The Murano glass by designer Ettore Sottsass are a blend of modernity and ancient artisanal knowledge, but
how did the wonderful collaboration between artist Ettore Sottsass and Luciano Vistosi, the head of the renowned Murano glass furnace, come to be?
We find ourselves in the 1970s, and Sottsass is already an established designer, having won a Compasso D’oro award for his projects with Olivetti and Poltronova, iconic names in the furniture industry during those vibrant and experimental years.
It is precisely during this period that Luciano Vistosi decides to contact the artist and commission him to create a collection of Murano glass pieces: “Could you design some glass for us?”
From a simple and direct question arises a special union between the designer and a centuries-old culture deeply rooted in the territory and artisanal manufacturing art, that of the island of Murano and its skilled masters.
A collection of contemporary design
Within Sottsass lies a sort of devotion and reverential respect for the raw material of glass and the skill of the glassblowers of the Venetian island. This sentiment is confirmed by his own words when he speaks about his experience in designing artistic glass pieces that, without the expertise and mastery of the artisans of Murano, could not exist.
“I design the glass, but in reality, it’s the masters who truly bring these magical objects to life. When I design a glass, I still have to go to someone who knows how to make it and ask them how it’s done. In any case, I can only draw it, not actually make it. Those who ‘do’ are the ones involved in the real things. I always have to consider that, in any situation, I need to work with other people capable of solving the problems related to the actual realization of the objects. There is always a relationship between those who think and those who do.”
The artist limits himself to sketching the lines and the concept, but it is in the hands of the master glassmaker that the artwork comes to life in the form of blown glass: just as Prometheus taught men to use fire, the Venetian artisan gives vital breath to the creation, which would otherwise remain merely an idea in its infancy.
Curvy lines and geometric inspirations
Sottsass’s creations for Vistosi represent a departure from common and purely domestic use objects, giving birth to decorative and creative Murano glass pieces designed to be displayed and exhibited in all their beauty. The multifaceted designer’s glassworks perfectly fit into the spirit of change during those years, where the various facets of geometry and all the artistic influences the line could offer were being experimented with.
The collection features stylized, nature-inspired, phytomorphic shapes, playing with solid and void, chiaroscuro, and a mix of circular and straight, angular lines.
The colors are also varied and vibrant, exuding cheerfulness and life, as if they were animating the glass objects: ranging from primary colors like red, blue, and yellow, to complementary hues skillfully combined to create a sense of balance and contrast. But the magic lies precisely in the execution of the glass, in that phenomenon and enchantment where the fluid material is molded and solidified based on the master glassmaker’s imagination: an almost miraculous transformation, a process where design, idea, and manual craftsmanship come together in a perfect marriage.
Ettore Sottsass’s Chandelier
Murano glass has a fascinating history dating back to the 15th century when the finest glassmaking masters gathered on the small island to preserve the ancient secrets of their craft. The raw material of glass is closely monitored, following strict regulations on trafficking and commerce, to protect it from counterfeiting and limit its distribution outside the province of Venice, the most beautiful city in the world.
It is precisely because of this that Murano glass has managed to remain authentic and unique throughout the passing years.
Among Ettore Sottsass’s works, we must certainly mention the series of chandelier lamps, including “Firenze,” created with a succession of curvy lines.
The result is a rich and luminous light source, with tones of amber, golden yellow, and cream caramel, perfect for an elegant living room or a contemporary open space, still trendy and relevant even after 50 years.