The Scottish designer Geoffrey Mann works with both cutting-edge digital technologies and time-honored craft techniques, combining the capabilities of both to make thoughtful observations about materials, human connections, or even the passage of time. In “The Second Line” Cocktail Service Mann shows that ordinary objects can be shaped by extraordinary connections that happen in a fleeting moment. The undulating, dancing shapes of these drinking vessels and an accompanying animation video embody not only the cadence of jazz on New Orleans’s Frenchmen Street, but forever capture, in three-dimensional glass, a touching conversation between two strangers.
For this unique commissioned artwork for NOMA, Mann began with a visit to New Orleans in November 2016. During an evening out on Frenchmen Street, he recorded the ambient sounds of revelry and a memorable conversation with band leader Aaron Blanks. As Blanks organized the young All Star Brass Musicians from the Treme neighborhood, he told the visiting Scottish artist not only of the power of jazz and New Orleans’s second-line parading traditions, but how the teenagers’ brass instruments transcend music to become cultural symbols of history, diversity, equality, and hope. Through “The Second Line” Cocktail Service Mann captures these words not only literally, with the sound recording, but through the very shape of the New Orleans-inspired glass beverage set he created.
Mann applied the sound waves of this recorded conversation to a 3D computer model of a cocktail service, one designed with traditional modern martini glasses and champagne coupes sitting on a bar cart decorated with fleurs-de-lis. When animated by the digital sound waves of the recorded music and the conversation with Aaron Blanks, the glass shapes ripple and dance boldly in sync with the vibrations of that fleeting moment in New Orleans. Hitting pause on this digital animation, Mann captured these split-second reactions in wildly beautiful deviations of well-known drinking glass forms. The mutated martini glass reflects a passing comment about a second line, while the shimmy of a champagne coupe recalls a riff of trumpet. These unorthodox forms became Mann’s models for production. These undulating, unique digital shapes are made to be real physical objects through rapid 3D prototyping, also known as “3D printing,” in nylon plastic. From that plastic printed object, Mann worked with the skilled glassworker Jochen Holz to make precise copies in traditional flame-worked glass.
“The Second Line” Cocktail Service presents the glasses and the animation video together, capturing forever that night on Frenchmen Street. The sounds of jazz and human connection are retained in the ripples of the gold-plated lidded cocktail shaker, a glass champagne coupe, wine glass, martini glass, margarita glass, hurricane glass, and of course, in another nod to New Orleans’s culture, a glass version of the ubiquitous New Orleans plastic “go cup.”
Mel Buchanan, RosaMary Curator of Decorative Arts and Design
“The Second Line” Cocktail Service is on view in the Elise M. Besthoff Charitable Foundation Gallery in the Lupin Foundation Center for Decorative Arts through May 2019.