A Conversation with Heven

November 1, 2022

As Heven, Breanna Box and Peter Dupont reinvigorated the art of glass blowing, and are now bringing their inventiveness to film, fashion, and beyond.

When Breanna Box, one half of the multifaceted design, fashion, and production brand Heven, signed up for a local glass-blowing class via Groupon during the COVID-19 lockdown, it not only opened the door to a world of playful and endearingly bold glass designs, it simultaneously fulfilled the childhood dream of Peter Dupont’s to become a glass-blower. Soon the two were courting an instructor in the London-based Glass Hub for private lessons, and the rest is history. Colourful carafes with curved devil horns emerged from their studio, including a collaboration with Parisian fashion label Coperni, which have since been spotted on the arms of celebrities like Doja Cat and Kylie Jenner. Not tethered to conventional boundaries hemming-in artistic practices, the duo have since set their sights on expanding their creative horizons, including branching out into film and production. I caught up with the pair to talk about their upcoming projects, their inimitable approach to glass, and how they’ve broken through the barriers and gatekeeping that plague millenia-old traditional crafts.

So you're both very busy individuals with a multitude of projects on the go outside of Heven. Breanna, you work as a director and a musician, Peter, you also have a clothing company. How do you manage to do glass blowing and work on everything else?

[PD]: Sometimes we don’t, I think you can only be in one place at a time and there are only so many hours in the day. We try to be focused on what we’re doing at that moment. We were just in Minnesota shooting a film for Breanna. There are projects that move faster than others, and those are the ones you put the work into. The two of us can get bored quite easily and need to be stimulated in different ways. So, if we don’t have a lot of different outlets, it’s not going to work for us.

Can you tell me about the other projects you’re working on outside of Heven? You mentioned the film in Minnesota.

[BB]: That’s a documentary we’ve been trying to finish for a while. [PD]: I think what’s important to say is that the documentary is actually a part of Heven, as Heven is becoming more of a production company. We realized what we’re good at with Heven is making a spectacle and making people say, “wow this is crazy!”. With a current project we are working on alongside a well-known fashion house, we’ve been reflecting on what we are actually creating for them and it’s not about the product, but the attention it will get. Same as the Coperni glass bags we did, yes they’ve been selling, but compared to how much noise they made, that’s where the real value is for brands. We’re moving into working on production, creative direction, short films and adverts as we’ve both really wanted to work in film. [BB]: We were mostly inspired by Lucille Ball and Ricky Ricardo. They created their production company Desilu Productions. [PD]: Heven is kind of a happy accident. It’s great, I love it and I’m so proud of it but, we have our creativity going in so many directions and this one just worked out.

With focusing on production do you think you will eventually move away from making glass?

[PD]: I don’t think so. I love glass, it’s such a fun medium and there are not many people who work with it. There are craftsmen who do it in Venice but they make the same style of carafes and the same chandeliers that they’ve been doing for the past 50 years. The only innovation we’re seeing in glass are the creatives who work with it and experiment, but just don’t have the right outlets. The young creatives don’t have as many resources and a lot of the people we work with in the studio make these amazing things that nobody gets to see! [BB]: Also everything has costs; the glass, but also all the PR that we do with it. Adverts, etc. [PD]: It’s mad expensive! [BB]: You have to pay your people, and that’s not cheap. Even the advert we did where I’m eating cereal cost a few grand! All these things are very expensive, and most people probably don’t think to put their money there. It makes sense to put the money back into the company where other people perhaps are trying to save and buy a house… one day we’ll get there.

Did you expect Heven to become a company, did it start as a hobby?

[BB]: It started from an Instagram post. [PD]: It was us doing something we both liked and enjoyed doing together. It was also something we were able to create immediately. A lot of things in our careers like modelling, creating shoes or fashion, can all take such a long time to develop, especially if you do it sustainably. Film too. It takes years to make it right and to see the final result. So what turned us onto glass was having something that we could do in the moment and immediately see the results. There is a satisfaction to that, especially when everything else is such a long process.

So the immediacy of the work is what kept you returning to glass?

[PD]: It’s right in your hands, like you poke it and it has a reaction, it's not like film where you poke it and five years later you might see something!

