Like Kids in a Candy Shop: Designers Hunting Glass Gems Left Behind
Marie Méon and Harold Berard are a creative couple with a background in art direction and food design (Marie’s Manger Manger project is definitely something you need to know). While spending the summer of 2021 in Venice with their son, they started noticing piles of leftovers outside — and inside — the furnaces they were visiting for a design project in Murano.
Abandoned yet still desirable, those spare items were covered in dust. “We thought they would have stayed there forever,” they say. The glass appeared to be waiting for something — or someone.
This is how our collaboration with Marie Méon and Harold Bernard started.
Looking at the scraps through the lens of creative professionals, the designers created a series of totem-shaped, modular lights by stacking the discarded pieces.
They spent many days foraging in furnaces and workshops, including Idea Murano, a one-of-a-kind antique glass shop with a huge warehouse full of undisplayed objects with defective parts and products that are waiting to be recast. Eventually, after spending several days in exploration, they spotted some glass gems that had ended up in a cardboard box.
“It was like hunting treasures. We were like kids in a candy shop, assembling blocks that didn’t fit together, to create something unique and graphically strong.” Describing a practice reminiscent of building with Legos, Marie and Harold say the design process was organic and instinctive.
“We didn’t know what we wanted to do,” they explain. “It was not a pre-formed reflection, but an intuitive research. Like children, we played with glass, focusing on antique pieces instead of contemporary ones.”
Suggesting yet another possible perspective on waste, the lighting collection embraces upcycling as “more a philosophy than aesthetics.” Still, the designers admit they were inspired by the Memphis movement.
New Pieces Capture Time Within Glass
When we visited maestro Carlo Pitau last week, our intention was to interview him about his approach to glass making. As it turned out, he was totally indifferent to our questions. Instead, he gave us a tour of the now-dormant work space, where some boxes and glass mounds immediately caught our attention.
Inside Fornace Pitau, run by siblings Carlo and Maria since 1963, we are installing an efficient kiln that will serve for an upcoming project: a limited production of one-off pieces, personally made by Marcantonio. The kiln will be placed in front of the traditional furnace — the last of many that occupied the workshop until a few decades ago.
“In the 60s, working with the Americans during the Marshall Plan, I used to produce tons of crystal and colored glass in here,” Carlo remembers. Now, with the production in stand-by, Fornace Pitau remains home to thousands of semi-finished glass products, including canne, murrine, macchie and fondi, the cutouts of the objects that Carlo has made over the years.
Our intention is to reuse all this material, now thick with dust and history, to make pieces that incorporate a sense of time.
The idea of employing old glass scraps to make new products is not a new one in Murano. Since the 16th century, glass masters have employed leftovers in all kinds of ways to prevent the disposal of the precious material.
In fact, the tradition of Goto de fornasa literally started with scraps centuries ago. The drinking glasses were made at the end of the day with the remnants of the glassblowing process, which is why Goto aesthetics vary so much in colors and patterns — and why their signature look is so chaotic and wonderfully expressive.
In Carlo’s glass, one can spot the seeds of the past, frozen and caged in the silica. Now, we have the opportunity to shape our heritage into something new, and to finally make those seeds blossom again.
We are preparing to spend hours picking and cleaning tons of glass remainings, selecting those that — being the most significant — are going to be used again.
A new wave is coming to Murano. Meanwhile, watch our film Il Crogiolo about Fornace Pitau.
A Jungle Is Growing in Our Office
A small jungle now hangs from our office’s ceiling, an entanglement of ivy, creepers, pothos and tradescantia, an American-native plant with zig-zagging stems, spear-shaped leaves and a hint of pink coloring. A purple light emanates from the top, surrounding the vegetation with a mystical aura. At the bottom, a huge glass bowl provides water to nurture the vegetation, which grows imperceptibly around metallic supports.
This compelling presence that now occupies the entrance of our studio is the latest prototype of the “living chandelier,” a plant-based lighting fixture developed with the University of Padua as part of our Nature di Luce project. The project has now entered an indoor testing phase that will last for a few months.
Every two weeks, researcher and project leader Giacomo Bernello will visit us to check the plants’ growth and health, assessing water and light consumption. These tests will provide important information for developing the final version of the chandelier, to be installed in the Padua Botanical Garden.
Even in closed environments, nature takes its course. In the meantime, we’re delighted to have some greenery in the office.
How Do You Make the Glass Business Contemporary?
