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Katerina Krotenko Wins Autonoma Prize 2022

Ukrainian artist and designer Katerina Krotenko has won the 2022 edition of Autonoma Prize — our annual award dedicated to emerging glass talent — with her work Shaped by Fire. She was awarded a two-month residency at Pilchuck Glass School near Seattle, Washington, to start in 2023.

Consisting of a series of trunk-shaped pieces with tree-bark textures, her sculptures were obtained by casting melted hot glass into wooden molds. The technique captures the tiniest details of burning wood, creating a unique surface of each work.

An American Artist in Murano

If it’s true that we “all go back to where we belong” (as the famous song by the R.E.M. claimed), Andy Paiko — a 45-yearold artist from Portland, Oregon — belongs in the world of glass. He has been working in the hot shop since he was 17, and has supported his family making glasswork for more than 20 years. Andy was one of the first participants in our Autonoma program’s Pilot edition in 2017. During the immersive 3-week workshop in Murano, he worked in five different furnaces experimenting with traditional techniques, from glassblowing to casting and sculpting. In the following editions, Andy was a tutor for the students attending Autonoma in 2018 and 2019.

Since we met, his approach to glassworking has always been an inspiration. “Making glass is like playing the piano, or skateboarding,” he says. “The number of tricks and techniques are endless, there is always room for innovation, and you can always get better, change your style, and evolve. The practice requires quick decision-making and a steadiness of hand in the moment, which I find admirable.”

Evolution was the main reason why we established Autonoma, with the purpose of turning Murano into a global hub for arts and culture — one whose influence extends beyond glass. Promoting creative encounters between generations of artists, the residency aims to foster creativity and innovation in the glass field, inspiring passion in the emerging artists involved. In doing so, Autonoma seeks to challenge the clichés: glassblowers are too often seen as “romanticized craftsmen surrounded by flaming furnaces, making vases and bowls and drinking vessels, water jugs and little decorative horses for countertop and mantle,” Paiko says.

Instead, he found in glass his “primary voice.” His personal, contemporary approach turns pure, clear glass into hyper-detailed, functioning machinery with a surreal aura: a seismometer, a spinning wheel and an “accurate within one gram” balance, as well as a provocative series of reliquaries that raise questions about the relationship between form and function in the art object. “Must a vessel be used in order to be functional? Does a functionless sculpture have a real purpose outside of aesthetic contemplation? If so, does its creator have to take responsibility for making something that is otherwise useless?.” After all, art is not only about aesthetics, or about function at all. In Andy’ artwork, function — or the lack thereof — is just another expressive feature, inviting viewers to look beneath the surface.

“I believe we have a duty as social beings to communicate: to internalize the information we gather through our five senses, reflect on that personal experience, and transmit our interpretation,” he says. “Reflection and transmission is precisely what glass does, coincidentally. I like that metaphor.“ And, he adds, “Being creative is essential to being human. It defines us individually and therefore collectively as a species.”

Earlier this month, Andy moved to Venice with his wife Belle and daughter Cleo to work side by side with the Muranese maestri on an upcoming project. Andy’s arrival marks an important achievement for Autonoma: we hope many in the future will follow his example and bring their creative spark to the heart of the lagoon.

Back to School in Murano

September means back to school, and this year, we’re heading back to the classroom at Abate Zanetti high school in Murano to resume working with the students for the final steps of our Crystal Clear project. Their next challenge is to design a website that will serve as an e-commerce platform to sell the clear glass goblets they developed during the workshop last spring. At the same time, we’ll show the students how to create a marketing strategy based on storytelling, concept-building and critical thinking, that our experience has proven to be the pillars of strong product communication. Our partner Display will provide professional help developing the site, while we’ll be sharing the values that inspire our communication approach.

Good luck to the designers as they tackle this next phase of the workshop. We can’t wait to finally see the pieces available for purchase. We’ll be sharing updates soon.

Subscribe to a Greener Future with this Italian Startup

One of the world’s oldest species, mangrove trees have existed for 75 million years, thriving in salty waters and developing the super power of stocking 12 times more carbon dioxide than the Amazon Rainforest. But despite their importance for the environment, as much as half of the world’s mangrove forests have been lost since 1960.

Last year, we decided to participate in a project to restore a mangroves forest called the Vilamatsa, located in Northwest Madagascar. This 20-year project will help us generate “carbon credits”-- or certificates representing 1 ton each of CO2 avoided or removed from the atmosphere – to compensate for our emissions. The Vilamatsa is one among the projects provided by Green Future Project, a startup founded in 2020 by artist and documentary filmmaker Pietro Pasolini, together with entrepreneurs Briano Martinoni and Zain Tarawneh. Their goal is to connect companies and individuals wanting to invest in climate solutions with non-profit organizations working on-site to protect and restore the environment.

Talk of climate change goes all the way back to 1896, when Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius found that releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – a consequence of basically every human activity – was warming the planet, a phenomenon we now call the “greenhouse effect.” Although several studies proving the effects of CO2 had already come out as early as the 1950’s, the mainstream attitude towards climate change didn’t shift until the 1980s, when the scientific community began to unite for action. The warnings have only escalated since.

Today, proof of the environmental crisis is there for all to see: temperatures are rising at unprecedented rates, higher than at any time in recorded history. The last time the Earth was hotter than now was 125,000 years ago. Glaciers are melting, seas are rising, and the atmosphere is so saturated with CO2 that extreme weather — cascading storms, peaking heatwaves, floods, droughts and wildfires — have become our new normal. As The Guardian wrote in an alarming article last year, by burning fossil fuels, we have somehow unmoored from our own past, and now it feels like we are living on a different, warmer planet.

Shortly before the pandemic, Pietro Pasolini stumbled upon an idea that would allow all types of people and organizations to effectively compensate for their carbon emissions. In a Tedx Talk, he describes being in Ecuador to document rainforest deforestation when he discovered a tall tree with the words “for sale for $50” carved in the trunk. Pietro posted the photo online and immediately received hundreds of reactions of followers asking him to “save” the tree. So he did: he “bought” it and made a deal with a local community to protect the tree in exchange for a small, regular fee. The Green Future Project was born. Since then, the startup, which is based on subscriptions, has planted almost 300,000 trees and supported 10 projects tackling site-specific climate solutions on four different continents.

We currently support four of the GFP’s programs: Jaisalmer; Vilamatsa Reforestation; Narupa Reserve; and the Canandé Reserve. But to reduce our impact, first we have to measure it. Last year, with the help of GFP we launched our Carbon Footprint webpage. Our goal is to track the emissions released during each stage of our products’ life-cycle, from material supply, to manufacturing, to packaging and delivery, and sharing those data with our public. Unfortunately, some environmental impact is inevitable, so we do our best to calculate our footprint and balance it accordingly.

Just as mangroves flourish in the tough wetlands environment, we believe we can also grow through difficult times, turning the climate crisis into the opportunity to creatively reshape our business, working our way out toward a greener world.