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In France, stained glass windows are afraid of lead

A magic wand, so that lead is not a wand? The artisans of La Maison du Vitrail in Paris fear a European ban on this material, inheritors of ancestral know-how, but essential to their profession. Fourteen people work under rainbow glass pieces in this family workshop. In the 15th arrondissement of Paris, master glassmaker Emmanuelle Andrieux currently holds the reins. A stained glass temple that we restore as much as we create. “From the small to the monumental, from the piece of glass in the stairwell. To the dome of the Galeries Lafayette,” he notes. And, as in the days of the cathedral builders, “always with the rules of art.” Watercolor models, cutting glass plates, painting and firing at 630°C many ancestral techniques such as… and bending consists of assembling the parts into lead bars. “Lead has unusual properties. It is both very strong and very flexible, and can last for years, even centuries, without breaking down,” says Emmanuelle Andrieux. Stretch.” – “Collateral Damage” – According to the WHO, “there is no limit to how exposure to lead can have harmful effects.” . Lead poisoning, lead poisoning, kills approximately one million people worldwide each year. Lead is implied. But the heritage trade, from stained glass to organ builders, is no exception. “We were clearly told that we were collateral damage,” laments Emmanuelle Andrieux. The “huge shortfall” will have “terrible” consequences for some 450 independent stained-glass workshops in France, he warns, who are already subject to annual blood tests and wear protective gear to prevent occupational diseases. our profession, especially for those dedicated to recovery, still has “no alternative”. From Notre-Dame de Paris to Sainte-Chapelle, passing through a series of historic monuments, France is home to the largest area of ​​stained glass in the world and 60% of the European stained glass heritage. According to Emmanuelle Andrieux, only 15-20% have been restored so far. In his workshop, old damaged stained glass windows are carefully manipulated in cathedral silence on a backlit table that brings out colors and details. In one more street, in the basement, a stock of 18,000 m2 of glass panels is waiting to find a buyer. – Exception – There is another way to create: “Tiffany”. A 42-year-old master glazier, showing off a small modern blue stained glass window with thinner joints than usual, says, however, that “this technique is no less robust, no less architectural, and no less waterproof.” Copper tape , 60% tin… and 40% solder containing lead. With the customer already paying €1,000-€4,500 per square meter, he added, “It would cost us at least three times more to go 100% tin. How can we sell our stained glass then?” he asks. Some politicians, like Catherine Dumas, president of the Métiers d’art research group in the Senate, are trying to “educate” the government and the European Parliament on this issue. The goal? It trades on “real know-how and a significant heritage fund from the exception”, backs Senator LR, who talks about “a matter of months” before the European Commission makes its proposal. The review, originally scheduled for the end of 2022, “Let us also be given the means to research to find an alternative,” implores Emmanuelle Andrieux, whose first claim is above all to “continue to live with (our) passion”.bla/may/gvy

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