64 Parishes

Heart of Glass

Scottish designer Geoffrey Mann captures the musical rhythms of New Orleans

Published: August 30, 2019
Last Updated: December 1, 2019

Heart of Glass

New Orleans Museum of Art

Geoffrey Mann and Jochen Holz, “The Second Line” Cocktail Service, 2017. Glass, 3D-printed nylon plated with gold, and sound recording.

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, on view at the New Orleans Museum of Arts Elise M. Besthoff Charitable Foundation Gallery in the newly reinstalled Lupin Foundation Center for Decorative Arts, 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 video animation not only embody the cadence of jazz on New Orleans’ Frenchmen Street but also forever capture a touching conversation between two strangers in three-dimensional glass 

Mann began this unique artwork, commissioned for NOMA, 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. Blanks, who leads the young All Star Brass Musicians from the Tremé neighborhood, told the visiting artist of the power of jazz and New Orleans’ second-line parading traditions, describing 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 Orleansinspired 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 soundwaves of the recorded music and the conversation with Blanks, the glass shapes ripple and dance boldly in sync with the vibrations of that encounter. Hitting pause on this digital animation, Mann captured these split-second, 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. The undulating, unique digital shapes are made into real physical objects through rapid 3D prototyping, also known as 3D printing, in nylon plastic. Mann then worked with the skilled glassworker Jochen Holz to make precise copies of the plastic printed objects 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’ culture, a glass version of the ubiquitous New Orleans plastic “go cup.”