Before the end of 2019, French crystal glass art company Lalique launched its limited edition Panda collection by Chinese artist Han Meilin—a symbolic partnership celebrating the 55 years of diplomatic relations between France and China.
The art collection features two pandas, a sitting male named Yuan-Yuan, which according to Daniel Ong, Lalique regional director for Southeast Asia and Oceania, means “round, accomplishment,” and a supine female Meng-Meng, which “means a dream.”
Together, the two pandas convey the message of “accomplished dream.” The two bears were named in honor of Yuan-Meng, the first panda to be born at Beauval Zoo in France in 2017.
Pandas play a huge role in China. The East Asian country has long used “panda diplomacy” to strengthen diplomatic relations with other countries by sending live pandas as a gift. The first recorded example of the practice dates back to 685 AD, when Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang dynasty sent a pair of pandas to Emperor Tenmu of Japan.
In the ‘70s, China sent more than a dozen bears to countries including the US, the UK, Germany, Spain, Mexico, Japan, and France—the home of glassmaker and jeweller René Lalique. Yuan-Meng’s parents Huan Huan and Yuan Zi have lived in France since 2012.
Panda thus became the ultimate symbol of bonds that link China and France, the bond the company highlights by teaming up with an artist whose artistic repertoire is dominated by the adorable, herbivorous white and black bear.
“Han Meilin is very fond of panda,” Ong told Manila Standard in an interview. “Panda is rare, protected. And he has a message in creating this. In Lalique crystal, the message of harmony, relationship is important; protect and treasure what we have.”
The partnership complements the two, Ong noted, as “all Lalique designs are based on nature; the three Fs: flora, fauna, and femininity.”
A fragile species, the panda reigns majestically over Han’s body of work. The Chinese artist’s fondness of animals are seen in his sketches and models. He is most recognized for his creation of the Fuwa (good luck dolls), the mascots used in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
For the Panda collection, Han captures the two images of pandas living in the wild, eyes wide open. The large glass sculpture is only available in 55 pieces for each design, an homage to 55 years of diplomatic relations. They were made using the centuries-old lost-wax technique, which has been revived by the artisans of Lalique.
Each piece is born in a plaster mold, in a single sheath, which is fired and then cooled again for hundreds of hours before processing in the cold-glass workshops, where it is cut and sanded to produce the repolished satin finish that is Lalique’s trademark technique.
The pair Lalique brought to the Philippines bears the number 16. There is only one piece for each design here in the country.
Meanwhile, the little Yuan-Yuan and Meng-Meng pandas are available in an edition of 888 pieces—an auspicious number in Chinese numerology; triple fortune.
In creating the little pandas, a steel mould was created on the basis of a drawing by Han. An impression in the mold reproduced the effects desired by the artist down to the last detail—from the six-clawed paws to the puckered muzzle. The crystal was meticulously hot-pressed into the mold, then cooled and reheated for a hundred hours.
Ong revealed this is the first time the French company tapped an Asian artist to design a collection; and this won’t be the last.
“We are also looking into having a Filipino artist,” he said. “Hopefully every Asian country will have one representative.”
When asked about the plan to launch a Lalique collection designed by an artist from the Philippines, the official said they haven’t chosen a name yet. “Because of this launch, we were so inspired to talk about it today.”
Lalique is available at Rustans in Makati, Shangri-La, and Cebu.