but I am also intrigued by the mechanics of motorcycle engines.

My passion for glass is matched only by my love of form and volume.

Some of my works reflect my respect of the past, while others are much less conventional, breaking with the classical repertory.

But above all, I love factories and the people who work with their hands!

Doubt is the engine behind creating something amazing, it is not a handicap.

If you were not a designer, is there another career path that intrigues you?

I started my studies to become a chairman of a factory and afterwards I attended art school in Paris. I love to work hands on with the factory workers. Their expertise and their understanding of the process is critical to creating a beautiful and well-designed product. It is a wonderful collaboration!

Is there one person who you admire or consider to be your greatest mentor or design inspiration?

Joseph Hoffman, the Austrian architect, Andree Putman, the French interior and product designer, Philippe Starck, the French interior and architectural designer, Cesar, the Rolling Stones and Jacques Dutronc for his elegance!

Is there anything else you would like to share with us regarding design and your career as a designer?

The world around me is my inspiration. I try to observe everything in Paris…the sights, the sounds, the smells and the excitement of the city! All of these things inspire my creativity and my design aesthetic.

What advice would you give to young designers who are just starting out in a commercial marketplace?

Stay humble and honest. Do not copy anyone. A friend of mine recently opened my eyes to understand that doubt is the engine behind creating something amazing, it is not a handicap. Understanding that self-doubt is a good thing, not a bad thing, is very important when designing new products.