As school comes to a close for the summer holidays, our Crystal Clear project at Abate Zanetti high school in Murano is wrapping up — for now.
After a 6-month seminar about the foundations of a successful glass enterprise, which we staffed and financed, 18 students are now ready to step into the entrepreneur’s shoes and start promoting, communicating and, ultimately, selling their products.
The students not only learned important design and storytelling principles, but also conceived of their own original ideas. They were asked to approach glass by dispensing with the use of colors, producing clear, transparent pieces.
Each student thus developed a personal design that was later manufactured inside the school’s furnace.
With the help of photographer Enrico Fiorese, the participants learned how to style, set and shoot their products, producing high-quality photographs for online and off-line communications.
During the final lessons, our partner Display — which designed our low-impact website — held classes about web design, online communication and distribution. Display’s designers Francis and Andrea are now at work developing - together with the students - the e-commerce platform where the Crystal Clear glasses will be displayed and sold.
The challenge is to give the students practical tools to develop a contemporary and original mindset towards glassmaking, emphasizing both the cultural and economic opportunity that the business can represent.
We can’t wait to have the website ready.
New Release: Tropicana Scorpio
From its ancient appearances as a fertility symbol on Egyptian talismans and Mesopotamian pottery, to its alleged use as a cursed ingredient in witches’ potions, to traditional Mexican Mezcal spirits, humans have always been fascinated by scorpions, which suggest a mystical connection with nature and the universe.
In the Medieval view, they embodied the idea of ambiguity: poisonous and monster-like insects on one side, brave and full of a spirit of self-sacrifice and bravery on the other. Today, a modern obsession with horoscopes and constellations has brought back the astral symbol of Scorpio as one of the most fascinating and evocative of the zodiac.
Metal scorpions are also carved in the fence that frames the water gate of our headquarters in Venice, overlooking the Grand Canal.
Whatever idea you may have of these arachnids, we decided to bring a little scorpio vibes to your table.
TROPICANA SCORPIO glasses are available here.
Spotlight: The Art of the Encounter
“Life is the art of the encounter,” sang Vinicius de Moraes in the ballad Samba delle Benedizioni. La Vita, Amico, è l’Arte dell’Incontro was also the title of the same 1969 album by poet Giuseppe Ungaretti, Sergio Endrigo e de Moraes himself.
This simple yet meaningful line became a motto for Inti Ligabue, chairman and CEO of Fondazione Ligabue, a Venice-based art foundation that collects and showcases tribal, primitive and oceanic art, including Pre-columbian sculptures, Mesopotamian writing tools and many other archaic wonders.
The Fondazione Ligabue has recently acquired Indefinito No.1, the first of a series of monumental glass works made by Marcantonio. Resembling a totemic, undefined figure, the sculptural artwork is designed to be chained to the ceiling and now hangs in an alcove of the Foundation.
The Fondazione was established in 2015 to give continuity to the Research Center founded in 1973 by Inti’s father, Giancarlo Ligabue, an archaeologist, paleontologist and fine art collector who left behind a priceless heritage of pottery, jewels, paintings and ancient fabrics, gathered during his more than 130 explorations.
Indefinito No. 1 is the first glass object to enter Ligabue’s Collection. “Neither my father nor I had ever approached glass art until now. Maybe, as a Venetian, I had often taken this material for granted, but I was wrong,” Inti Ligabue says. He decided to buy Indefinito because Marcantonio’s talent and sensitivity piqued his curiosity and then solidified his interest, he adds.
Recently, in the past five to eight years, he’s begun collecting contemporary Venetian paintings and sculptures: “Artists like Emilio Vedova, Edmondo Bacci, Gino Morandis, Ennio Finzi, who are among the most important contemporary painters of the last 60 years,” Inti says. “The same goes for Venetian sculptors: Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Mirko Basaldella and, finally, Marcantonio."
“To me, Venezia is light,” he explains. “This light is reflected on water, and on glass too. Venetian artists are artists of light; that's why I collect them.”
Glass therefore becomes a synonym for water, both elements serving as reflective surfaces that forever mirror, and transform the beauty of the city. If Tintoretto was the “painter of light,” and Canaletto’s canvases were a pure mirror of the real world, Marcantonio uses glass reflections as an expressive tool.
"With glass, Marcantonio creates really suggestive gleams, treating light as a compositional element,” Inti says. “In short, what I see is a common thread linking Venetian painters and sculptors, and Marcantonio is among them."