Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Trend: Sous Verre

There is one trend which is not new but which continues to be popular in France and especially in Paris, and that is the display of objects sous verre, under a glass bell.  What is it about putting something under glass?  The object is right there for you to view, but it is protected; as if guaranteeing that the untouchable object is rare or inherently precious. Glass domes in various sizes are still found at brocantes and flea markets all over France, sometimes with their original contents.  The problem of course, unless you are local, is the transport, which is why I think I don’t have any in my collection.  Here is one from the Paris flea~


One can create dozens of vignettes under glass; here is just one idea, precious and perfect~


Several years ago the trend was vintage-looking green-glass bells with a knob on top and a very wide base, they  seemed more suited for the garden.  Those you see all now are almost all the Victorian yet modern glass bells in clear glass without the poignee or knob; here is one exception, with the knob.  Around Paris, you will find all sorts of things on display under glass….here jewelry….it definitely makes for a nice display, much more interesting than just a hand displaying jewelry in the window; note the mirror beneath~


How about a brioche?  This is a French-Japanese bakery on Rue de Bac.  Everything is under glass, with a single light above…very French and original~


I bought one sweet, XXL brioche for Julia and for our Sunday dinner we all split a small Saint Honore cake, which I am disappointed to say was the only one I found in all of Paris.  Do you like it under the dome?  Otherwise it would be behind a glass counter, so in a way I prefer this personal display.  It puts the value on the individual piece; like a jewel.  The fabrication of the cake was a little unusual, but this was really delicious~


Back to reality, in California, I was surprised to find some great French-style cloches at a “reasonable” price at Rogers Gardens.  I was surprised that they sold the asymmetrical as well as the round cloches, without the handle, and with a base, just as you see in France, though the bases at Rogers are some kind of composite not wood. 

That’s ok if you want to have one display at home.  But this Saturday I am styling a few elements for the Laguna Beach Earth Day event.  I wanted not one, but a handful of cloches, for effect.  I’m adding in a few glass hurricane shades and probably an upturned glass or two with some micro-items, but how could I get a nice glass bell on the cheap?  My idea was to use XL clear glass bottles so I went to the 99Cent store first, in hopes of finding something great (jug wine, for example) for 99 cents, but alas, there were none.  Smart & Final to the rescue, I went home with $20 worth of wine and tea in various bottles.

This is a mini-tutorial for glass bells, and NOT a project for kids.  You can find videos for how to remove the bottoms off wine bottles on YouTube.  I used litre bottles of wine and tea, you will also need cotton twine, scissors, a lighted taper candle and a bottle of acetone nail polish remover. 

Remove the labels from your bottles (by soaking in hot soapy water) and clean the residual glue.  Fill your kitchen sink with cold water and light the candle next to the sink.  Start with a few smaller bottles just to get the hang of the technique.


Wrap the twine about 3 or 4 times around the bottom of the bottle at the place you want to remove the bottom of the bottle; for a tall bell, place the twine at the bottom of the bottle as in the photos here.  tighten the twine; you’ll see more than three wraps here, but I found I got a cleaner line with 3 wraps.  You can remove and soak the twine in the acetone, but I just poured it on the twine on the bottle, catching the residual over a cup. 


Hold the bottle by the neck, and then hold the bottle end over the candle flame; the acetone will light.  Move the bottle over the sink, and tilt the bottle neck down and end up and turn the bottle slowly to heat the twine and build hot gas in the bottle bottom.  As the flame of the twine ends, wait about five seconds then touch the bottle into the cold water in the sink.  POP, the bottle bottom will pop off, as below right~


I saved the big wine jugs for last; they were slightly more difficult (and more expensive) as they were thicker glass, so I was glad I had practiced on the smaller, easier bottles.  Caution, though, the bottom of the first jug flew off and exploded into the sink before it even touched the water; I think the key may be in the hot gas that builds in the bottles.  There is science involved here!  All I know is that I ended up with some great clear glass bells for $20.  Here they are, ready to have some fragrant roses, orange blossoms, bird’s nests and gigantic blue goose eggs placed beneath them. 


The two wine jugs without bottoms are particularly nice.  I couldn’t help think of Jean-Luc in Beaune, who always says, “don’t throw anything away.”  I debated asking a bar or recycling center for a few bottles, but I didn’t have time.  I also couldn’t bear to send the jug wine I bought down the drain; so I bottled it and my sister will take it.  The nice thing about the open tops is that whatever I place beneath the bells will be concentrated into the nose at the top. 

I was happy to have a little French inspiration for the Earth Day celebration, and my display will mostly be for the delight of children.  I think what my display will say is that even the smallest things in our world, those natural things like a hummingbird nest, are precious.  Our Earth is fragile, and is to be appreciated.   I’ll show you what I  present, but now you have the story on the cloches~


  1. J'aime les cloches en verre... Autrefois elles étaient aussi utilisées pour le bouquet de la mariée, qu'elle conservait ainsi sous cloche tout le long de sa vie... Une très jolie publication, lumineuse comme les flammes des petites bougies!...
    gros bisous

    1. Bouquet de la me touche, Martine! Passez un excellent week-end~

  2. Thoughts of Paris, the food and baked goods.
    I would buy one of those glass domes if
    we ever saw one. Great idea. Enjoyed your post as always. Be well and Happy.

  3. It is pure happiness under glass. :)

  4. You are so creative! I love the idea of the cloches and your idea of how to acquire them inexpensively is pure genius. I have been wanting to use this idea in the garden, but didn't want to spend the money on the real deal. Thank you for always sharing some inspiration. Love your blog! Regards, Maureen

  5. Very interesting, I normally am afraid of glass cutting but this seems do-able as a technique! Hmmm...wonder where all the wine went? ;-)

    1. A little down the drain and most of it into bottles....I can not drink this stuff, but my sister will! Why waste, right?

  6. Ha! Yes there's always someone happy to get a by-product!

  7. Oh gosh I was just re-reading the instructions so I could try this (tonight?)...and realized you had already noted the "home" for the wine! So much for being focused! :-)

  8. OMGoodness! I love the industrial feel of lighted domes over the exquisite French baked art!

    Your altered bottles are going to be a hit at the market! Welcome home, Andrea!

  9. Dear Andrea, very smart idea, I know the domes will be filled beautifully and can't wait to see!

    Art by Karena

  10. Oh, lady "A" i adore thèse precious bells of glass, there is nothing better then the vintage garden ones or the cloches that covered and preserved pieces of old. Your bottle cutting is something I have wanted to do for some time but, I have been waiting to see if I can find old antique wine jugs with its thick seedy glass that shows the age of build up of frost to it.
    You know what I will be on the look out for....some old bottles readying them to cut :)

    See you soon and all you so gracefully inspire.