When thinking up a new piece do you sketch it out or is it more intuitive and as you’re creating, you’re shaping the works?

[PD]: I sketch, Breanna doesn’t really. [BB]: I don’t typically draw it. When working at a bench with someone I will mostly direct them—that comes naturally I think! I know I need to look at something, it’s very improv in that sense, and I act in that way too. If I do characters or even my music, I don’t write too much of it. It’s in the moment, and I feel that way with glass as well.

You must have very close relationships with the glassblowers you work with then.

[PD]: Sometimes there is a misunderstanding with people that we work with because you can work with somebody who has been doing it for 15 years and has worked on perfecting the glass technique. They are so good at what they do, but then we come into the picture and we can create something that we are not technically very good at, but we are able to sell. [BB]: Some people praise us for that and some people are very envious. It’s crazy to feel that because we learned in a shop owned by an incredible woman named KT and it was just the three of us in there. We had been sheltered in that sense and didn’t have to deal with egos. It’s a very male-dominated practice and it kinda sucks to walk into a space where you feel you are not really welcome. [PD]: It’s super macho and small. [BB]: And we are still so new, I’m still figuring out what the hell I’m doing and that attitude doesn’t really inspire me to want to learn more!

So it’s not a very supportive community.

[BB]: There are a lot of really cool people online and I’ve met some badass individuals. [PD]: We are striving towards finding the right people to work with and it is a material that has a history of gatekeeping. In the past, people who were leaving Murano were getting their hands chopped off or kidnapped. It was people trying to leave with the secrets, and sometimes you can feel the same attitude today. People don’t want to tell you how to make something. They gatekeep it, but one way or another we are going to figure it out.

It’s a small number of people who know this skill and they want to protect it, but it also prevents it from further developing.

[PD]: You also close yourself off. What’s so funny is that the only way studios in New York are making money right now is by teaching! None of the studios here would exist if they didn’t have classes. Barely anybody is selling their work. It’s such a contradiction. Can’t you see yourself that the only way you can actually survive is by expanding and letting more people know how it works. Glass needs a ceramics 2016 moment where everybody makes a janky cup.

Every single person was dabbling in ceramics.

[PD]: And now everybody has ceramics in their homes. [BB]: But glass is more expensive, so that is not going to happen the same way. [PD]: Not necessarily. People pay a lot of money for ceramics but glass needs a moment. Another reason why glass is expensive is that it’s so exclusive.

Do you feel like you’re breaking that barrier and opening the doors to working in glass?

[PD]: Trying to! [BB]: Hell yeah! I think so, people are taking glass-blowing lessons because of us, I know that for a fact.

It's amazing to see it happening, what you’re doing is actually promoting a new generation of glass blowers.

[BB]: Yes, it’s really nice.

What made you want to try glassblowing in the first place, since there was no Heven to inspire you, what pushed you to go?

[BB]: I was actually staying at our mutual friends, Giza and Steph’s place in NYC and it was when the pandemic was in a weird place. People just started going on lockdown, they didn’t want to go anywhere, but I really wanted to try this glassblowing class I found on Groupon! So, I went by myself and the only other students that came were two nurses. I made a cup and a paperweight. Afterwards, I went back to London and told Peter we have to do this thing because it was so much fun.

You were both living in London when you started?

[BB]: Yes, when I went back to the UK, we went on lockdown and found this woman at the Glass Hub named KT. We were in talks back and forth because, again, we didn’t know what was ok with the lockdowns. After months of talking she finally agreed to do private lessons since she understood how serious we were. So then, we rented a car, drove two hours up to Summersetand, and stayed for the weekend to glass blow. Mind you, it’s not cheap, but we were modelling a lot at that time and doing at-home jobs, so thank god for that. The first thing I made there was a carafe, which then my friend photographed and made an Instagram for. It was at the peak of people starting to make crafty stuff at home.

Yes, I remember that period. Everyone had the chance to make things, start businesses, explore new types of careers during the pandemic. And before that what was your relationship with glass?

[BB]: I always found glass so beautiful. It’s part of my Italian heritage. My grandma collects glass and my grandpa even worked in a glass factory at one point.

What do they think of your glass works?

