Filipino designers work with Czech glass masters
“Bohemian Rhapsody” could be the alternate title for “Metamorphosis,” an exhibit of glass objets d’art made by Filipino designers in collaboration with glass masters from the Czech Republic.
The Czechs are, of course, the original Bohemians—long before the word came to be synonymous with unconventional lifestyles—and for centuries, Bohemian glass was famed for its beauty, high quality and originality.
Add to that a strong dose of Filipino creativity in the persons of industrial designers Stanley Ruiz, Lilianna Manahan and Gabriel Lichauco, and the result is a truly contemporary expression of an emerging global aesthetic centering on unique decorative and functional objects.
“Metamorphosis” will be unveiled at Art Fair Philippines 2017, Feb. 15-19, by glass art impresarios Spektacularis in collaboration with Salcedo Private View, the auction house’s private sales arm.
“The glassmaking tradition in the Czech Republic spans centuries,” says Stephanie Villaraza Frondoso of Spektacularis. “It began in medieval times, reached a peak during the Art Nouveau period, and continues to this day.”
On a visit to the Czech Republic, she met master glass artisan Jiri Pacinek, who expressed an interest in collaborating with Filipino artists. Frondoso thought Filipino industrial designers would be the ideal partners in the project.
“I think industrial designers are the modern-day renaissance men,” she says. “There’s this new movement called design art where designers can also make narrative and artistic statements and not just functional objects. I like working with designers because they’re creative on many levels— they’re so flexible and multitalented, they can do so many things.”
Glassmaking is an intricate craft that takes years to master. Czech glassmakers typically start in their teens, and go to a special glassmaking school for formal study before they can practice.
With its high potash lime content, Czech sand is ideally suited for making fine glass. The sand is superheated to more than 1,000 degrees until it turns to molten glass, and must be worked and shaped quickly before it cools.
“That’s why the exhibit is called ‘metamorphosis,’” says Frondoso. “It’s all about something that begins as sand, and through a super radical transformation becomes beautiful sculptures in a matter of hours.”
In Pacinek’s studio, designers Ruiz, Manahan and Lichauco began work at 6 a.m. and continued without a break until 3 p.m.
“It was hardcore,” recalls Frondoso. “Once you fire up the furnace, you can’t stop. Unlike with stone or wood where you can stop and rest and think about what you’re going to do next, with glass you have to work continuously before the material hardens.”
Although the more experienced Czechs did most of the heavy lifting, the Filipino designers’ unfamiliarity with the process when they made the original plans yielded some interesting results in the studio.
As Manahan put it, “you can only go so far before the material will tell you to stop working.”
“One of the themes [we explored] is the relationship between fine art and industrial design,” says Frondoso. “We thought it was interesting because there’s a lot of artistic experimentation that merges interdisciplinary practices. In the renaissance there was no segregation between artists and designers.”
“This is a gray area,” admits Ruiz, who runs his own industrial design practice.
“Industrial design is a younger discipline than the traditional fine arts. We are mostly geared toward functional pieces for industry. But the landscape of design is changing. The vocabulary is expanding to include limited productions, limited editions. Not a lot of people know about industrial design, but slowly it’s becoming known as a discipline. That’s part of the goal as a designer, to bring that level of consciousness to the general public.”
“Metamorphosis” will be on exhibit, Feb. 15-19, at Art Fair Philippines 2017, 6/F, The Link, Ayala Center, Makati City; and Feb. 15-25 at Salcedo
Auctions, Three Salcedo Place, 121 Tordesillas St.
Salcedo Village, Makati City.