[BB]: It was fun to show them, I’m happy my grandfather got to see us doing this before he went to heaven. My grandmother thinks it's very fun, she had glass bags in her shop way before we did the Coperni piece as vases.

I love that it is a bag and also a vase.

[BB]: My grandma thinks it's crazy because she’s super into glass. She loves going to thrift stores and finding really incredible things that are signed for like ten bucks! That's her favourite thing and for a while, before starting this, I ran an Instagram that was @glass.fromthepast which was to help her sell them. I have such great friends that are incredible supporters. It makes me so emotional because it’s so cute.

Do you feel that inspired what you work on now?

[BB]: Probably, I remember my Grandma having pieces in every hutch of the house. My grandpa used to be a jewel thief, so I don’t always know where some things came from but they’ve always been in the family. I think those expensive little bijoux things are so nice to look at and trigger a nostalgic feeling of home.

And Peter, what about your relationship with glass before?

[PD]: I myself have always wanted to be a glass blower since I was a child. My parents would take me to glass workshops when I was a kid and they couldn’t drag me out of there. In Denmark, we had a week in school where we got to choose an internship for our future jobs, and I of course chose glass blowing.I always knew I wanted to do it, I just didn’t know how to do it. So when Breanna came to me so enthusiastic about glass blowing I was thrilled.

You knew you liked glass blowing and dreamed of it as a career when you were young, did you ever imagine it would become a reality?

[PD]: I didn’t think it was possible. We were asked to choose our dream job but were told how to do it. It’s a very closed-off career and difficult to realize. We were lucky we found KT at the Glass Hub. To find somebody who was so open with us. She didn’t tell us what was right or wrong, she was just like, "please keep playing, that is why you guys are good at it!" [BB]: She is the best. It was great having a teacher with that spirit and I wish I had more like that in my scholarly training to push me in that sense. [PD]: We owe her everything. [BB]: It’s insane how much a teacher can make a difference in your life. At any age really, because obviously we are grown and she still made such an impact on us. [PD]: It’s the only way I could form glass. If I were to have pursued it in Denmark it would have been at a very traditional art school. So I think it was just meant to happen somehow. I always wanted it to happen, I just didn’t know how to do it.

Can you tell us about the recent event you organized during fashion week here in NYC, what was the occasion?

[BB]: To promote two things, the launch of the new bag and a Web3 token to include people that maybe couldn’t afford to buy the works. Fun things for the younger community.

And that is with P00LS?

[PD]: Yes, P00LS makes tokens for big brands and celebrities. It's a tool we use to get people engaged. For example, we’ve seen there are so many people that do graphics, nails or cakes inspired by our work and we wanted to reward them with a competition. For example, they can earn tokens that can be redeemed for special discounts on Heven products, special colour ways or a glass-blowing class with us. [BB]: All of that is coming together because our product is so costly to make and needs to be sold expensive, but we know there is a large community that likes the brand and many are quite young and don’t necessarily have that kind of money. We wanted to do something that would engage them, I also believe the digital thing is here to stay. People use and buy things a lot with money digitally already, and we want to be a part of that as well. [PD]: We can also create the dreams that we know we can’t make in reality, but can make digitally to share with people what’s inside our heads!

It’s a new way to express yourself, and a new type of business.

[PD]: It’s definitely a big market and we can’t ignore that it’s the same way that glass blowing has not renewed itself for so long. Now, there's this innovation to show creativity and if you don’t want to do that because you think it's weird, then you haven’t been listening. [BB]: We have friends who have never been able to sell work before who are finally making incredible money for the first time in their life. Now their physical work is selling at prices I think it's worth! It’s really nice and that makes me happy.

So to conclude.

[PD]: I think the main thing we are doing is figuring it out! [BB]: And the message we want to get out is that we are a creative studio. We are not just doing glass, and not a bag brand. The dream is so much bigger than that! And secondly, the vision is film. I constantly talk about that aspect of our work because people may not know about it. [PD]: Heven is moving towards doing more production, and more creative direction with other people. Helping them achieve what they like, while still having fun.

I can tell you’re having fun.

[PD]:  It’s important to us. [BB]: That's what KT said! She said whenever it no longer feels fun, don’t do it anymore!

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